Saturday, February 27, 2010

My fear of the F-word (no not that one)

I often talk about my desire to be a writer, although by having a blog I guess I could qualify as a part-time writer. One of the things I often wonder about is why I never explored writing as a career path when I was younger. Looking back it would have made sense to be interested in writing, as I have always been an avid reader. Journaling has been a hobby that I started very young and still continue to do today. I even started a journal that I write to Sophia, that she can read when she is an adult so she can experience how it really felt for me to be her mommy. I really wish I could find the journals from my teenage years but I think they were lost when we sold our house after I graduated from high school. Those boxes were divided among storage spaces of our extended family and have never been found. Looking back I can see that writing should have been an obvious option, but only recently have I realized why I never pursued this path. It was quite simply my fear of Failure.

I have always set high expectations of myself and have been my most own harshest critic. In fact, I have always strived to be the best in all of my endeavors; academically, socially, and physically. In elementary school, I raced to finish a test or assigment during class. I took pride in being the first one to turn in my answers (and to get them all right). Once I got to middle school, I think I concentrated more on being the biggest flirt than on the best student – but still I was striving to be the best. In high school, I really put the pressure on myself to succeed. My academics were my first focus because I needed to get a scholarship if I wanted to go to college. I took advanced placement (AP) classes, became an officer in student government, joined the math and French clubs, was the editor of the yearbook, and studied hard to get good grades. Cheerleading was also a major part of my life growing up. I was a Varsity cheerleader from freshman to senior year and I tried out for All-American squad every year at cheerleading camp.

I had a need to succeed.

No only did I have this need, but I also needed to be recognized for my success. I wanted an A in every class, to be surrounded by friends, to be the best cheerleader on the team. Something as simple as cheering for my high school football games would lead to an inquisition for my mom afterwards. How did I look out there? Did I do my best? What could I do to improve? My report cards would be displayed with pride (only straight A’s were allowed). Anything less would be devastating – not to my parents, but to me. I got a B in gym class my freshman year of high school, as sports were not my area of expertise and we had been graded on our foul shots during that six weeks grading period. The fact that I can still remember that grade shows me how much the fear of failure shadowed my thoughts.

In fact, sports were an area with a huge potential for failure for me so I simply chose to not expose myself to that possibility. I refused to try most sports unless I knew I had a high potential to succeed. Cheerleading, gymnastics and dance were areas that excelled so they were the focus of my childhood, high school and college years. Softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and tennis were all sports that I feared. Basically any sport that involved a ball was, to me, a potential for a broken nose. I could not imagine letting anyone see me performing poorly, so I refused to even try. I think this fear held true for many of my decisions in late adulthood, it was not just limited to sports. I pursued a degree in engineering simply because I was told by my math teacher that I was good at math and science.

In the past few years, I have been attending the Arts and Letters Live series that is sponsored by the Dallas Museum of Art. During this time I have been able to listen to several accomplished authors speak about their books and their writing process such as; Anne Lamott author of Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith and Bird by Bird, Elizabeth Gilbert the author of Eat, Pray, Love, Sue Monk Kidd author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor, David Wreblewski author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (an Oprah’s book club selection) and just recently new authors Joshua Ferris & Adam Haslett.

These authors often talk about the pattern of failure that is necessary in the process of writing. It took a while for this to sink in for me, the concept that accomplished authors experienced failure on a daily basis before they reached success. I have also had to redefine my definition of success when it comes to writing. Originally, I only considered success as a writer in terms of writing a book and getting it published. And of course making some money in the process. My definition of success is much narrower now. I write because it captures the moments of my life for future reflection, it allows me to share my thoughts and experiences with family and friends, it is an outlet for my frustration, and sometimes it makes me happy.

Recently I told Trey that after years of trying to find contentment, happiness, success or whatever it was I was searching for in early adulthood… I think I have finally come to a place of contentment. My career is petroleum engineering is (re)established, I have a happy marriage and I have two beautiful kids. I have learned to stop searching for the next thing to make me happy and learned to find happiness in the little moments of each day. Of course this doesn’t mean that our life does not have its crazy, overwhelming moments. We have small children, so our life is loud and messy most of the time.

I am currently reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, where the writer took a year of her life to focus on twelve resolutions to improve her happiness. I’m sure that most people would agree that there are things each of us could change in our lives to make us happier. However, I also agree with the concept that Rubin endorses, that the journey is just as important as the goal. Growth in my everyday life is what should bring me joy.

That is why I have turned back to writing in recent years. It has always been a deep desire, but one that I was never willing to tackle. I would not take the risk because of my fear of failure. I guess now I have reached the realization that my enjoyment of the process overshadows my fear. And as many wise authors have recently shared, failure is part of the process of writing. Failure can actually make me a better writer if I am willing to grow as I learn from my mistakes. Motherhood has taught me this lesson well, failure will forever be a part of motherhood but it is still one of my greatest joys in life. So although I may still fight it, fear it, and let it find its way into my mind when I sit down to write - I have come to accept that it will be always there. Failure. I always hated that F-word. But I have decided that I will no longer let it keep me from writing.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fun Foto Friday

"MAMA... MAMA... MAMA..."

This is how I found Tallen this week, standing on the other side of the door of the bathroom while I was getting ready for church. He was so proud that he learned how to pull up to standing, but I think he really needs to learn how to SIT DOWN on his own!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fun Foto Friday

Hey Mom! Look at me driving!

Only sixteen years until I can do this legally!

Is it too soon to ask if I can borrow the car?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Update on Andy...

You may be a follower of my blog and are already aware of this fact, but late last summer, the pastor of my church (Andy McQuitty of Irving Bible Church) was diagnosed with cancer. To say I had some strong feelings about his diagnosis may be putting it lightly. If you want to experience my anger, you can read my original post here.


I am happy to say that Andy's health has improved and this week he sent out an email with an update on his progress. I am also happy to say that I have resolved my initial anger and know that God's plan is bigger and more complicated that I can begin to comprehend. My faith has been tested these past few months but I am stronger because of the struggles he lets me experience.

I have attached Andy's email below so that you can read in his own words, how he is doing...

February 1, 2010

So many of you dear friends have kindly inquired lately about my health.
That’s in contrast to many others of you dear friends who, because I’ve been so reprehensibly tardy in communicating to you about my present pitched combat with cancer, have been aggravated with me for not telling you more. Actually, you’ve been quite p’oh’d, and with good reason, but we need not belabor such descriptions).

So, to respond clearly to the first group of you, and to help the second group of you avoid getting an apoplectic fit or worse, here’s a little update.
I am doing better than anybody thought I would be at this point, my medical team and myself included. God’s grace is all over this thing. No, I’m not “out of the woods”, but I won’t ever be this side of glory. That’s not even the point.

What I am, post the second surgery on December 14, is free of any discernible cancer tumors or conglomerations of cancer cells. And I am two treatments into a twice per month for the next year round of chemotherapy infusions that we’re praying God will use to actually eradicate all the rest of those little cancer bast**** cells from my otherwise hunky 54-year old body. (I have cancer and therefore consider myself entitled to these little self-deceptions).

A bit more about that second surgery in December. That only happened because, after four months of chemo, a PET scan in November showed that not only had my stage IV cancer NOT spread to liver and lungs (as had been most likely), but the cancer-infested lymph node which we had previously identified had actually SHRUNK by 80%. From my doctor’s reaction to that good news, I am convinced that this was nothing less than the handiwork of God in response to the faithful prayers of many.

At that time, my doc’s wanted to go in and take that bad lymph node out. They reasoned that, since it was the only remaining tumor, we should yank it, zap the rest of me with chemo and actually start praying hopefully for a cure. As that was the first time since my diagnosis that Alice and I had actually heard a doctor utter the “c” word, we signed on.

My surgeon gave me fair warning that this second surgery, unlike the first, could not be endoscopic (just a small incision and three small puncture wounds from which to recover). It was too deep and the “real estate” it would be invading (the bad node was actually touching my aorta, which you might remember is a fairly important piece of circulatory plumbing) too delicate. They would have to operate the “old-fashioned way” (think flayed like a fish), opening a seven-inch incision and going down through the abdominal muscles and past several of my favorite internal organs to the target destination. The doctor said I’d be in the hospital for at least a week and in serious recuperation for six to eight weeks.

Well, all I can say is that God’s grace was all over that little procedure too. I went home from the hospital after 3.5 days and, after 11 days, was on the IBC platform in both Christmas Eve services reading the children’s story and generally making merry and showing off my scar—22 staples—to all who could stand to gawk at it. (And a week after that, I was punching some easy pitching wedges off the practice tee. Now just try to tell me that’s not the hand of God?!)
So here we are now, post-surgeries, “mopping up” (my oncologist’s term) the remaining cancer cells in my body. Of course nothing is certain, but all the indicators are hopeful that the Lord is undertaking through all of this to keep me on the planet for a good while longer. I’m grateful for that.

Yes, the chemo is still hard to take. Especially in the first 4 or five days after an infusion, I’m pretty slammed. But then I start feeling better and get up and running for the next six or seven days. I’ll take that, and gratefully. Thank God that He’s letting good weeks alternate with the hard ones. I know lots of dear souls who never get a break.

So this is my new normal for the next 12 months. I’m hopeful because this time around the chemo barn, we know the treatments are working and that there’s a finish line out there. And I’m determined to make the most of the year in getting back into more and more ministry at IBC because now, with God’s continued help and the prayers of you all (the pager is still going nuts!), I know I can.

And not just that: at Alice’s insistence I’m eating healthy (-ier?) and working out and that’s making things better too. My family is doing well, and we are moving forward together with the settled assurance that everything that our lives and futures are in God’s hands—which is a very good place for anyone to be.
In other words, I am still in the land of the living and planning on staying there for quite some time to come, God willing (or to put it more succinctly, “I’m fine, thanks!). . .

Love you all,
P.S. And please, no emails about the two instances in this note I implied bad words. I have cancer, don’t bug me. Love, EAM