It’s been awhile since I posted my first Author Note. Turns out, calling what is basically a book review by another name doesn’t change the fact that it’s still, well, a book review. (You can find out how I feel about writing those here.) But I’m not giving up on the idea, especially when it gives me the chance to write about a fantastic book like Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs.
I never really thought I needed a book about bravery. Sure, fear sometimes rears its ugly head, but to me, bravery is for soldiers and timid public speakers, for cancer patients and people who choose to stand for what is right when no one else stands with them.
Then I started reading Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have, and I realized there actually is something in my life right now that requires a little bit of bravery.
Since the beginning of January, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my blog needs to look like this year. It’s only been up for about five months, so it’s not like I have a long track record of successes and failures to evaluate. But rather than carry on aimlessly, I’d like to be intentional about what I put out for some small sliver of the world to read.
So I’ve asked myself what I should be writing about—what is that point where the felt needs of my readers intersect with my life and faith? And I keep coming back to the same thing.
In my writing, I need to draw more from what I like to call the “long drought of the soul” I experienced in my mid- to late 30s. Not in great detail and certainly not in every blog post. But more often than I do now.
That makes me uncomfortable. And I have a feeling you can relate.
In your book, you tell about how when you started writing professionally, you made a decision not to write about being single. It’s hard to write about the topic without coming across as “super mad” or “super happy,” you said. Plus, it was just too personal.
“It’s not just about being alone at the dinner table or in the bed,” you wrote. “It’s about unanswered prayers and how to face a God who can do something about those unanswered prayers but doesn’t. I didn’t want to write about that. It gets deep and intimate and all up in my business.”
Then, one day, you sensed God telling you it was time to start writing about being single. So you plucked up your courage and you did that very thing. And now, in Let’s All Be Brave, you gently encourage others to courageously embrace whatever issue or life experience might enable them to clear a path for someone else.
“Never forget as you step forward with your life that you are a trailblazer,” you wrote. “Someone is watching.”
Here’s the thing, though.
That long drought of the soul I referred to earlier? Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was aggravated by the emotionally and physically draining symptoms of perimenopause, followed by early menopause. And, for some reason, I’m kind of afraid to touch on those things too much in my writing.
I’ve narrowed my fears about this down to two simple things. First, I’m afraid of being looked at as old. Have you ever seen a younger-looking woman in a television commercial for anything related to menopause? Neither have I. I don’t feel old. But, if I’m perfectly honest, I’m afraid of being seen as dried up and un-vibrant.
My second fear goes much deeper. What if people can’t—or won’t—relate? What if they haven’t reached this season of life yet and have no idea what it could be like? Or what if they’ve sailed through it and have no idea what it might be like for someone else?
For the longest time, I felt like I was the only person my age who struggled with out-of-whack hormones and all the mess that accompanies them. I felt like a reluctant pioneer, when all I wanted was to be normal (whatever that is).
I wanted people to empathize, or at least try. But what if they couldn’t? Or worse, wouldn’t?
Maybe that’s what we all fear about sharing our stories. Not being thought of as old—that might be specific to my case. But surely, the fear of not being understood—that is universal.
Now that I’ve given this some thought—much of which was prompted by Let’s All Be Brave—I realize that my wilderness experiences are not unique to me. It’s not what triggers the season that’s the issue. It’s any season or situation you find yourself in too soon, or at all, that you’re struggling to accept or you wish you could escape.
Sometimes the seasons are temporary and sometimes they’re permanent. But the underlying issues and symptoms are often the same, no matter the circumstances. And anyone can relate to that.
Annie, as I think about my writing, I’m sensing it’s time to go further up and further in. Not to unearth deep dark secrets that I’ve never told anyone, but to bring certain struggles from my story out into the open. Because in doing so, it might help others might find the words to their own stories.
That will require a bit of bravery on my part.
But if you can do it, maybe I can too.