But a couple of months ago my husband reminded me about that largest of large projects that still loomed like a dark shadow over me.
"So when did you start writing this book for veterans and families?" By the tone of his voice it was pretty obvious what he was really asking.
"Oh, I don't know. I guess it's been a while," I said. "I've just been too busy."
"Have you decided what you'll call it yet?"
"Well, sure." I noticed I was sounding defensive. "I'll call it How to Cope with Stress after Trauma. Then I'll add something about it being especially for veterans and their families.
"So when did you say it was going to be done?" He was starting to sound a lot like the people from the publishing company. "Maybe you should give it up and not bother with it."
I felt the anger rise up in my belly and head straight for my mouth. I stopped myself. I knew by now something was going on inside of me that I wasn't willing to check out.
Calmly I said, "You may be right. I need to journal about it." He looked away and I knew he was disappointed in me because he wanted to hear me say that I'd get right at it. But I didn't.
That evening I sat down at the dining room table to write in my journal. This time I decided to address my issues about writing my book. I even tried to find excuses not to write but it was eleven pm. The TV was off. No one was going to call me at that time. And I heard my husband snoring in the bedroom. Okay. I needed a cup of tea. So I trotted off to the kitchen to make a cup of herbal tea. We were out of the tea I liked and I began to hunt for another box of tea bags I bought recently. Then I heard a voice inside of me scream, "Ana. What are you doing? Quit it!"
For the first time in a very long time I began to shake and tears ran down my cheeks. I am scared. I am scared to finish this book, I thought. But why? This was crazy. I walked back to the dining room, sat down at the table and began to write in my journal.
What is your greatest fear of finishing this book?
Greatest fear? I tried to think. Oh. I might not know what to do next with my life. But that wasn't true. I had already lined up at least three writing projects beyond this one. Well, maybe the reason was that the topic was difficult to write about. I'd listened to so may traumatic stories in the past and sometimes they had made me hurt inside. Sure, there was some truth to that, but I would think I would finish the project as fast as possible like I had in the past. I faced it and got it over with. That's what I learned as a child.
I went on and on exploring my fears. Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of success caused some twinges in my body. What if groups wanted me to come and speak like I had while I worked? What if they had expectations of me that now that I was retired, I didn't want to fulfill? I concluded that being a psychotherapist I had taught lots of people how to say no. I could certainly decide for myself when to say no and when to say yes.
Then the following words came into my mind. "Fear usually comes from having no control over something." What could I not control? I had no control over the weather or natural disasters. I had no control over other people's thoughts and actions. I had control only over what I thought, said, and did. That hit home. If I finished this book, what might happen that I had no control over? I couldn't control whether people liked the book. That scared me a little. But suddenly I knew my greatest fear. What if someone hurt him or herself because of what I had written? I could not control how readers interpreted my words or advice, or what they did with it. And what if others held me responsible?
Yes, these were my greatest fears.
At the end of the journal entry I wrote: I have no control over how people interpret my words or what they do with the words I have written. My intention in writing this book is to help others. I will write on my book daily even if it is merely a sentence or two. I will change my thinking about this to overcome my fear. Maybe what I will do is what my mother told me years ago. "Yes, I know you are scared. But do it anyway."
After I closed the journal I read and reread the serenity prayer stuck on one of the glass windows of the hutch across from me. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
So dear reader, remember it is normal to be afraid. That's okay. Look your fears squarely in the eye and deal with them. Accept them and let go. In the long run, excuses won't get that important project you are working on, finished.
I am happy to say that my writing is being edited for content right now and I am very near completion.
To help me remember who I really am inside I wore this little gold cypress tree around my neck for many years. It is a symbol for my inner strength, wisdom, and courage. It reminds me that even though I'm afraid, I'm okay. The trunk may bend in the wind but it won't break.
Can you find a symbol that will remind you of your inner strength? Look at it or touch it frequently when you need it.