"It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows,” writes Brené Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I know this fear well. I experience it when my proposal for a workshop is accepted or when a new writing opportunity graces my inbox. Send me an invitation to work on a new creative project or whisper conspiratorially about a new event, and you’ll find me ecstatic . . . for a moment.
Like a flickering light bulb, I have flashes of excitement that become tempered by my own fears. Rather than allowing myself to celebrate new opportunities, I hide my joy in the shadows.
Perhaps you do this too.
When this very magazine asked me to be a regular contributor, it was not my first inclination to post the news on Facebook. Instead, I waited for the second email confirmation, then for the phone call, then for the request for my short biography and photo, then for the first piece to be submitted, then published . . . (you get the idea). I have the ability to find an unending number of reasons why my joy must wait before it’s safe to come out and play in the sun. Unfortunately, I often find myself constantly fighting my fear of the dark—of bad things looming, of gifts being snatched away, of not being “good enough” to hold onto good things.
The older I get the more aware I become of this propensity. Rather than waving my white flag, surrendering to the fear, I’ve found that my girlfriends have often stepped in to fight for me by offering encouragement and speaking truth that I needed to hear.
Our girlfriends remind us who we are. They can deeply, easily name what makes us special or different. Drawing from clear examples, they help us piece together the truth about ourselves. They expertly do this without falling into the trap of insincerity. Shying away from false niceties, our girlfriends tell us the truth about our gifts rooted in the hopefulness of our future.
Recently, I reached for my buzzing phone on the nightstand next to me. It was early in the morning, and my mentor was on the other end. Normally seeing her name pop up on the screen would make me smile. But as I quickly did the math in my head, I calculated it was about 4 A.M. in the morning in her time zone. What could be happening that has her awake and calling me at this time in the morning? I wondered.
“Why on earth are you up this early?” I asked once I quickly answered the phone.