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The most intimidating thing I could do this year

January 4, 2015

The one word challenge. Choose a word to live by for the year and, well, live by it.

Do you have any idea how many words there are in the English language? Me, neither, but I can think of at least twenty-three that I love and would like to be true of me in 2015 (or ever). I’ve been mulling it and praying about it for a few days, and I’ve finally landed on one that I think will be sufficient for encouraging me and kicking my tail. But I’m scared to put it in writing.

Oh, GAH, I might have to live up to it if I do. It’s the monster at the end of this post, and I’m warning myself even in this very paragraph not to say it or write it out.



I really am going to tell you the word, but it seems fitting to give you a short bit of background. You see, for years people have told me that I’m bold. Some say too bold, and that criticism has, on many occasions, sent me into a hole where I hush up and try not to bother anyone to keep the peace. Then I get all angsty about how easily persuaded I am to hide my light under a bushel, so I emerge from my hole, inevitably say or do something “too bold” again, and back into the loop I go.

Jesus take the wheel.

Jesus take the wheel.

Other people in my life say I’m bold, but they mean it in a complimentary way. “I could never do what you do,” they say. “You’re just so confident.” I take such things as they are intended, but in my head the emphasis is on “con.” I know any measure of confidence I have is a good bluff. Like how no matter what a British person says, to me, it sounds brilliant. It could be the biggest lie in the world, but because it comes with the accent, I’m sure it’s sage wisdom.

She's always right.

She’s always right.

I am a reasonably intelligent person with an abundance of conviction, mind you, and people often mistake being convinced as being confident. But confident, I am not. I long to be seen and heard, but I cower in the wings inventing excuses why I should remain the over-rehearsed understudy.

In light of this, I considered making my one word “confident,” but it seemed too close to a motivational poster for me. Many of these one-word-words do. I feel like a cheeseball for even taking this challenge on for 2015. I feel like a cheeseball for blogging about it. This is one of those things that “highly effective” people do: goal-setting. I am not highly effective. Don’t get me wrong, I am amazing at setting goals. I am a professional beginner. I have the stash highly effective people need to start anything: notebooks, new pens, calendars, maybe some post-it flags. Office supplies are my jam. I am also a really good outliner, if you ever need an outline.

Now that I think about it, forget this one-word business. I'll just go get a new journal and everything will be fine.

Now that I think about it, forget this one-word blogging business. I’ll just go get a new journal and everything will be fine.

The other issue I had with “confidence” was that every time I let it take a lap around my brain, it went something like this:


More Brits. You cannot possibly have confidence IN confidence.

That pretty much did it in for “confidence.” What I really wanted though, was a word that expressed courage. But not “courage,” because, again, the posters.

There really is no way around this poster problem.

There really is no way around this poster problem.

I’ve been thinking about words and writing and how I could possibly let one word set the tone for a whole year of living. The endeavor overwhelmed, and I was pretty sure this one-word thing was supposed to be clarifying and not befuddling. So last night I gave up on this whole one-word business and went to the theater. I put all of it out of my mind entirely.

I saw a staged production of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Like many wonderful projects, it is a book I’ve whole-heartedly started dozens of times, but never finished. The company could not possibly cover the entire book, so they selected vignettes from the work and strung them together within the frame of the longer story. I was nailed to the wall by this dramatized encounter between an artist (Ghost) on the verge of entering heaven and her spiritual guide (Spirit):

Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower–become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.’

‘I don’t think I’m much troubled in that way,’ said the Ghost stiffly.

‘That’s excellent,’ said the Spirit. ‘Not many of us had quite got over it when we first arrived. But if there is any of that inflammation left it will be cured when you come to the fountain.’

‘What fountain’s that?’

‘It is up there in the mountains,’ said the Spirit. ‘Very cold and clear, between two green hills. A little like Lethe. When you have drunk of it you forget forever all proprietorship in your own works. You enjoy them just as if they were someone else’s: without pride and without modesty.’”

As a writer and as a woman, I’ve struggled between such poles: believing my voice and my opinions to be indispensable, and believing them to be rubbish. This vacillation is embarrassing to me because it’s vanity. It is double-mindedness. It is neurosis and preoccupation with self and reputation. I yearn for the kind of self-forgetfulness that will allow me to do what God would have me do without fear or pride. I want to be authentically fallible; confident I can approach the throne of grace and head back out into world undaunted. I don’t want to worry that I’ll be found wanting or found out. I want to be fearless.

So this year, I’m making 2015 “fearless.”

And this Taylor Swift album cover will be my motivational poster. BOOM.

And this Taylor Swift album cover will be my motivational poster. BOOM.

It’s the scariest, most intimidating thing I could think of to do, and I think that means it’s the right fit, even if I don’t have a British person to sign off on it. Oh, wait…


From Frankenstein. I totally didn’t plan to actually end this post with a monster. Are y’all as spooked as I am? FEARLESS.

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