By Beth Demme
The other day I woke up in a really bad mood. Somehow I knew I was grumpy even before my eyes opened. My eyebrows dove toward my nose and the corners of my lips dragged toward my chin. My “morning face” was even scarier than usual.
I forced myself to say a silent prayer to God, thanking Him for the day. He knew I was faking it, but maybe He was happy that I tried.
I conjured up positive affirmations:
You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
-Aibileen Clark to Mae Mobley, The Help
I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.
-Stuart Smalley, SNL
They had no effect. My attitude worsened throughout the day. I couldn’t muster the positive attitude of Aibileen Clark or Stuart Smalley, I was more like the cheerleaders in the 1986 movie, Wildcats:
U-G-L-Y. You ain’t got no alibi. You Ugly!
My attitude was ugly and I had no alibi.
I tried to fix my feelings by focusing on other people.
Unfortunately, I didn’t choose something healthy like serving others. No, I figured if I could get everyone around me to change, and my circumstances to change, then maybe my feelings would change.
I made my kids clean their rooms (even though they weren’t really a mess). I griped at my husband about the disorganization in the laundry room (even though I made the mess myself). I mumbled out-loud-but-to-myself about the stuff on the kitchen counter (instead of just asking nicely that everyone put their stuff away). I felt so grumpy, I didn’t even want to be around me. Do you know what I mean?
My family responded how any family would. They instituted their own personal safe zones, re-routing themselves around the house to avoid me.
In my solitude, I reached for my Bible.
Ecclesiastes is a great book for when you feel inexplicably moody (or grumpy or angry or sad). It’s also short, which is a bonus when it comes to reading the Bible.
The author of Ecclesiates feels his life is pointless. Since I was feeling something similar, I hoped he could offer me some much-needed confirmation and justification. But instead of being met in my malaise, and affirmed in the dreariness of my feelings, I found a new perspective. I sarcastically thought, “Thanks Bible.” Afterall, I was looking for confirmation, not new ideas!
As I read Ecclesiastes that day, I understood the author’s life felt pointless because he had no idea his words would still be read 2500 years later. He didn’t know he would become part of the most hopeful story humankind has ever known.
If he had known, I wondered, would it have given his life purpose? Or, would the longevity of his words have left him too afraid to write? If he had dared to dream, would fear have quashed the dream?
In thinking about the author of Ecclesiastes (probably Solomon), I realized the source of my own sour mood:
I am at the cross-road of Dream and Fear.
You might be here with me at this cross-road. What is your dream? Maybe you dream of motherhood, but you doubt whether you really have what it takes. Maybe you dream of opening a new business or starting a new company, but you’re afraid to risk the capital or invest the time. Maybe you dream of being married, but you’re afraid you’ll get bored. Maybe you dream of some other change, but fear is keeping you from it.
When we’re afraid of living the life we know we were designed to live, we can’t help but feel sour — resentful of everything else. That’s what was happening to me. I was at the crossroads of my dream and my fear.
As I sit at this cross-road, I am afraid of failure. Fear ruined my mood and my attitude. It robbed me of perspective until I read Ecclesiastes.
I have decided to pursue, really pursue, a dream that feels God-inspired to me. I want to become a communicator. I want to build a community of people who are “Learning to Live Loved.”
This is a high stakes dream. It is different from many of the “dreams” I’ve already achieved (law degree, house, car, trips) because this dream isn’t just about me.
I am free to chase this dream, or walk away. But even in grumpiness and fear I can see that not having a dream would be worse.
It is better to pursue a dream and fail, than to feel like you have no dream at all.
So I’m here, feeling afraid with you.
I am compelled to move forward, despite the fear, one slow and scary step at a time. I may need the corny, but true, affirmations of Aibileen Clark and Stuart Smalley. I’m going to remember that I might fail, but I also might succeed.
What are you going to do? Take a step with me today. Find me on Facebook, send me a message (email@example.com) or a Tweet (@BethDemme) and tell me about it. Maybe if we walk together we can push back the fear.