The moment was pregnant with meaning.
(the moment. not me.)
I stood on the sidelines, microphone in hand, and watched the countdown clock move backward from five minutes.
3:54 … 3:53 … 3:52 …
The platform waited. Soon I’d climb her stairs and, once again, lift the mic to do what I’d long felt called to do. The significance was not lost on me, not after all that had happened. I’d been given a gift. A marvelous extension of Divine mercy.
Even so, with each disappearing second my throat tightened until I wasn’t sure I could push any words through.
What if I can’t do this?
Doubt shadowed any shine. I doubted the plane ticket I purchased the month before. I doubted my confidence to attempt to speak so soon after surgery. I doubted my ridiculous optimism, that crazy achiever part of me that tries to tackle more than I should.
For the love, what was I thinking?!
I’d made a mistake. I fumbled with the microphone and felt it slip in my sweaty palm. The truth is I wanted to run fast and far away.
To go home.
There, in the middle of my self-doubt, a different and so-very-bossy-and-determined voice argued otherwise (yes, I entertain multiple voices):
Breathe, dangit. You can do this. You need to do this.
True. This wasn’t a “can” moment; it was a “must” moment. I had to do this.
When you and I endure a trauma—a struggling child, a failed assignment, a lost dream, a broken relationship—our first impulse is to withdraw. Like a rabbit threatened by a wolf, we retreat to a haven until the danger passes. We circle up the family, cancel appointments, cut back responsibilities, and tend to the wound. It’s both wise and necessary.
For a time.
But the problem with a haven is how easily it becomes a hideout. Whereas a haven is about necessary nourishment, a hideout is about minimizing risk. It’s a place to push “pause” on life, indefinitely, so you don’t have to feel exposed, vulnerable, or (heaven forbid) more pain.
Over the prior months, I’d seen my haven slowly morph into a hideout. “What if?” had hijacked my tasks and calendar, creating a perpetual state of limbo. The doctor said we’d “wait and watch.” So I pulled back, holed up. To wait and watch and mitigate the danger. But the longer I isolated, the easier it became to disconnect. The longer I withdrew from life, the less motivated I felt to live it.
Then, on impulse, I jumped on a plane and traveled to my first speaking engagment post-surgery. And as I wrestled in the shadows of the stage and watched time slip away, I finally understood this to be absolutely true:
The danger wasn’t on the platform. The danger was the temptation to never step on it again.
To live is to walk through. To step out of safety and assume a little risk. To connect, share, try, believe. To push forward when everything in you wants to turn back. And to refuse to make this moment about what may or may not happen in the next.
My friend, whatever wolf has you cornered, you have a choice. Watch life from a safe distance? Or step out and live it? There’s a time to find your haven, to mourn and rest and heal. But if you stay holed up forever, the wolf has won.
The clock is ticking. Your stage is waiting.
Push through. Kill the wolf. And live.
Are you hiding? Where do you need to push through, assume a little risk, and live?