Defeating discouragement

Russell Lee, 1936 Library of Congress

I’ve been away awhile.

Considering. Thinking.

Keeping myself busy.

Learning. Reading. Praying . . .

I write and set aside. Pour it out. Let it be. Pick up later and refine.

The process is hard. Hard because of the subject. Hard because there is much to tell and to not tell. Hard because life is still living.

It takes time to recount a story of detail. Of moments. Weeding out the unimportant. Remembering and wording the needful . . . the profitable. The useful for others.

I write, and I find. Something to resolve. Something to forgive. Something to make amends for. It’s a journey I cannot take too fast. A journey I’ve been taking away from here.

* * * * *

I dove hard into writing in September. Too hard, I think.

Enthusiastic writing, writing, writing — a book long on my mind, in my journals, in process. A story about mothering. A book accepted, encouraged, asked for. A query. A proposal. Chapters.

But I wrote with a hesitation just behind me. A thought. A voice.

Slow down. There is still so much to learn. To resolve . . .

I hit a wall.

The present needed me more than the past. Needed my prayers. My energy.

. . . I had wanted to be refined. Asked for it, even. Don’t let me write like I know what I don’t know. Useless words I’ll regret. 

I don’t want to regret writing. Not the words. Not the time invested.

* * * * *

I kept my hands busy, all the months away, creating other things. Other than writing.

Mending. Fitting. Sewing. Matching. Making.

Breathing and doing. Resting my mind from words.

And it was good. So very, very good to see something beautiful come of work. Something photographed. Something seen. Something treasured. Something applauded.

I needed to know my work was good. In my heart, to be satisfied . . . and rest from creation.

Because I am often so critical of myself. 

Perfectionism. Immobilizing, undermining, doubt-filled perfectionism.

Perfectionism: a fear of failure.

  • Fear of overstaying keeps from visiting.
  • Fear of saying the wrong thing keeps from comforting.
  • Fear of interrupting keeps from calling.
  • Fear of having to say no keeps from answering.
  • Fear of rejection keeps from asking.
  • Fear of disappointing keeps from inviting.

This is the wrestling match. The fight.

I know the truth. I read the truth. I believe the truth. I am not called to be perfect.

But fear of failure is always waiting. Always crouching at the door eager to control me. (Genesis 4:7)

This Fear/Perfectionism keeps me from writing. Fear of saying it wrong. Fear of missing the meaning. The message.

* * * * *

Then I hit failure. Real failure. Things I cannot change. Things that God will have to make right because I can’t. Life coming to a screeching, grinding halt. This is not how it’s supposed to be.

I floated. On prayers of a few close friends. My husband.

Fear is really, ultimately, control. By my worrying, I can add to my height. 

Sometimes you have to see the ridiculousness of it all. All the worry. All the caring what someone else thinks. All the trying too hard to do it right.

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Matthew 6:27

Sometimes it takes seeing them in writing — these awful things you say to yourself: You are a coward. You are a liar. You are a fake. You are worthless. You are a failure. Your writing is offensive. Give up. Go away. Shut up. You are deceived. You are in denial. So hostile, so hateful . . . calling herself anonymous, throwing stones at a glass house I no longer live in.

I finally name it. This heaviness. It’s not Perfectionism. It’s not really Fear. It’s Discouragement.

The voice that claims to know you, but knew you only in the worst days of your life. Truth barbs, twisted and tangled into a messy mass — skewed perception . . .

But after months of sleeping with discouragement, the harsh words awakened me. Called me back to my calling.

It’s so funny . . . Things meant for evil that God means for good. (Genesis 50:20)

I needed the kick. To get out of my head, as a friend says.

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Romans 8:33-35

* * * * *

Many months ago, a friend advised me that I shouldn’t always write about our path through addiction to recovery.

It’s taken all these months away to realize she was right. I can’t daily, weekly live in the past. It’s consuming. Draining. Heavy.

I have to plod carefully through. Ever conscious of the perfectionism and fear that beckons the discouragement wandering like a lion seeking someone — crouching, ready to devour.

If I am going to write regularly, and stay with it, I have to write often of other.

“The After,” my sister-in-law called it today. Sometimes the enduring. Sometimes the after.

. . . I’m thankful for the reminder — seemingly out of the blue — from someone who couldn’t possibly know the depth of discouragement I’d felt over the last several months. A reminder of how very, very ugly our life was once from someone who doesn’t know that it is no longer.

It is no longer.

I am not who I once was — and neither is Dave. And that, really, is why I write this blog at all. The miracle of recovery. The miracle that there is an after.

* * * * *

16 thoughts on “Defeating discouragement

    1. Thank you, Mysie! I’m excited for an open door to myself to just write. And I’m also realizing that I am not alone in my feelings of discouragement. It’s an easy trap.

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  1. Deb, thanks for the reminder.

    For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

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    1. Discouragement takes so many forms, doesn’t it? So good to finally recognize it and call it out. Remembering I am loved, rescued for a purpose, and given unique gifts to benefit those around me, is helping me fight off the darkness.

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  2. Discouragement has been on me like a blanket recently. But instead of warming and comforting its made me feel claustrophobic and smothered all at the same time. Feeling like I need to move but incapable to do so. Needed this today. Love you.

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    1. Yes, a suffocating blanket. Wanting to move. I hear you.
      Reminded by a friend on New Year’s Eve that this feeling of not-rightness is a reminder that this world is not our home. “Encourage one another with these words.”

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  3. Two years ago my life was turned upside-down. It has been humbling, after having such an easy and blessed life, to now fight discouragement and fear every day. Often I think, “How in the world did we get here?” Yet, while I don’t understand, I know there’s good in this… such as, being so completely dependent on the Lord. (Is. 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.) I admire your open honesty and will pray for you and your marriage. I know people who love you and think the world of your family. So, even in your dark days, you seem to still spread the light. 🙂

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  4. Two years ago my life was turned upside-down. It has been humbling, after having such an easy and blessed life, to now fight discouragement and fear every day. Often I think, “How in the world did we get here?” Yet, while I don’t understand, I know there’s good in this… such as, being so completely dependent on the Lord. (Is. 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.) I admire your open honesty and will pray for you and your marriage. I know people who love you and think the world of your family. So, even in your dark days, you seem to still spread the light. 🙂

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  5. Deb, you have an amazing gift of writing. This subject is close to my heart as my wife has struggled on and off with this for years. At first I denied her struggle by down playing it and then over time accepted it as real because it was not going away. It’s so very difficult to see your spouse or any loved one go to the depths of darkness and isolation that this will take someone. No easy fix just constant dependence on God. As I encourage, support, listen, pray and do all I can for my wife, over the years my thoughts have turned to other people who are standing by their family who might be struggling with this. To them I say stay strong and know God is using you in ways that are unimaginable. Deb, thanks for putting into words a real struggle that will lead not only spouses but families closer together.

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    1. Thank you for commenting. Six years ago, my first year of recovery meetings, I was encouraged by a simple banner with just the image of hands gripping a ladder, one arm reaching up and another’s hand reaching down to pull him up. It took me a few meetings to realize that the people leading were just ahead of me on that ladder, climbing, too. Not reaching down from a place where they’d “arrived” and had it all figured out. We need encouragement on the journey of recovery from people who know just exactly where we’ve been. Sometimes, I want to totally forget the past and run away from that ladder. But God keeps calling me back. Plus, I’m really still climbing, too.

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