Remember that Sunday school song, "Deep and Wide?" I'll admit, I'm not sure about its purpose -- other than giving large groups of hyper kids something to do with their hands. But the refrain came to mind today as I considered the changes ahead of me.
I lived "shallow and scattered" for years. I ran from opportunities to look deeply into my talents and faults. In college, I wrote a paper about Christians in journalism. I argued that persons of faith report, write, and work with integrity and depth in a field that views belief as undermining to "objectivity." Good paper, actually. Even though my professors held the opposing view, they offered to help me publish the paper. I never followed up. I remember walking away from at least two other offers to publish or promote my writing talent.
We do this. We think we have all the time in the world to get it together, or get off the couch, or love big, or take risks. And, having all the time in the world, we never do.
My particular fear is failure -- specifically, being revealed as a fraud. Rather than confront the possibility of failure, or discovering I don't have the talents I hope I have, I run from opportunities that could actually challenge me.
I can't lie to myself about having all the time in the world, though. I've seen a lot of death. More times than I can count, I vainly compressed chests for renewed heartbeat, I watched last breaths, I held hands with bewildered families.
Initially, confronting death's reality paralyzed me. I left the dull, immobilized comfort of risk-free living, to a sort of concentrated awareness of mortality. Neither level of consciousness created motion -- thus, my shallow and scattered efforts and engagements (with some meaningful exceptions).
One month ago I took a big risk, investing money, time, and -- much more costly for me -- faith and hope going to a seminar that could help me pursue my dream of public speaking. Two years ago, I made the deep and wide commitment to try to birth, love, and raise a daughter. 3 years ago, I invested myself in the risky business of attending therapy. 6 years ago, I jumped whole-heartedly into loving the man who became my husband. All these changes, which bring me immense depth of living, stem from placing life and death in perspective with each other.
When we acknowledge the reality of death (without being consumed by it), we find motivation to live the day in front of us. You only have today. Knowing that drives us to bigger living.
How am I living this awareness? I am investing myself -- mind, body, emotion, resources -- into developing my craft of speaking and writing. I am searching my experiences to better understand their particulars, but also, learn how humans react universally. Specifically, I'm developing content that marries my backgrounds of nursing, counseling, and theology, to my experiences with death, illness, and self-neglect, and my passion and talent for helping others reevaluate their action or inaction in living (it's a polygamous marriage).
So, what fears do you avoid confronting? When do you see missed opportunities to seize life to the fullest, but decided to wait for tomorrow? If you're comfortable, share with us. Let's crack this conversation wide open. Fearlessly. Let's lend each other courage to live deeply and widely.
Update: So, apparently The Onion has been living inside my head for, like, ever. Here's a funny, but scarily personal feeling article on self-doubt, titled, "Man's Insecurities Versatile Enough To Be Projected Onto Any Situation." Well-played, Onion.