My younger daughter recently learned about Chucky. You know–the angry red-headed serial killing doll who never left Tommy’s room without a knife. If you managed to avoid the Chucky movies that were popular in the late 80’s/early 90’s, consider yourself lucky. It was horror at the most ridiculous level. However, I knew the movie was realistic enough to scare children. I dreaded the day my kids found out about wild-eyed Chucky and suddenly their beloved American Girl Dolls were ushered from their rooms at night.
For three nights in a row, my daughter woke up crying and could not go back to sleep. Coincidentally, I was awake all three of those times because I was dealing with my own nighttime fears.
My fears were brought on during a conference call with my publishing team. While talking over what I might expect around the time of my book release, the possibility of traveling to large metropolitan areas for television interviews came up.
I wanted to be sure they knew some important details about me—I wanted to pipe up with this:
Do you know what I wear every single day? See this comfy Dri-fit? This is my Writer’s Uniform, and I rarely deviate from it. And see this laptop? This is how I communicate. This is where I think about what I am going to say, then I type it, then I change it a bunch of times, and then when I am good and ready, I hit ‘publish.’ Wearing my comfy uniform. In my basement. Alone with my cat, who at times, is even too much company.
I was terrified at the thought of taking my directionally-challenged self outside familiar surroundings. I warned my supportive team members that I would surely get lost in the hotel, and I would never make it on time to my interviews. They assured me I would not be alone and continued being so excited and pumped up about the possibilities. But I couldn’t stop the fears from welling up inside me.
I mean it's one thing to admit to a keyboard that you are a highly imperfect reformed yeller/hurry upper and recovering tech addict. But admitting such painful truths to a real live interviewer while a microphone and camera document every word is another thing. The list of possible things that could go wrong began to cloud my mind. I quickly pushed away any thoughts of television interviews and told my husband it was a forbidden subject.
What I could avoid during the day began coming out in my dreams. That is why on the night my daughter cried out, I was already awake. Minutes before, I’d bolted upright in a panic because I’d come to an interview underprepared and underdressed.
I hustled up the stairs to my daughter’s bed and crawled in. “What’s wrong,” I asked never expecting the response I got.
“I’m scared of Chucky,” she whimpered.
“Who's Chucky?” I asked innocently praying she was referring to a new movie character—preferably one that did not accessorize with butcher knives.
“He’s this doll that carries a bloody —“ I stopped her. No need to elaborate any further.
I resisted the urge to ask how she learned about him, but instead made a mental note to have a talk with her older sister. I then opened my arms and pulled my child close and whispered, “I understand.” I was thinking of the bad dream I’d just experienced and came to a conclusion: Television interviews are my Chucky.
For three nights in a row, my child repeated this waking up pattern. But then the fourth night came and went. Nothing. Not a peep.
As my freckle-faced child sat on the toilet that morning, I just had to know. “So you slept great last night,” I said without mentioning any names that started with the letter C.
“I am not scared of Chucky anymore,” my daughter said triumphantly.
“Really?” I asked baffled.
“I faced my fears,” she declared sounding far wiser than someone wearing flannel pajamas with ice cream cones on them should sound.
Wow. I just had to hear this. I took a seat on the edge of the bathtub fully prepared to hear everything she had to say about facing her Chucky fears. Honestly, I was hoping to learn something.
“How did you face your fears?” I asked all ears.
“I said two things to myself,” my daughter said holding up two fingers so I could easily follow along. “I said: One: Chucky is not real—someone made him up, and Two: Mom and Dad are here; I am not alone.”
I was so joyful and so proud of my child and her insightful revelation. I held up my hand for a high five but once her hand touched mine, I clasped it desperately hoping to absorb her courage.
That night I woke up between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. feeling certain I’d slept through an interview. To assure myself it was only a dream, I opened my laptop and checked my inbox. No interview reminder, but there was a message from a blog reader. She said she’d become consumed “in dark moments and in dark thoughts.” Her inner critic had become so loud she could no longer hear anything positive. She asked me to write some affirmations that she could use to see the positives in herself and in her life.
I get a lot of writing requests from my readers, but I’ve never accepted one. My inspiration always comes from within. But that night, I knew I must write. This woman was telling me she had cruel thoughts in her head and I had the power to make them go away—just like my child did for herself the night before.
I wrote, “Three Words for the Critic in Your Head,” and sent it to her.
The next day I heard from the overjoyed reader. I got tears in my eyes when she told me she would be repeating my words to herself in those dark moments. Her exact words were: “Those simple words will save me.” She wrote several more paragraphs and apologized for being lengthy. She explained that she wrote so much because she felt “connected” to me—someone who understood what she was going through.
In other words, she realized she was not alone.
It had been my intention to help my reader get rid of her Chucky—that debilitating monster in her head telling her untrue things and causing her to worry about things that might never happen. But in the process, I got rid of my own Chucky.
It was then that I saw my interview worries and fears about being in the public spotlight for what they really were: stories in my head—how I wasn’t eloquent, stylish, youthful, or articulate enough … unwarranted fears about my safety, my family’s safety, or how my family would manage while I was gone. But they were just stories. None of them were true.
And what was true? I am not alone.
Through every email you have sent, every comment you’ve written, and every tear you’ve shed while reading my blog, you have been my faithful companions. You will be with me when I face my fears.
I am simply the messenger on this life-changing journey, and I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to have it all figured out. I may stutter; I may trip; I may look bad in bright lighting, but my words will be strong because they come from the heart—and because I am not alone.
And neither are you.
As we begin a new year, I feel compelled to offer this message of hope to anyone ready to face his or her fears:
To the one tired of feeling overwhelmed by life—the one ready to find space to breath again:
You are not alone.
To the one tired of beating yourself up—the one ready to feel worthy again:
You are not alone.
To the one tired of dealing with the challenges of someone you love—the one ready for a reprieve from the heartache:
You are not alone.
To the one tired of bearing the weight of addiction—the one ready to lift the haze and see light again.
You are not alone.
To the one tired of dealing with heaviness in body and heart—the one ready to be free from the excess holding you back:
You are not alone.
To the one tired of putting off your dreams—the one ready to take a leap of faith and try:
You are not alone.
Today just might be the day to face your fears by taking one step towards freedom …
To pick up the phone and say, “I need help,”
To let someone else in on your pain,
To let go of past mistakes and offer yourself a fresh start,
To make time for YOU, your dreams, your health, and your happiness.
As I step out of my comfort zone into territories unknown, I know it will be scary to face my fears.
But I’m going to do it anyway.
Because I can feel your hand in mine—and together, we are not alone.
I conclude this blog post with some wise and inspiring people who have recently impacted my life. Here is a list of various resources that may help someone out there face his or her fears today:
1. Heather @ Enough About Food
As a Health & Life Coach, Heather helps individuals with weight loss, improve their nutrition, increase physical activity and manage their stressors. Heather offers inspiring reflections through weekly blog posts and has transformational e-course starting Jan. 18th.
2. Shawn @ Abundant Mama Project
The Abundant Mama Project was created to inspire overwhelmed, busy mothers to slow down and let go of the worries and concerns that are holding them back from experiencing joyful motherhood. Through her blog, newsletter, and e-courses, Shawn offers simple and practical ideas to be more peaceful, present, & playful. She is currently offering a free copy of: “The Abundant Mama's Guide to Peaceful Mornings.”
3. Andy Smithson @ Tru Parenting
Andy shares valuable insights he’s gained as a counselor working with children and parents to improve their lives individually and as a family. Andy is currently offering a free ebook entitled: 5 Jump Starters for Powerful Family Cycles.
4. Andy Kerckoff @ Growing Up Well
I just finished reading Critical Connection: A Practical Guide to Parenting Young Teens. I underlined a powerful insight on every single page of the book. Andy uses his own life experiences, as well as his experiences as a teacher and administrator, to help parents meaningfully connect with kids—even through the most difficult teen years.
5. Theresa, PhD, licensed psychologist @ theresakellum.com
If you feel hopeless like nothing you do will ever work, or if you or your child(ren) are experiencing depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, attention problems, self-inflicted injury, suicidal thoughts, or are simply wishing for healing, Theresa can help.
A couple notes from Rachel …
*In conjunction with my January 7th book release, my publisher has scheduled a few book signings. I will be doing a short talk/signing in the following cities:
Please see my Events page for dates & locations. If the turnout is good for these signings, my publisher will consider adding more! Nothing would make me happier than to see your loving faces in person, my faithful companions on this life-changing journey!
*The ‘Only Love Today’ leather bracelets and letterpress prints have been designed and will be available in the Hands Free Shop very soon! Thanks to all who requested them!
*I am thrilled to share that The Hands Free Revolution has been selected as a finalist in the Parents Magazine Social Media Awards Contest in the “Best on Facebook” category. If you could take a moment and vote for our community under “Best on Facebook,” I would be ever so grateful.