Sometimes you read something that is good and you promptly forget it. And then there are times when you read something good, at the exact right time, and it moves you to take action. This is what happened when I read The Flinch by Julien Smith at the start of January this year. This short, concise and free e-book published by the Domino Project presents a mental hook toward living your story well.
“The flinch is the moment when every doubt you’ve ever had comes back and hits you, hard. It’s when your whole body feels tense. It’s an instinct that tells you to run. It’s a moment of tension that happens in the body and the brain and it stops everything cold.
When coming across something they know will make them flinch, most people have been trained to refuse the challenge and turn back. It’s a reaction that brings up old memories and haunts you with them. It tightens your chest and makes you want to run. It does whatever it must do to prevent you from moving forward. If the flinch works, you can’t do the work that matters because the fear it creates is too strong.
Whatever form it takes, the flinch is there to support the status quo. It whispers in your ear so you’ll dismiss a good idea that requires a lot of change.”
This resonated deep, so never being a fan of the status quo, I naively declared that 2012 was going to be the year of embracing “the flinch”. It quickly became clear that I flinched. A lot. From things like weekly exercise and healthy food choices, to reading hard books and having hard conversations, to bigger issues like saying NO to self and fighting the good fight within. There have been times this year that I’ve felt like a beaten and bruised boxer, because flinching does serve the purpose of self-protection and by choosing to move beyond the flinch, I was choosing some degree of pain. But it has been the gradual lesson that a safe, comfortable and protected life equals a story no one wants to read.
I was quirky in the things I tagged to embrace unflinchingly. I tackled the beautiful epic novel Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. I am still struggling to memorize the book of 1 John. I said yes to spreading the word about the Touch a Life Foundation and raising funds to aid trafficked children in Ghana. I ran the Warrior Dash with my son and a few friends. It was an ugly, muddy finish, and even though I walked some, I did not flinch. I encouraged our oldest daughter’s desire to study abroad, even though it was terrifying in the imagined risks. I embraced the chance to travel to my long imagined home, Italy. The flinch was faced down repeatedly in some super hard places and conversations in our marriage.
The granddaddy of flinch embraces though, came with the birthing of this space. Not going to pretend. I am still in full-out flinch mode. This is terrifying. Like walking through Wal-Mart naked scary. So I am asking myself WHY have I flinched so much at the idea of a creative writing space to share stories. My greatest fear is (and has been since I was probably 8) the heart stopping, pulse racing fear of “what THEY will think about me”. That stupid need for approval and validation from others. That lie whispered from the enemy of my story, that it would be better to remain in the status quo than risk. I have wrestled with Jerry McGuirelike remorse ever since sharing this web address with a tentative few. What the heck was I thinking?
Here is the deal. I care about you, reader. But your approval and validation is not why I have started writing about and sharing stories. I have learned through trying and failing, that by being ruled by the flinch or fear, whatever its name, I am refusing the Author of my story to write what is best into my life. I am not submitting to his authorship.
So. This is me beating the flinch back with my purse.