I have a confession to make. Since Switching Teams was published, part of my daily routine includes reading the messages and emails from readers. Many thank me for writing and sharing my story about coming out later in life and many more ask me for advice or share their own stories with me. I am humbled and grateful for each message and the kindness and love being sent my way.
My goal was to help others who experienced a similar journey feel like they were not alone. Despite the daily positive feedback, I am still shocked when readers reach out to me and share how my words have helped them in their journey. I am much more comfortable being behind the scenes on most days than I am in the spotlight. By putting my story out there for the world to see, I put the spotlight directly on myself.
Prepare yourself for a crash course on the inner workings of my mind. I fall in to the classic Type A personality profile. For those of you who are astrology buffs, I am also a Virgo. I am an INTJ if you are a Myers-Briggs fan. I enjoy staying ahead of the game, keeping my head down, and quietly staying on task. Ask my wife. If it were not for her more sensible approach to getting things done, and her constant reminders about slowing down, I would wear myself out more frequently.
Included in this way of doing things is my tendency to skip important steps along the way, mainly where emotions are concerned. Which brings me back around to Switching Teams. In order to write it, I had to be connected to the story, which was easy in the beginning stages.
As I wrote, I remained focused on conveying the experience and the emotion surrounding the event while also being mindful of the proper use of grammar and literary rules. It was a tough balance to achieve. Putting out something that would not make readers question my sanity, or language skills, and conveyed everything accurately was a challenge.
When the editing process began, focus shifted away from the story and to the work at hand. At some point, it became another job to complete. I became detached from my own story. By the time my finished work was published, I had read it so many times that when I closed my eyes images of the pages flashed across my mind. A photographic memory was not my friend during this adventure.
The day I received the first copies from the publisher was exciting for my entire family. I was thrilled to cross another item off of my bucket list. I took out the first copy and set it down. Admittedly, I was sick of my own self by the time it was published. It was a long road and I felt relieved, however, I felt slightly panicked.
I was afraid that I missed something in the edits. I was afraid of how people would react. I was afraid that I sent it before it was ready. There were even moments when I questioned my decision and mental health status regarding opening my life up for others to see. Did I mention I am Type A?
I am embarrassed to admit that it took me five months to read my own book. Worst therapy homework assignment ever. I delayed because I knew deep down I would have to go to the place in my heart where five years of emotional boxes has been stored. I was hesitant to relive the experience again.
Many assume that writing the book was therapeutic, but as it turns out, reading it was more therapeutic. I went off the grid and chose a quiet place near nature and water where I could fall apart if I needed to. Good choice since it was one of the most gut wrenching and emotional few days I have experienced since coming out. As I read, I took off the editor hat, and wore my own backwards ball cap. While my original intention was to help others, I recognize this book was a belated gift to myself.
In doing so, I discovered there were areas that still needed healing, even after five years. I reconnected, felt it all, and it was ugly. I also learned that our growth potential is highest when we plow head first in to that which we find uncomfortable or unpleasant.
I am now fortunate enough to have the support of those who understand exactly what I am feeling as a result of my decision to publish my story. Initially, my coming out experience took place in a bubble and felt very lonely at times. Five years later, I had a village to lean on as I sorted through the emotional ups and downs.
Being vulnerable is not something I enjoy. Again, ask my wife. I am not sure if I will ever get used to knowing that many have read my personal story, and know much more about me than I am comfortable with. However, every day I am encouraged to accept the truth of who I am and to realize importance of being able to get out of my own way so that growth can happen.
Each message, question, or thanks I receive, reminds me that I am not alone in my journey. I am forced to let go of the fears I have rolling around about whether or not the book is good enough and to focus on the impact my decision to share my story has had on others. They remind me of my own strength, vulnerability, and connection to anyone who is seeking authenticity.
I see now, after many months, that had I been emotionally connected while I edited, the book would still be sitting in my computer unfinished. Being able to detach while completing a task is not a bad thing and is sometimes necessary to see things through to the end. We each have our own timeline for navigating the challenging portions of life.
This week, consider the areas in your life where you may be feeling detached or disconnected. Look beneath the surface and find the courage already within you to do what you think you cannot. Imagine the stories you will be able to write when fear is edited out of your life.