You know what’s fun? Doing something for yourself, just because you want to…. and then not apologizing for it.
Last weekend I went to Brooklyn, New York. I went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell talk about life and creativity and what it means to live a creative life for a day.
You know, Elizabeth Gilbert?… Eat Pray Love? Big Magic? Magic Lessons podcast? And you know Rob Bell… Love Wins? Everything is Spiritual? The Robcast?
All those shaking your heads “No,” go check them out. They might change your life.
So here’s why I didn’t go to the Rob & Liz event:
I didn’t go to this event because I had to.
I didn’t go for work. I didn’t go for school.
I didn’t go because I’m some sort of creativity guru that felt deeply called to go and hang out with my fellow creativity gurus.
And I definitely didn’t go because I happened to be in Brooklyn anyway, had some extra cash lying around, and because the whole thing just sounded convenient.
Nope… didn’t go for any of those reasons.
I went because it sounded fun, and because it was something I was curious about.
That’s it. I know. Crazy, right?!
Now to all of you impulsive people out there, this might not sound so crazy. But if you don’t already know me, it’s important you know that I have a history of being overly rational about deciding to do things. I’d tend to only do things if they really “made sense,” which usually meant I’d only do things that were free, almost free, or better yet, if I were paid to do them.
And if I did on the off chance indulge in my curiosity, and God forbid spend a little extra time, energy, and money in the process, there was a twisted sense of guilt for having wasted said time, energy, and money on myself and on something that wasn’t “essential.” I found myself seeking out opportunities that I not only wanted to do, but that could also conveniently pass as some kind of obligation, so I didn’t have to feel bad about using up such precious resources on just myself.
What I didn’t realize was that in saying “No” to all these things that sparked my interest (and that were not also an obligation), I incidentally was declaring to myself and to the world that I’m not worth the investment of going to something interesting.
Work is worth the investment, sure. Family is worth the investment. Friends are worth the investment, no doubt. If the investment was for them, or even for me and them, then I could go. But heavens, not just for me!
Some of you think I’m absurd, but some of you kind of know what I’m talking about.
So I’ve been following Rob and Liz for awhile now. I had heard about this creativity event online, and knew that it sounded irrational to go simply because I was curious about it.
And as you know, in the past, I would have shut down the idea like that [snaps fingers], just like I had with so many similar events before it… but for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, but am fairly certain have something to do with the sheer boredom and sometimes angst that comes from never checking in with yourself and asking it the simple question of “What does your soul desire?”… I said yes.
This time, I tried something new. This time, I didn’t shut the idea down. Instead, I followed it. I listened to the slight tug on my heart that told me to lean in, to learn more, and to see if I could find a way to make it happen, even though it sounded kind of crazy, but trusting it was for some kind of bigger purpose. I didn’t punish myself for daring to think I was worth such an investment, and I let myself dream for a second about what it would be like to indulge in that slight pull to go, and actually… well, go!
So I went. And as it turns out, cool things happen when you not just follow your curiosity, but follow it with an open heart.
I’ve talked before about how I have often particularly loud voices of negativity in my mind that speak lies to me sometimes. So naturally, as soon as I booked the bus ticket, made the AirBnB reservation, and bought the ticket to the actual event, those voices piped right on up, and did what they do best… they tried to mess with my head.
Their tactics are different depending on the situation. They’re very clever, these voices. Or at least they think they are, and they try to cater to the situation at hand. So in this case, these voices knew that, in addition to not feeling worth the investment of an event like this, I also have had a tendency of getting sick before big events in the past, and thus have needed to bail last minute. Whenever these voices would remind me of this, 9 times out of 10 I would (of course) wind up getting sick, just as the voices told me I would.
It took me awhile to catch on, but I recently had a thought:
How many times have I gotten sick before a big event (whether a concert, Thanksgiving, a birthday party, etc.) because I was actually just getting sick, as humans inevitably do sometimes? And how many times have I gotten sick because I just magnified and fed the negative voices in my mind that told me I was bound to get sick… and because getting sick at inopportune times is just what I do best… and because of course I’m going to get sick, otherwise what else am I going to do? Not get sick and just… go to the big event?! Well that would be ludicrous. Everyone knows I don’t belong there. I belong on my couch, watching FRIENDS reruns, disappointed that I missed another fun event. I’m the sick girl. The girl who gets sick. Sicky McSickster. (That’s enough, Elizabeth).
So anyway, when the voices in my head caught wind that I was (GASP) not only going to an event, but voluntarily going to an event, that seemed out of my reach due to finances, distance, and general impracticality, they got right to it.
About a week before the event, I sneezed once. (!!!!).
Oh my God. Am I getting sick? The voices found their “in.”
I‘m getting sick. I thought. Of course I’m getting sick. I’m going to have to miss the event, I’m going to lose my money because it’s too late to get a refund, I’m going to have to stay home and wallow, and I’m going to hate myself for having even thought that I could go in the first place. What was Ithinking?! Bonehead bonehead bonehead! [Slaps forehead repeatedly].
The thoughts continued for about 10 minutes before I found myself both unexpectedly and yet undoubtedly…… bored.
I used to panic when I heard the voices… and I tried to panic this time, too. I really did! That’s what I had always done in the past, after all. But for whatever reason, it just wasn’t doing anything for me this time. It was as if, in a new way, I saw through the voices for what they really were, and I understood the irrelevancy of them. They were merely a manifestation of my fear. Namely, my fear of new experiences and of an unknown future. The voices were trying to get me sick, because they were trying to keep me home, on the couch, where no new experiences could be found, and where I was surely safe from an unknown future.
I guess the combination of me realizing this and of me just finding myself straight up bored with the whole shtick led me to what I did next. What I did next was unlike anything I had done before… and yet it was astoundingly simple.
What I did was I stood up for myself.
Not in a self-righteous, “I’m super entitled” kind of way… but just in a very normal, “I’m a human, just like everyone is a human” kind of way. And since I think humans deserve to go to events that feed their soul every once in awhile, for the benefit of themselves and consequently the greater good, then maybe that made me also deserving of attending such events.
So I worked to change the narrative in my head. I switched from I’m sick and I’ll never make it there, to, I’m healthy. I’m strong. I’m confident. And there’s a place for me there.
That last line took me most by surprise I think, because it seemed to not necessarily come from my normal, conscious brain like the other ones. It seemed to come from someplace deeper. From the Holy Spirit, even. And it was a bolder statement than the other ones, too… it was very unlike me, to dare to say that not only was I going to be there, but I should be there. That there was even a place for me there, a seat destined especially for me. Now some of you may argue that I took this a little too far here, but hey. It was working for me, and it seemed like a better idea than thinking my way into sickness, so I just went with it.
And interestingly enough, that last line was the line that popped up in my head the most in the days leading up to the event. Anytime a lingering thought of, “I’m getting sick,” would show up, immediately I would hear the Spirit respond, “There’s a place for you there.”
And eventually, the voices of fear couldn’t even finish their thoughts before they were interrupted by this new voice:
I’m getting sick. I just know I’m coming down with someth-There’s a place for you there.
But what if something else entirely unrelated comes up and forces me to have to-There’s a place for you there.
Oh my GOD what if I get pancreatitis right before the event and have to go to the hospit-THERE’S A PLACE. FOR YOU. THERE.
(Who was this newfound voice that actually cared about me? And was so confident that I was deserving of good things? I don’t know man, but I liked this voice.)
And even on the day of the event, I walked into the venue and as I gave the check-in lady my last name, me being the Debbie that I can be, I had one last fleeting thought of, What if they don’t have any record of my ticket purchase, and the event is sold out, and I came all this way for nothing?!
And again, that voice: There’s a place for you there.
The lady found my name no problem, and pointed me through the double doors to the event. [Switching to present tense for dramatic effect].
I walk in and it looks like a movie theater, so it takes me a few steps before I round the corner and see the seats that are taken and not taken.
I turn the corner and see that the front is pretty full, but there’s actually quite a few seats open in the middle and the back. PHEWF! So naturally I look up to the back of the room, and prepare to trek up the stairs and make my way to a seat in the corner. I knew I would probably be crying most of the day (after all, I do cry at the drop of a hat, and Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert have a way of making me cry even more than other people do). So I figured the back would be best. This way I can stay out of everyone’s way, I thought. I won’t make a scene, and won’t make anyone uncomfortable. Yeah. I’ll find a seat in the back. That’s best.
This is where it gets interesting. So before I make my way up the stairs, I decide to take my backpack off. And as I’m readjusting my belongings and getting ready to head up, a woman in the front row, dead center, with one seat empty to her right, pretty aggressively waves her hand and flags me down.
“Um.. me?” I look behind me.
“Yeah.” She points to the seat next to her. “There’s a place for you here.”
There’s a place for you here.
There’s a place for you here. There’s a place for you here.There’s a place for you here. So it was true after all.
I learned something that day: that sometimes, there is a place for you here. “Here” being anything from a normal event, to a big event, to even just a place for you here on earth: a place for you to be a human, to take up space, and to just BE who you are.
I learned that day that indeed, sometimes there’s a place for you here.
And sometimes? “Here” is someplace you and the people around you would least expect, and perhaps even a place that fear would like to see you avoid.
And sometimes? That place isn’t in the far back corner. Sometimes, that place is front and center. Not all the time, by any means, but sometimes. And sometimes, you don’t need to hide. Sometimes, you don’t even get to hide even if you want to, because sometimes, a lady with a loud voice tells you that there’s a place for you up front, and when a lady with a loud voice tells you there’s a place for you up front, you take your place up front.
Trust is what it comes down to. Trust that you deserve to be here as much as the next guy, not because of anything you’ve done or haven’t done, but because you’re a human, and humans are allowed to do fun things for themselves sometimes.
Now I recognize… it doesn’t always work like this… I realize that I actually could have gotten sick, in spite of the positive self talk, because getting sick sometimes is a thing if you’re human, but at least I allowed for the opportunity to NOT get sick. I didn’t stunt possibility by assuming the worst. I think that’s the key: allowing for the best, while vowing to surrender to the outcome, regardless of whether it’s the best or worst.
I’m also not going to go to the next event I go to and expect an anointed seat to be carved out for me in the very front of the room with my name on it. Nor am I going to buy a ticket to every single event I want to go to going forward, just because it sounds fun. That’s not my point. My point is that sometimes, it’s okay to go someplace with the expectation that you belong there, and deserve to be there (assuming of course, it’s not a place you were explicitly banned from showing up at). We’re all allowed to be here, and all have a place for us here. We don’t need to feel sorry for being where we are, and don’t need to assume we’re not allowed someplace because we’re not obligated to go.
This is the longest post I’ve ever written, but I want to add one more cool thing that happened last weekend. In the past, at events with people I don’t know, I’d walk into the event with my head down, and would avoid talking to anyone because I was scared… scared of what, I’m not exactly sure, but needless to say, I don’t typically seek out opportunities to talk to strangers. But this time, in the spirit of thinking positively and openly, I prayed on the bus ride to Brooklyn:
God, show me who you want me to meet at this event. Work out the details and allow our paths to cross if that should be a way you want to work through this event.
For the purpose of this story, here’s a seemingly random compilation of anecdotes about me:
I’m a Christian. I historically have gone to a catholic church, and I’m now going to a non-denominational, evangelical megachurch.
I’m fascinated by the exploration of life and love, I appreciate Gabby Bernstein’s insights on life when applied in a Christian context, and the only type of alcohol I drink is vodka.
The woman who I sat next to at the event was named Cindy. Cindy is a Christian. Cindy historically has gone to a catholic church, and is now going to NorthPoint Community Church, a non-denominational, evangelical megachurch pastored by Andy Stanley.
Cindy is fascinated by the exploration of life and love, she appreciates Gabby Bernstein’s insights on life when applied in a Christian context, and the only type of alcohol she drinks is vodka.
NOW TELL ME THAT’S NOT WEIRD.
We spent the day talking about our stories, and especially our families, and it turns out there are a lot of similarities there, too. Shout out to Cindy: I’m SO grateful for your willingness to listen and give insight that day, because I needed to hear it just as much, if not more than I needed to hear what Rob & Liz had to say. Thank you!
So this weekend was a Good weekend. It turns out interesting things transpire when there’s a genuine willingness to let new people, things, and ideas into your life. And I’m beginning to see that life is much more fun and much more FREE, when you invite something bigger than the manifestation of your fear into your life.
Sometimes something that starts out as a fun thing to do, God uses to lead you to discover all sorts of cool things about yourself and your place here in the process.
If you’ve read this far, you’re a champ! Thank you for reading. I haven’t even begun to talk about the actual content of this event, which was equally as fascinating as the victory of actually going to the event… but fear not. I’ll share that in a separate post.
Cheers! To all having a place here.