Being A Good Girl Hamstrung My Calling
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
Guest post from writer Heather Caliri.
The email slipped into my inbox with no fanfare last March. A name I didn’t recognize, a cryptic subject. Curious, I opened it, but it took me a minute to figure out what the woman who sent it was asking. Basically: I like your work. Have you ever thought of publishing a book? If so, will you send me a proposal? I glanced at her email address: a publishing house even I, with no knowledge of the marketplace, recognized. My heart dropped.
This. This is what I had been dreaming about ever since I’d picked up Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott almost twenty years before. This was the beginning of everything I had hoped for coming true. It felt amazing. At first.
After I’d run upstairs to show my husband, after I sent off a few giddy emails to friends, I opened up a blank document on my computer, stilled my heart, and asked myself a question.
What should I write about?
But when I stared at the blinking cursor, I started to feel panicky. Because the question of what I would write brought to mind all of the things I was too frightened to mention. Basically, anything to do with my family of origin. In other words, stay away from the first twenty-two years of my life.I write memoir. Scuttling any mention of my childhood was ridiculous.
I had thought the editor’s note was tremendously good news. I thought it was the beginning of a dream come true. Instead, it was a kind of nightmare. I realized I had a choice: I could upend my relationship with my family. Or, I could blow up my dream of writing books. There wasn’t any middle ground.
What I realized, staring at the email, was that I had been putting off this choice ever since I’d realized that God had called me to write. I had always hedged, trying to hold onto safety, normalcy, and being a good girl. I had said yes to a calling while trying also to keep from making people I loved uncomfortable.
There was no way to say the things God has put on my heart without explaining why my heart is the shape it is. I felt so tired looking at my computer. I have been a writer for fifteen years, and this fear has been riding my back the whole time.
All of a sudden, I couldn’t take it anymore. Screw it, I thought, looking at the blank page. I’m done staying quiet. I started to write—for the first time in my life—without looking over my shoulder.
Not long after, I called a therapist.
I had known writing the book would be hard, but what I hadn’t realized was that keeping quiet had kept me from healing. Scales fell from my eyes with every word I typed. I needed serious help to navigate the fallout.
Processing my pain on the page and in counseling, I realized something for the very first time: Putting a lid on my calling meant cutting off God’s shalom in my life. I had put off really finding peace with my family. I had put off being honest and asking hard questions of the people I love. I had allowed myself to prop up dysfunction instead of advocating for health.
Being a good girl had hamstrung my calling and my life because all of it belongs to Jesus. When we stay boxed into a corner in one area, we stay small everywhere. When we refuse to use our voices, how can we testify of Christ’s power?
It’s more than a year later, and I’m still struggling to put together a book proposal. I’ve had false starts, a few rejections, and a bucketful of tears. I am dogged and committed to taking my calling seriously. I will approach it with grit, professionalism, and whatever skill I can muster.
But I have tasted victory, even before I publish a book. The day I made the choice to upend my family was the day that I started to heal. The day I decided to make everyone I loved uncomfortable was the day I stepped onto a path of forgiveness. The day I stopped being quiet and safe was the day I started living without terror. It was a nightmare to realize how much of a stranglehold fear had over my dreams. But it was worth it.
Heather Caliri empowers others to seek Jesus’ easy yoke. In the process, she’s finding an light burden, too. Get her free ebook, “Five Ways to Hack Your Bible Hangups” when you subscribe.