I feel like quitting. School is cranky. I’m tired. I’m halfway through writing a book that I have somewhat committed to finishing by the end of the month, but doubt everything about it. My feelings don’t align with reality. I can’t see the forest for the trees. I dread going to school right now, turning into 8 different people, that changes every hour, fighting lonely battles year after year. My introvert self is jealous of the turtle and his shell in the backyard. But…

I am reminded of three of my favorite books. I am reminded of three of the most inspirational accounts of human endurance, perseverance and courage. I am obviously talking about the Bible, the Journals of Lewis and Clark, and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. All three of these books are so full of insight and amazement that you could write books about them and books about the books written about them. And people do. I will focus on three specifics.

Hebrews 11. This is the “By faith” chapter. All these people were acting on faith, stepping out and doing what they believed they were made to do. They had become the people God had made them to be. This is also the realist chapter. They didn’t get it. This is Hebrews 11:13 in the NIV:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

And there’s Lewis and Clark. The year is 1805. The Corps of Discovery has just crossed the continent, crossed mountain ranges, fought wild beasts, and disease, and sometimes hostile inhabitants of the land. They have walked with their eyes swollen shut from mosquito bites. They are miles from the Pacific Ocean, their goal, the reason they crossed the continent. On November 7, Clark writes “Ocian in view! O! the joy.” It’s on some nickels. Check your pocket. But they are still twenty miles away. And a few days later it gets stormy.

And a few days after “O Joy!” they are pounded with rain, and holed up in a sheltered cove for six days, many believe they can’t go on. They are miserable. They call the place the Dismal Nitch. It’s a Washington State Rest Area today. The weather turns, they get back on the river, and they reach the ocean.

And there’s childbirth. Chapter 14 of Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon is titled “The Emotional Map of Labor” and describes three emotional signposts: Excitement, Seriousness, Self-doubt. This is what the book says about the self-doubt phase (after some specifics about your uterus kicking into high gear):

At this point you will be quite absorbed in yourself and your body so that you may not even notice, but your coach sees that you have become uncertain, indecisive. You don’t know quite what you want to do, and even when asked you cannot say or explain…You are not sure that you can do this, and may even say so aloud. This is the self-doubt signpost, and it really means you are almost done.

The book describes how “this is the most blundered and mishandled part of labor.” People rush to medicate. Often the coach starts to freak out because the woman is freaking out. At this point, Susan writes, a laboring woman needs praise, encouragement, and to know that she’s making progress, that the baby is almost there.

As a more experienced coach, Susan is able to write:

Now, as a more experienced coach, I can hardly wait to see some of the emotions of the self-doubt signpost. I rub my hands together gleefully because I know we’re almost to pushing. I look forward to it!

Here’s what I want to believe. I want to believe that I am living by faith, and that I will receive the things promised, even if they were only implied, because sometimes people do. I want to believe that I am headed in the right direction, on the right path, almost there. I want to believe that the ocean is a few miles away. I want to believe that this self-doubt phase is a good sign. I want to believe that my feelings not aligned with reality is normal, and good, and natural and exciting.

I want to rub my hands together gleefully while all my emotional silliness tells me to do other things.

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