Brain Dump

Writers become angsty when they don’t write. If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. If you’re not a writer, you know what I mean.

It’s like not going to therapy. Or missing a run. Or going too long without sex. Or staying inside all winter. A primal, carnal desire isn’t being met and you don’t feel yourself.

Somehow I’ve been freezing up when it comes to writing. I know more now about what makes good writing and consequently my standard has risen over the years. It seems as though if I can’t put something well crafted into the universe, I should skip it.

So, as I choose how to spend my moments and days, a longing to write has been met with a resistance to doing so; the clashing of internal aspects of myself.

My friend Heather and I both have four young kids. Hers are really young, and I’m PTSDing the last 8 years of raising mine, so we don’t get many chances to get together. But we have our dumpy little gym and often find ourselves next to each other on our might-as-well-eat-cheesecake-instead elliptical machines ridiculously early  in the morning. Here we find Life in the few-minutes-long conversations, shared struggles, and pointing out of God sightings n each other’s lives.

This morning as I lamented my writer’s angst, she suggested I simply empty my brain onto to paper. She called it “brain dump.” Challenge accepted, Heather.  What’s in my head? I don’t know. Here goes….—>

If you’re in the middle of life, like I am, you know the sense of lost dreams. In your 20’s, there are paths and paths for you to choose, and by the time you reach 40 and 50, it seems like you’re firmly down a path. I’m living with my chosen path and though I don’t regret it, I also grieve what now can’t be. Take just my career path for instance (let alone relationships, hobbies, ideals etc). I had once thought I’d be a missionary nurse in Africa. The dream later morphed to working full time at a camp providing wilderness and leadership education, then to combing my love of wilderness with medicine, then practicality forced me to drop all of the aforementioned options and instead become a professional nurse practitioner. At that point, writing still hadn’t entered the picture. But neither had my values of promoting social and racial justice, my new understanding of women’s roles in the church, my passion for fighting for good change, or my now most frequently thought about concepts of resilience, mindfulness, and how to parent well.

As some dreams died, I gained new perspective that I cherish. As we die to old hopes we had for ourselves, we realize that maybe those dreams were just springboards for a future we couldn’t have imagined.

I now work in healthcare education, motherhood claims my brain and time. We live in lily white suburbia and attend a conservative evangelical church, neither of which I’m totally comfortable in.

I grieve that I didn’t become that adventurous woman that fought culture misnomers and advocated on behalf of African women and children. Instead, in the smallest ways, I advocate for anxious students, for racial equality, and women to be treated justly. I still have the original fire in my bones, it’s just not as impressive as I imagined it’d be. It’s subtler, but smolders on.

I grieve that the extent of my outdoorsiness is mostly hitting the running trail behind my house. But the love of the wilderness I gained working at a camp and backpacking extensively in my younger years still feeds my soul when I take the time to get outside.

I grieve that I didn’t focus on writing earlier in life. That I don’t have the energy to pursue this newer desire like I would’ve in the past and may never become the writer I could’ve been if I’d started long ago. But I love my chosen field of healthcare, it’s shaped me and provides me with a framework from which to pull as I write.

The if-onlys can haunt us for the rest of our lives, unless we both grieve what didn’t happen and celebrate what has. We need to recognize that the original  reasons we wanted to do something or be something may still be within us, just manifesting themselves in different ways.

And when we’re paralyzed in taking the next step forward, if we feel like we don’t have the right to write, or whatever the case may be, we may just need permission from someone, or ourselves, to be a different person than we are now.

What do you need permission to dream about? To do?

For starters, you have mine.

A couple weeks ago, I got to lead a day hike with some local women. It was so, so good. The wilderness lives on in my soul.


  1. I love this post! You just put words to exactly how I’ve been feeling and what I hope to encourage others in. As I think about rebranding, I am having to examine what direction the Lord is calling me to, but so many of my own past hopes and dreams keep clouding the way. I love how you talk about past dreams being a springboard for current pursuits, as well as how they are still manifesting themselves, just in different, and perhaps more muted, ways. It’s that critical juncture between contentment and restlessness (not growing complacent) that God calls us to. He is able to do more than we can think or imagine. I am excited to see what He does with us in this middle decade of life!

  2. Nicole Douglass says:

    I like the idea of permission–I recently listened to Brene Browne’s book “Braving the Wilderness” and one of the takeaways I got from her was writing myself a permission slip to do _________________. Whatever it is I’m struggling to allow myself to do without guilt or worry. Good job giving yourself permission to brain dump–because it turned it out great.