Remember Bill Murray as the neurotic in “What About Bob”?
Fear immobilized him. Reduced him to a ball of nerves.
Thwart a Woolly Bear Caterpillar’s autumn walkabout and, terrified, it curls up. Instantly. A sable muff.
Then it commences playing dead—
—no matter how long you hold out that cell phone to film The Big Stretch.
While you wait, Google will tell you a caterpillar’s body houses 4,000 muscles. (Can we take a moment to marvel?)
Playing dead is their defense, a way to feel invisible. Safe.
Think introvert at the company party. Or a women’s retreat.
If you divide What-about-Bob’s trademark solution (taking Baby Steps) among twenty-four stumpy little legs, progress looks infinitesimal.
Sometimes, headway goes belly-up.
Our bodies have 629 muscles. Not to mention will power. Plus inner strength. Our forward motion is more visible.
Some of us like to bootstrap our way onward . . .
- Despite setbacks
- Despite scheduling snafus
- Despite out-of-the blue news that upends plans
Some of us quit, overwhelmed.
I’ve been asking the Spirit to change my default response—I can’t do this!—into four one-syllable words: God, I trust you.
Which sounds so simple.
Despite my fine intentions, Friday I reverted to Woolly Bear Muff Mode. Then tears. I’d learned my book will be in print this week. I thought I had more time to prepare.
With a roar a mental chasm opened up at my feet.
I wasn’t ready to hear I’ve got your back. Trust Me. There was too much noise in my head.
Enter, God, right? . . . wait, who’s this guy?
(Meet Dreamer, a character in my book.)
DREAMER: “But you wanted to fly. This is good news.”
YOURS TRULY (wailing): “I’m not ready!”
DREAMER (mildly): “Well, think of it as a grand adventure.”
YOURS TRULY: “Feels more like an abyss.”
DREAMER: “Are you scared of falling? Or failing? It’s only a book. Listen, how bad can it be? Will anyone die of this?”
YOURS TRULY (sniffling): “I might.”
Another author’s take
“The gaps,” Annie Dillard writes, “are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God;
they are fissures between mountains. . .
and cells the wind lances through,
the icy narrowing fjords splitting the cliffs of mystery.”
(Brrrrrr, Give me a wing chair and steaming tea laced with honey.)
“Go up into the gaps,” Dillard urges.
Dreamer adds: “A gap is a gift. You don’t always have to charge across it. Curl up today with a good book—someone else’s book. And notice the story works out.”
I wiped my eyes, interested. “It’s not denial?”
“Try playing dead for one day, on this side of the chasm. Decompress. Tomorrow, tackle your lists.”
I released 629 muscles (clinging to my imagined cliff), then cozied up in my favorite chair. I read a book about clinging to God and learning to celebrate our smallness (more on this soon). Sipped tea and journaled.
Ate all the raspberries for dinner. Slept like Woolly Bear during winter hibernation.
Today I’m writing to you. Sending emails. Making plans.
There’s a time to forge ahead, to get our hustle on. There’s a time to hunker down and regroup.
And now . . . God
“When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by” (Exodus 33:22 NIV).
Now that’s my idea of safe, playing dead for a while in the shadow of the Almighty (repeating I trust you).
MAKING IT PERSONAL
Do you need to lay something aside for a day? What’s really stopping you?
*For those who’ve not heard of muffs: They are round fur pillows with two deep, satin-lined pockets, to warm one’s hands.
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek http://tinyurl.com/nzyeu2h
For thoughts on how to cross the gap, visit:https://lauriekleinscribe.com/crossing-the-gap/