Instead of Waiting to Be "Ready," Try "Yes, Anyway"
"Ready?" I asked. “What does ready have to do with anything?”
How many dreams disappear in the abyss between "I want to" and "But first...," including, almost, my own?
Fifteen years ago, when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I sat alone on my bathroom floor, struggling to reconcile three seemingly contradictory truths:
1. I am a drunk with an eating disorder, so I can’t say yes to motherhood.
2. I want to say yes.
3. If I do, I’ll have to emerge from the hiding place of addiction and show up for whatever’s in store.
Let me explain how I’d gotten there. I was a sensitive child. Though I probably wouldn’t have articulated it this way, I feared I lacked the armor and confidence necessary to do battle in the big, dangerous world. That fear followed me into my teens. So I withdrew—into bulimia and alcoholism. Addiction is a refuge where those of us who sometimes feel we’re ill-equipped for reality’s challenges retreat to shield ourselves from risks. If I don’t try, I can’t fail was always in my subconscious. Or, If I’m not really seen, I can’t be rejected. And for a time, my addiction did make me feel safe, or safer. But there was a huge price to pay. Disengaging and detaching required that I settle for a half-lived life. As the decades passed, I learned that if I wanted more—to be awake, to live with every fiber of my being— I couldn’t keep playing it safe.
For me, there are two primary reasons to be on earth: to experience love and to grow. If I wanted to be loved, first I'd need to be seen. If I wanted to grow, I’d have to be willing to fail. This meant that hiding would no longer be an option.
So going back to the bathroom floor: I examined the pregnancy test in my shaking hand and, with audacious hope, I decided: Yes. I want to become a mother. I’m not ready, but yes, anyway. (I added a Help, please to the heavens for good measure.) One step at a time, I came out of hiding. I got sober. I gave birth to my baby boy. My life became a series of “yes, anyway” choices as I plunged into things I felt wholly unqualified to do. When I was pulled to start writing, I said yes and showed up at the computer. When publishers called with book offers, I said yes and showed up in New York City. When event hosts asked me to address large crowds, I said yes and showed up onstage. When folks asked me to raise money for worthy causes, I said yes and helped mobilize millions through my nonprofit. When activists asked me to speak out against oppression, I said yes and showed up at marches.
Each time one of those frightening yet thrilling invitations arrived, I reread these words often ascribed to Georgia O’Keeffe: "I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life, and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do." There’s nothing like a wise woman’s truth to help you find your own. I commanded my soul’s courage to override my psyche’s trepidation. Fear is not the boss of me; courage is, I repeated again and again. I kept saying yes, and the invitations kept coming. As my beloved friend Nancy Van Fleet says, "There is a force in the universe forever on the side of those brave enough to trust it."
My mantra is: faith and sweat. After each yes, I prepared. Once I accepted an invitation, I tried hard to make myself worthy of it. In other words, I worked my scared butt off, so that when I showed up—arrived onstage, at meetings, before a blank page—even if I didn’t feel ready, I could genuinely say: Okay, God, I did my part. Now it’s your turn. That winning combo of elbow grease and belief hasn’t failed me yet.
Here’s the secret: Nobody's ready. Every single day, each of us receives some kind of offer in our shaking hands and feels unqualified to accept it. It’s up to us to become bold enough to trust the opportunity, come out of hiding, and start dancing with life—to be messy and complicated and show up anyway.
Glennon Doyle is the author of Love Warrior, a 2016 Oprah’s Book Club pick; the founder of the online community Momastery; and the founder of the nonprofit Together Rising.