Under Pressure

It seems I have two dominant subterranean rivers of thought flowing in my life right now. Both of them pressing hard against my "let's just keep everything respectable" veneer, fissuring the rock of my defenses in their desire for release.

These thought rivers are demanding more and more for release. My writing seems to be the divining rod that seeks them out, finding the springs beneath the surface.

And like water under pressure, when I stop to dig below the surface, these thoughts gush up, violent at times in how they overtake the space I have carved out for them. They respect no boundary and once released they forever change the topsoil of my life. (Having already changed the landscape below the surface.)

The rushing water washes some things away, thoughts and behaviors no longer useful. Some of the water pools and soaks the soil, causing new things to germinate and then grow.

Water, giving rise to new ways of living and being. New ways of growing.

These two underground streams are the ideals and values of freedom education (and freedom living in general) and the changes being wrought in me as we prepare for our thru-hike. I haven't published much from this second stream yet because the education flow broke the surface last month and I've been rushing around trying to divert that flow into a safe stream.

Like any force under pressure I fear the strength of these ideas as they break the surface. I fear the deluge. I fear the washing away of olds ways of doing things that can not withstand the flood.

And to be honest, I fear flooding everything and everyone around me so that I am island of ideas, alone and isolated. Isolation is the last thing I want.

I wonder sometimes - do other people feel their ideas so strongly? And how do they release the pressure (through their own creative expression - music, art, words, painting, dance, physical movement) without freaking everyone out, "Flood, run for the hills!" Or is freaking people out just inevitable.

I freak out at new and scary ideas. I get freaking out.

So that's really it. I'm afraid to stand out of the crowd even more than I already do.

There are times I feel un-tethered by what people think of me - blog readers, neighbors, friends, family.

And then it comes back to me, like a manacle I thought I had left behind, how much I want to be accepted, liked, and understood. How much I care, still, about what people think and how they perceive me (ugh.)

An aside about this yo-yo of emotion.

This "confidence and quaking" yo-yo of emotion tracks, like clockwork, with my monthly cycle.

Around ovulation (approaching, at its peak, and in its shadow) I am fearless (mostly), on top of my writing game. Oh, how I love a good shot of estrogen.

As I approach the waning days of my luteal phase, nearing my period, as my progesterone and estrogen plummet, so does my confidence. Thoughts I wrote a mere seven days ago seem foreign to me, "who is this bold, brash woman?" And the thought of publishing them causes waves of insecurity to wash over me.

Recognizing this cycle has helped me immensely to realize I'm not a nutcase - full of confidence one week and questioning everything I've ever written the next. Even though I recognize it and can name it, I still have to live through it, and figure out a schedule of writing and publishing that honors this rhythm.

This awareness, by the way, was something I gained from Lisa's course.

Regardless of "my time of month", what people think of me is a fear I can't hold onto if I truly want to be free and encourage others to be free also.

Sometimes, I consider sitting down and having a talk with my thoughts, "listen here, you're ruining my chances of writing and appealing to a wide audience. Can't you just keep it quiet a bit, lay low. Be a little less flamboyant in your joy and your color, a little less flamboyant in your freedom? How about beige? It's a lovely color, really it is."

And my thoughts say,

"No, sorry dear. We know you want to be accepted and understood (and let's be honest, you'd love to be a respected writer with many readers), but this is who you are - a bit brash sometimes, flamboyant in your joy and color. This is you. And be to accepted, understood and successful on any other premises would be incomplete at best, false at worse."

"Honey, you're growing. And we all know that growing scares you a bit. Growth comes out of dark places (which you've been) and requires water, which if you haven't noticed is threatening to carry you down river. Hang on girl. Because we're taking you for a ride."

"And beige? Girl, you've got to be kidding! You're the one who loves bright color in your life, so just be quiet now. You do your job, which is to live and write with your whole heart. And we'll do ours, which is to upset the status quo of your life."


I came across this quote on The Writer's Almanac last week. It was immensely comforting to me. I have no idea who John Edgar Wideman is but I like what he has to say about writing from the heart.

Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.

John Edgar Wideman

The pressure of these thoughts - the things that are important to me, scary to me, and that eat me up - is building. And writing is both a release and an invitation to possible disaster, like a flood that will carry me away into unknown territory.

(And now a bit of housekeeping.)

We have a lot of work to do in this current life season. It reminds me of another life season of intense work and re-organization of family life to meet our goals.

In order to make the mental space for the most important priorities right now - homeschooling my kids (and providing all the out-of-home opportunities that are a reality in a home with young adults and near young adults), the daily writing and wrestling of things that matter to me, managing our home, and preparing for the AT - I am taking a sabbatical from some of my online work, like coaching and other "reaching out" stuff.

I will not be able to follow through on the free chats I had hoped to do this fall. The first two were fabulous though. Family life comes first. So does getting our family to the AT. We leave in less than six months!

I am carefully evaluating each opportunity that comes my way and measuring it against our values and vision for the next six months, and holding on for the ride.

And now I'm curious - what do you do about the subterranean ideas in your own life? How do you express them? Do you feel that expression isolates you?
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  • Mama

    Mama on Oct. 9, 2013, 12:52 a.m.

    There are times when I feel that because of our family's vision, I have to set aside ideas, projects, or goals I had in the past. Sometimes those ideas are things I really like, things I don't want to let go of. But the silly thing is, that on top of debating with myself over my priorities, I add guilt about image - what if people think less of me because I am "quitting" projects, or giving up goals I thought were important to me? Will people still respect me? Will I look wishy-washy? Ah, self-doubt, why must you always pester? I hear you Renee. I know I don't know or understand all the particulars of your family's individualized journey, but I think I speak for all your faithful readers when I say that we love you because you write from your heart. You truly are an inspiration.

    ... and, I love the color in your posts, both in the photos and story. We all need more color in our lives!


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 9, 2013, 1:04 a.m.

      Mama, you took your comment in a direction I hadn't thought about much when writing this post, the setting aside of old plans and ideas. That is a common theme in my "work life". Ideas that just can't happen as family life unfolds and letting go of those. It's the same with homeschooling. 

      The self-doubt I feel, as expressed in this post, is more of the fear of letting loose what is really inside me (smile). Can I handle it? Can my readers? What do I let loose, what do I hold back? 

      My self-doubt comes and goes but in my writing it is fading as I struggle with it in other areas - like "am I a good enough outdoorswoman for this trek?" It also totally tracks with my menstrual cycle, high estrogen - high self esteem (smile).

      And Mama, I think you understand me well and know what it's like to have strong ideals and a husband with strong ideals, and what it's like to try to find a way to live those honestly and realistically without alienating everyone around you. Get what I mean?


      • Mama

        Mama on Oct. 9, 2013, 1:19 a.m.

        Putting projects aside would be one area I am struggling with personally, and this post reminded me of that, but I do hear you, in respect to feeling like you need to "let yourself out". We may not be entirely on the same page (eg. I have no interest in long adventures in the mountains, smile) but I can definitely relate to passionate living!


  • Sarah

    Sarah on Oct. 9, 2013, 1:19 a.m.

    Some of my thoughts I feel very comfortable expressing--but it's all about the community where I am expressing them. (Which gets at the root of it all--that yes, I too care about what others think of me.) 

    For example, at school and at home I feel totally comfortable talking about feminism, racism, and equality... while those things aren't necessarily so easy to talk about here (partly because that's not the focus of your blog, of course). At the same time, my slightly subversive, anti-establishment thoughts on education aren't so comfortable to talk about at school or at home...

    And then there are my feelings, which I mostly keep inside, for better or for worse. That can be hard, but I try to process those by talking myself through them in my head (while running or walking, usually).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing, as always. I love your "colorful-ness"!


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 9, 2013, 11:43 a.m.

      Your completely right Sarah, it depends on the community we're surrounded by what and how much we share of ourselves. 

      As I young woman I was very expressive of my feelings, my convictions, beliefs, etc. I sometimes lacked tact in sharing these though. So then I tried to pull back on sharing the counter-cultural ideas, in person at least, and started writing instead. But my feelings have always been close to the surface and I can't hide them even if I try (smile). 

      I don't have a local community right now I feel comfortable with to share some of my deeper thoughts and I miss that. 

      Have you read The Teenage Liberation Handbook? I think you'd like it. I'm not suggesting you quit school like Llewelyn proposes but there are great ideas in there for how to take control of your own education. I'm reading it right now and loving it. It's been around for 20 years now so you can probably find it at the library.

      Also, I'm don't identify as a feminist (though I appreciate a lot of the trail blazing they've done for women) so I can't have great discussions with you much on those terms, however an online acquaintance of mine has written what looks to be an interesting book on feminism and Christianity called Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women. It's coming out soon. I think it will be an interesting read. 


      • Sarah

        Sarah on Oct. 10, 2013, 2:28 a.m.

        I have not read The Teenage Liberation Handbook but it sounds really interesting! I have been peeking around the Uncollege website for the past 6 months or so (overseen by the Hack Your Education guy). I wonder if I could convince my school librarian to buy them (smile). I don't think I'd want to quit school (it serves my needs for the most part and I enjoy it for the most part), but I sometimes feel some of my peers should ("you really have no idea about what you're passionate about?!"). I know you've had some of the "independence" discussion here (i.e. does it come naturally? whan?)... and although I believe my views differ from yours, in many ways, I actually think that people who are given more freedom with their education are more independent intellectually. At least, that is what I have been noticing recently. 

        The Jesus Feminist book also sounds really interesting! One of my classes (my favorite class right now) is "Gender and Sexuality in Literature" and today we were given the assignment of bringing in our own text (contemporary or not) to do a "class lead" with. I'll definitely consider this one! (Although I've been reading a lot of Alice Munro and I think that would be interesting to discuss, too! Choices, choices...) I don't know much about Christianity, but I've been looking for an opportunity to learn more. My definition of feminism is pretty inclusive, really. It is the belief in equality for all people regardless of sex or gender identification. But it's one of my personal interests, that certainly doesn't mean everyone has to be interested in it (smile). 

        I am sorry that you don't have a community where you feel you can share your deeper thoughts in right now. I hope you find one.


  • Sarah m

    Sarah m on Oct. 9, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

    Your blog is always such a breath of fresh air to me, Renee. I love that quote you included because it speaks to me as a fearful writer. Even as I type the word "writer" I sort of hem-and-haw over it. I've had a dream of writing children's books for over a decade and I'm STILL squirreling away knowledge, idolizing authors, and sitting on my hands when I should be just getting over the fear and doing the thing. I'm so fearful to mostly put the time in--my sacred time (always my idol, ugh)--and not get anything in return, ever, mostly validation and pride in a project I've dreamed of.

    I have definitely felt the highs & lows (and now I'll have to chart when I feel these same ways--if this is a monthly cycle thing!) but I do have the same upswings with bold emotions and then about a day or two a month of low-lows or what I call "my funk". I, again, wouldn't have been able to articulate it but "subturanean ideas" hits it right on the head. I often get so jazzed about something, read voraciously, want to share, and then feel that I end up scaring people of or yes, totally freaking them out.

    I think I have learned to NOT express them, actually. I share things with my husband who is so great about listening. I have learned to be a better listener and ask more questions, and within that, slowly share bits of information that I love to talk about, whatever that might be (homeschooling, hobbies, etc.). I'm one of those annoying people that women hate, because I always want to solve problems with my own (well-oiled and working for us) solutions, but most people just don't want that. I think because I'm able to hear advice, filter it in or out depending on if I like it, and move on with my life, that everyone is like that, but I've found a lot of people aren't like that, and get bogged down in the comparision and the burden of what others do. 

    Write about what scares you and eats you up, you have loyal readers here who want to read what you write. I know I'm not the only one. 

    Sarah M


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 9, 2013, 11:24 a.m.

      Sarah, I am a problem solving, solutions giver also. And I have had to learn to tiptoe with this trait instead of bulldozing. I know I can annoy my friends and family sometimes with this but I have toned it down a lot in recent years and just hold my tongue. This is what I love about coaching. The freedom to offer my ideas and possible solutions because I'm being asked for that very thing!


  • mist

    mist on Oct. 9, 2013, 1:46 p.m.


    "There are times I feel un-tethered by what people think of me - blog readers, neighbors, friends, family.

    And then it comes back to me, like a manacle I thought I had left behind, how much I want to be accepted, liked, and understood. How much I care, still, about what people think and how they perceive me (ugh.)"


    All the time. 


  • Kika

    Kika on Oct. 9, 2013, 2:35 p.m.

    I'm quite limited in where, with whom, I can actually be 100% real about who I amand the thoughts or issues I wrestle internally with. There are a few women in my life that I can share parts of myself with, but no one with whom I feel completely safe. I do feel, however, that I am caring less these past couple years about whether people like me. The call to freedom is stronger than the desire for acceptance so I plod forward. 


    • Kika

      Kika on Oct. 9, 2013, 2:42 p.m.

      Also, in order to really be seen and heard by someone, that doesn't mean the other person must be the same or agree with us in all respects. It does necessitate the ability to listen well, to put aside much judgement and the desire to change the others' mind. To truly love and appreciate a person. And I wonder, how often am I this person for others??? Or do I mostly rush to share MY thoughts instead of listening well, to convince them of MY way, etc. And in my head secretly judge them instead of celebrating their uniqueness. All this to say that we need to offer others the very same freedom we seek for ourselves. 


  • JenP

    JenP on Oct. 9, 2013, 3:08 p.m.

    I've commented before that when I started reading here I was not a homeschooler or plant-based eater. Those ideas seemed very "out there" to me at the time. But on some level they spoke to me, I just wasn't ready for them yet. I think that's why a lot of us follow your journey. How interesting would it be to just read our own ideas rehashed again? I've stopped reading some blogs because there is never anything new for me there. Please don't censor yourself for our benefit, as it wouldn't benefit us at all. Keep FIMBY colorful!


  • Candelion

    Candelion on Oct. 10, 2013, 2:52 a.m.

    You already know all of this, but I like how these quotes sum it up:

    "Listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little silent you will start feeling your way. Be the person you are. Never try to be another, and you will become mature. Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself, whatsoever the cost. Risking all to be oneself, that’s what maturity is all about.”


    “Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”

    -Alice Walker


    • Candelion

      Candelion on Oct. 10, 2013, 2:55 a.m.




    • renee

      renee on Oct. 10, 2013, 11:28 a.m.

      Candelion, I love that first quote. I like the second one also. But "risking all to be oneself" speaks my language.

      The second quote reminds me a lot stuff I was reading in Katrina Kenison's book Magical Journey. She describes, what Alice Walker is talking about, as the fertile void. Kenison borrows this term from Joseph Campbell, who she quotes a lot in her book. And this fertile void is part of the cycle of transformation. I don't feel like I'm in the fertile void right now (which is not pleasant, so I'm happy about that) but I know exactly what Walker and Kenison and Campbell (and others) are talking about. And maybe because I recognize it now, it's no longer unknown territory, I will be more accepting of it next time around.

      I actually feel like some of what is ready to burst below the surface has come out of a fertile void period and I just don't know the best way to "let it flow" and bubble through the surface.


  • Alison

    Alison on Oct. 10, 2013, 6:28 p.m.

    Renee, it's hard to be different at times. Sometimes we choose that difference, sometimes life circumstances bring it whether we choose it or not. We wrestle with it, for sure. But if we feel more ourselves afterwards, rather than less, then we know we are in the right place. 

    I appreciate the fact that you are not afraid to show the wrestling - as well as the place where you feel to be yourself. Both are important. Thanks.


  • Clelie

    Clelie on Oct. 10, 2013, 8:19 p.m.

    Hey Renee, 

    I'm so sad hearing that wanting to belong, be appreciated by your peers and community feels like a manacle to you. I get it- wanting to be able to do your own thing, blaze your path without feeling weighed dwon by other's judgements- or even the fact that what you are doing is so very different can feel isolating- whether you think others are judging you or not. I get it.

    I guess I am wondering if there is room for you- to acknowledge the fact that you do want to belong, that community is important to you and that you also want to live life according to your terms- and that sometimes it feels difficult to do both.

    I guess I am wondering does blazing your own path have to be traded for feeling part of your community?

    I don't know if this helps ( and perhaps I am missing the point of the post?/! : D)- but I definitvely consider myself a part of your community.

    What your wrote struck me- in my opinion- belonging, being part of a group is part of our basic wiring as humans- I find it painful to hear that you may be berating yourself for desiring fulfilment of this very basic need.

    Did I misunderstand?

    Thanks so much for sharing your thougths and process. I am so enjoying your posts these days.


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 10, 2013, 10:18 p.m.

      Yes, I think you misunderstood, or I misrepresented myself (which is known to happen). I don't consider belonging a manacle - at all. The desire to be careful of what I say and how even how I live (there is back story to this post, as there is for every post that I haven't communicated) is the manacle. And manacle is a strong word. Which I wanted to use for effect.

      Looking back to the original post now to see exactly where I used that word, in what context....

      My concern over how people perceive me is a manacle. And I don't think worrying about how we are "perceived" is healthy. And for those of us working online this carries more significance in the online writing realm.

      Anyway, I just want to clarify that belonging is good. Being understood is good, being loved is wonderful. I want all those things. I don't see those as bad, at all. But sometimes our ideas can isolate us from people even though we want and value belonging.

      I am not berating myself for wanting to belong. I seek belonging, happily and I think most "healthily" in several places. But sometimes my ideas scare me a bit and I wonder if I express this will I still be welcomed? And I'm not talking about expressing criticism of other people. I don't expect to criticize others and have them welcome me with open arms. That's not how I want to live anyway. 

      I'm just talking about questioning things, lots of things that are taken for granted in our society. That are just accepted.etc, 

      I think that's about all... the way blog publishing goes for me is that I actually wrote this piece 2 weeks ago now and I'm trying to get into that headspace to remember what exactly I was referring to. Right now I don't even feel the angst I expressed in this post and am even embarrassed a bit that it's out there and I have to follow up and explain myself (smile).


  • Clelie

    Clelie on Oct. 10, 2013, 10:29 p.m.

    Thanks for the clarification Renee!

    Yes- the delay does make it tricky.

    And for what it is worth- I agree- being worried about how we are perceived can take up a huge amount of energy- and for what benefit?


    • renee

      renee on Oct. 11, 2013, 1:22 a.m.

      Thank you - for asking, questioning, digging, caring and wanting (through what I read in your words) for people to feel loved, accepted and part of community. smile.


  • Melissa R

    Melissa R on Oct. 11, 2013, 8:43 a.m.

    Don't worry, be happy. I doubt you could say anything that would turn off your readers.  Don't continue to over think it. Just let it out.  


  • Marianne

    Marianne on Oct. 11, 2013, 2:44 p.m.

    I had never thought of my need (oh how I hate that need) to be accepted, liked and understood as a manacle before.  I'd always thought of it as personal defect of mine to, some how, correct.   A flaw in my nature.   Thinking of it as a manacle implies to me that it may not be a flaw in me , but a characteristic which lives in every human, although in different ways and manifestations.  Instead of beating myself up about it perhaps I can loosen the manacle or sometimes even cast it off.  It may never be gone completely.   Perhaps that is a good thing because to be accepted and liked, in some small way, is also a sign of a person who cares about others and is not  completely self-centered and closed to any possibility that they are ever incorrect in their convictions.   There is some good in that.

    I say, "Write on Renee!"  (or even Right On!). 


    • Lisa

      Lisa on Oct. 12, 2013, 1:24 p.m.

      That's really beautiful, Marianne. Thank you for that. I have thought of this need as a flaw to be changed or erased too. I will try to now think of it the way you have put it. I do care about people so much, so why would I not expect them to care about me? There is a need for that, and there are times we need to loosen and/or cast off that caring. Yes!


  • Lisa

    Lisa on Oct. 12, 2013, 1:21 p.m.

    Renee, in all the stuff I'm reading on building a visionary business (and I think you could substitute or add to that a visionary life), finding your unique voice and expressing it is the KEY thing to attracting your 'perfect people' and being successful (however you might define that). The more you write from the heart and are WEIRD, the more I relate to you. Because I'm weird too. And I'm always feeling weird and isolated and alone. My husband also is weird and has strong values like me, so we fit together but of course we don't even always have the same weird ideas! There's always compromise in families and relationships, isn't there?

    We ARE making connections and I need to remember to be grateful for that. I have both real-life and online connections that get me, and whom I get.

    And I am so excited for your family as you prepare for and take this amazing AT journey. You inspire me so I'm definitely going to keep reading!


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