When you’re tired of all the fighting.

By Steve Austin | catching your breath

Dec 16
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…” -Maya Angelou
(from Braving the Wilderness, by Brene Brown)

The Worst Kind of Hangover

When I started writing Catching Your Breath, I knew I’d have to get really honest. No pretense. No masks. Strip it all away and get nekkid.

So I did.

And since the book released in October, I’ve had what Brene Brown would call a “vulnerability hangover.” So, I’ve been pretty quiet about my personal life lately, choosing to focus on creating courses and self-help topics, rather than the deep things that roll around in my soul on a regular basis.

It’s safer that way, I say to myself.

Just market yourself as the expert.

You won’t offend as many people if you’re not so personal.

You’ll ostracize yourself less.

Give the personal stuff a rest - you deserve a break.

As a result, I’ve been avoiding my emotions. I do it really well.

I’ve chosen to listen to and encourage others in their pain and confusion and sense of being “stuck,” while ignoring my own needs and watching my soul wither in the process. Pouring myself out, and wondering why my cup feels constantly empty. One friend calls it "compassion fatigue."

The emotions bubble up, and I swallow them back down and move forward.

Keep writing. Put your ass back in that chair and get to work, mister.

This might be a strange way to describe it, but my soul feels sad. Sort of like the grape that’s been left too long in the noonday sun without access to whatever gives it life and fullness, and all that’s left is a wrinkly raisin.

And who really likes raisins?

I’m not in a dark place. I’m mentally well. I’m healthy. I’m happier than ever in the roles that matter most in my life: husband and daddy. What I’m struggling with is my lack of feeling connected to a larger community. My friend Stephanie says the desire to belong is innate, and she’s right: I’m feeling like I don’t belong. And that makes me sad.

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great…” -Maya Angelou

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Living in the middle is a real struggle.

The natural question that follows is, in the middle of what?

It feels like being in the middle of everything, and nothing. It’s a feeling of being “stuck”. Of fitting everywhere and nowhere all at once.

I feel in the middle politically (socially liberal AF, but fiscally conservative). One part of me is incredibly passionate about social justice and matters of equality. And the other part of me is so sick of the fighting and protests and all the yelling.

There’s a side of me that wants to shut down all my extracurriculars, work my predictable 9-5 job, pay my bills, and be left alone. No more sharing. No more trying to help. No more believing that I might have something to say. But there’s another side of me with a real desire to lead and encourage.

My strongest desire of all? To belong.

My strongest desire of all? To belong.
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God Stuff

Theologically, I’m in the middle of not knowing. One the one hand, I’m desperate to believe in the Eternal Something that is greater than me. And on the other hand, I don’t want to debate theology. I’d really LOVE to belong to a small group of some kind, but I’m so scared of getting involved because we live in a time when everyone feels the need to poke holes in your perspective and try to “save” you. I'm not looking for that.

I just want to belong somewhere, just as I am, Billy Graham.

I’d really like to go to a Christmas Eve Candlelight service this year, but I’d like for no one to assume that it means I believe in a virgin birth or worship White Jesus. I’d love to sing, “O Holy Night” and embrace the beauty of Advent. But if it’s just for the sake of nostalgia, is that okay?

I miss the days when Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel was tangible and as refreshing as a glass of sweet iced tea. I could sense God with me all the time, even in the midst of the mess. And as much as I’d love for my spiritual life to feel that sweet and simple again, right now it doesn’t.

I know in the deepest part of my being that I’m still loved by God (whatever that means), that I am the beloved. I think my problem is that I get stuck in my head way too often, and don’t allow myself to live from the center of my heart. I really struggle to just let my mind rest. It’s not easy for me to let my spirit breathe. I’m always trying to figure out the formula. (And what if there isn’t a formula at all?)

I think this could be the greatest gift of a safe community: the invitation to get out of our own heads and live from a place of love. But people are scary!

Oy, the struggle is real.

Finding myself in the middle - more hungry for kindness than to be proven right - is a really lonely place. All around me, everyone is taking sides. Fighting for their particular thing, and many of them are just and worthy fights. But I don’t see many people being willing to simply stand in the middle, choosing to listen to the angry ones as well as the wounded ones. Yet that’s precisely the place where I feel called: to respect and embrace the humanity of everyone.

This shit is not easy.

I don’t want to fight anymore. I’m exhausted from all the ways we’re told to care about every single thing. I’m tired of every ant hill being turned into somebody’s mountain. I’m bone tired from all the demonizing of “the other.” My soul is weary because I genuinely believe there is no “other,” just a thousand different faces, born of the same Source. That we all belong.

 There is no “other,” just a thousand different faces, born of the same Source. We all belong.

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All We Need is Love

I also don’t want to have to prove myself to you. I don’t need my theology or politics to be right. I also don’t have a desire to prove you wrong. There was a season when I wanted to fight, but these days I just want to love and be loved in return. I want to sit around the table and break bread and drink grape juice (or pizza with Jack and Coke) and embrace our shared humanity. I want to look you in the eyes and find our common ground. I want to love people til it hurts, but I’m not sure where I belong right now. I don’t know what to do with that.

Isn’t a sense of belonging central to our humanity? In the most tribal parts of our brains and heritage, don’t we desperately need the assurance that we belong somewhere? Is there a place, community, or shared conversation, for those of us who land in the middle?

In this wobbly, uncertain season of my life, what I’d love more than anything is to belong to a community where safety, empathy, and kindness are the foundation of everything that happens, where we have honest conversations around the issues that really matter. And sometimes we just sit and rest in the knowledge that every little thing is gonna be alright.

I’d love to have access to regular doses of honesty, stillness, and a community that embraces one another exactly as we are. No “man” with all the answers. Just friends who sit around on couches or at coffee shops or bars and listen. Listen with the goal of learning, not converting. Listen from a place of curious compassion. Listen so we can love better. Listen because we genuinely care about the soul of another. Listen, because we’re sick of all the talking points. Listen because everything and everyone belongs. Just listen.

I’d like to land there - softly, quietly - without a lot of fanfare. And just be welcomed, gently.

I don’t know where I fit. But could I sit next to you?

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About the Author

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Wow- a powerful blog. I, too, have struggled with the issue of belonging my entire life. It took enormous personal loss for me to come into my own. Thanks for sharing light, brother.

  • Erica Walley says:

    Come. Sit. By. Me.

  • Alexis says:

    What I have discovered, because of you Steve, is the areas I thought I needed to change in are what makes me unique and what makes me “me.” What I also discovered is it is those very things that don’t make me fit anywhere. On my quest or my desire to fit in, I realized that I don’t and well, maybe I won’t ever. Sit next to me my friend my fellow misfit.

    • Steve Austin says:

      There’s a real tension in learning that everything belongs. And everyone.

      It doesn’t mean we don’t work to grow, change, mature, and evovle – we do. But we also have permission to accept ourselves, especially our quirks and eccentricites, exactly as we are.

      I think it’s why Brennan Manning was so passionate about getting people to understand that God loves us, exactly as we are, and not as we think we “should be.” It’s time to stop shoulding all over ourselves.

    • Steve Austin says:

      Fellow misfit. I like that. <3

  • Kath says:

    Thank you Steve, you’ve helped me make sense of how I feel about some of this stuff. I’m kind of at the ‘Christian agnostic’ stage too but I come at it from the opposite direction, I used to be a complete agnostic who had no idea what to believe but through some awesome Christian friends I learned that even if I’m not sure where I stand in Christianity I think Jesus had the right idea when he talked about turning the world around. But you’ve helped me understand how we all looking for our place to fit in. I totally get what you’re saying about common ground, I wish we could talk to each other as human beings rather than screaming at each other from our different standpoints. Great post ❤️

    • Steve Austin says:

      Thanks for reading & responding, Kath. Interesting that we’re on opposite ends of the Agnostic journey. And YES – no matter how I’m labeled, I just want to respect and embrace humanity. Thanks again.

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