I imagine if I were to put it to a vote, some people would tell me to stop writing so openly about my vulnerabilities. And I would tend to agree with them except for one, not so minor, consequential item— my creativity would be stifled.
If it frightens me to come here and disclose my fears, I’ve learned, the worst thing I can do is to go into hiding. I tried that. It doesn’t end well. I get rage-filled and stabby, I hold back, shove feelings into dark places, and because I’m stifling emotions, my brain cells short-circuit, sending mixed messages, eventually seizing up, and then creativity gets blocked.
So what am I afraid of?
I’m afraid that my writing isn’t very good. I’m afraid that I’m wasting precious time dragging out an unpaid writing gig. I’m afraid I waited too long and that I’m too old. And I am afraid that I’m too psychologically broken to produce worthy prose.
I’m also afraid that my outlook on the world has become too irreversibly cynical for fraternizing devoid of stiff smiles and vacant, glassy eyes. What a terrible confession— I probably shouldn’t have written that, but it’s the truth!
I have voices in my head that never stop chattering. The best I can do is tune them out with busy-ness and spirit-lifting distractions until their sounds become a dull, barely audible buzzing. A good friend recently asked me, What do the voices actually say to you? Here’s what I told her. The voices tell me, besides my husband and children, no one really loves me. They also say, anyone who says they love me is lying. And they tell me, I am unlikable, unloveable and unworthy.
While on an intellectual level, I know these voices are wrong, everyday I fight a newly waged battle against them. Like my friend, some people are surprised by this. When you survive violence and abuse, you learn you can survive anything by shape-shifting and blending in with others. But the reality is, while I may look like I have it all together, like I’ve got this life thing figured out and my demons licked. I really don’t. The truth is I will never have all of it figured out and licked. All I can do is keep trying.
In AA we learned to “act as if.” Acting as if takes the pressure off of me having to know when I really don’t know. Honestly? There are a lot of things that I don’t know, so I’m just going to keep acting as if I do. For example, I don’t know how I can produce readable work for a world my heart no longer leaps for, a world filled with so much pain and dissonance, along with a culture’s pervasive apathy.
I used to have starry-eyed youth on my side, when I felt positive there was nothing I couldn’t do, no task too great, no dream too farfetched, no goal too high. Youthful zeal can obscure the obvious timelines. I wish I had known sooner, wish I had understood just how quickly a decade can disappear when you’re in your twenties. Following that period, I had the delusions of the active alcoholic perspective. *Sigh* I may have caused a bit of wreckage, but those were fun and blissful days.
And now I’ve got middle-age, clarity and wisdom. This trio is not the life of anybody’s party, let me tell you. As a matter of fact I’m fairly certain they were rolled into one as my seventh grade history teacher, lulling half of our class comatose during sixth period.
What am I afraid of?
I’m afraid I’ve become an old, embittered, insecure, talentless writing hack. So what am I gonna do about all of this? Well ….. I’m going to act as if I’m the opposite of all those things. And I’m going to make fear my bitch. What choice do I have? The alternative is even more frightening.
Should I have written all that here? Who gives a shit? I don’t. The world and all their buttoned up rules is what is crushing the soul out of humanity all over the planet. People hiding from each other in plain view, dressing up their bigotry, their mental illnesses, and sordid past. What I know is this— I’m a soul-barer, it’s what makes me better at every new thing I attempt. And my heart tells me, if I want to make this world more bearable, if I ever want to fall in love with it again, if I want to feel safe in it for any extended period before I die, then I must make the first move.
I must open my heart first.