Direction

Take the splintered memory of your father beating you from between your mother’s clenched teeth. If you can still hear his screams, go west. You will come to a ditch cradling a dead cat. If his neck is twisted, proceed north. If his belly burst open like a rotten orange under a motorcycle wheel, go south. You will find the rider’s bloody boot prints scuffing the Black-Eyed Susans. If you mix the pollen with loose-leaf tobacco and roll a cigarette your doppelgänger in another universe will be gifted a front row seat to the next public execution. But that is not the direction you want to go. If you ignore me and walk toward the old Civil War battlefield marked with the city’s slapdash attempts at historical editing. Your old lovers, wherever they are, will turn pale as if a nurse has taken too much life force from the abrasive latticework of a failed experiment. You will taste blood in your mouth. They will fall to the floor and you will not be there to catch them or kiss the languor from their eyes. You won’t want to. If you don’t see a dead cat, continue west as if nothing is wrong. You will eventually come to a fork in the road. Or a river. And you must either cut off all your hair or throw your clothes into the Salvation Army donation bin that washed up on the riverbank after the storm. You have to go bare in some way, your own body acting as a trembling neophyte’s compass, pointing towards the sharpest point away. If fear bites down on you so hard your ribs crack and snap against your heart, you can choose a different direction. You can run, screaming, back home or you can try to walk on water.

*

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

Writing and Fear

Writing can be scary.

Or more specifically, writing, or expressing yourself creatively comes with a lot of extra negative thoughts.

(Writing itself can be scary too, do you dare express yourself? Do you want to let everything out that’s been trapped behind the locked door?)

One of the most important life lessons I’ve learned is you need to run towards the things you are afraid of.

Obviously, not burning buildings if you are afraid of fire, but when you want something and you’re afraid to go get it, you need to go get it anyway.

You have your stories and your poems in your brain and you want to EXPRESS them, you want to let them out but then all the BUTs and SELF-DOUBT and REJECTIONS come in and those can really weigh a person down.

Or you think that after you’ve finished your masterpiece, after you’ve poured all of your blood, sweat, and tears onto the page and actually made a thing, the world will look at it and go: that’s awful. Or you’re afraid you won’t get published or you won’t make any money and you’ll either be a starving artist forever or suffer working at a job you hate just so you can get by and write more crap.

Then you have your relationship to your stories and poems, one day you love them and the next day you hate them and you think they’re crap.

Sometimes when I write, memories come up that I don’t want to remember and sometimes writing doesn’t make me feel happy or safe but I still really, really want to do it, I want to finish that project, I want to write more.

But ultimately, even though it’s scary, writing is something you can throw yourself into. Because writing is something you love to do, even if it makes you feel bad sometimes.

If you can find a 9-5 job that does the same thing, a job that fills the hole in your soul, then do that too. But if the only thing that fills that hole is writing, don’t give up just because it doesn’t pay the bills or because you think you aren’t “good” enough.

There’s lots of bad writing out there but I think that there are more unfinished projects in the world than there are bad writers and you shouldn’t care about whether someone else thinks your writing is good or bad, if you think it’s good you need to stick with it and keep going.

If you think your writing is bad then it’s up to you to fix it, and guess what, you CAN fix it because it’s your story and it can be whatever you want it to be.

So don’t let the negative thoughts get you down. Go write.

Anxiety

Me: I’ve been thinking, instead of telling me “you’re doing fine,” whenever I feel like shit could you just say “you’re okay” instead? I think that will help with my neuroses.

Mr. J.: Doesn’t that mean the same thing?

Me: Yes, but it’s different verbiage. Try it.

Mr. J.: (disturbed by the verbiage/sarcastic) I don’t want to.

My husband is super supportive when it comes to dealing with my anxiety. But most of the time everything he says, when I’m in the middle of an anxiety fit, pisses me off. Whenever he says “you’re doing alright” or “you’re doing a good job” I don’t believe him. So I asked him to start telling me I’m just okay because 1) it’s true, I am physically okay and 2) it does in fact mean the same thing. But I can hear it better.