Fear is the most potent ruling factor in my life.
How many times have I been told I am strong? How many times did I mistake strong to mean brave? How many times did I swallow my words because I was afraid to let them free?
I didn’t see it before. Ignorance is a poor excuse, but there it is. I had other words to explain myself. Timid. Shy. Quiet. Introvert. Anxious. Socially awkward. Peace keeper. Good girl.
First day of the new year came and a time for reflection. A tipping point really of many other factors in my life, culminating in the realization that it’s all fear. Those things I don’t say. The extreme level of privacy in all things, especially soul baring ones like painting and writing. Creative efforts hoarded away; protected at all costs.
What do I want to accomplish this year? I came up with a list of things to do: writing and editing and rewriting. I kept a running list in my head as well: be open to accept what the universe has to offer, pay attention to how I feel especially when I am on the verge of blowing up, share myself and my work and my thoughts.
I scrolled through Pinterest. I pinned a few things. Instant Pot recipe for magically delicious cheesecake. Words of wisdom on writing. Moon phases. I passed up a few things. More words of wisdom on writing specifically to do with fear. Coloring page of a cat with a paisley coat. A Wiccan-esque cleansing prayer. My mouse would pause scrolling as I contemplated the pins, and disregarded saving them while knowing I wanted to tuck them away for later perusal. I asked myself why. Why not pin something on my own board? Because people would notice a trend. Cat coloring pages? Lame. Pagan prayer? Blasphemy. Fear of judgmenet, plain and simple.
I logged books as I read them on Good Reads. Except not all of them. Not the embarrassing ones. Not the trashy romance. Not the cliche biker romance. Not the cutesy ghost hunter mystery. Not the Goddess in the Household Guide to Everyday Magic. No, not those. Why? There is a tightening of my chest when I consider what people will think. There is a flash of shame as I bury myself behind an image. There is that pause when I don’t own up to who I am because of what people will think. Will my smart friends think I’m a loser for reading romance? Will my Christian friends hate me because I don’t share their beliefs? How many times have I censored myself? Fear.
If you asked me, I’d say I don’t care what people think. And I don’t.
I don’t care if you judge me for breast feeding my kid until he was two years and three months old. Doesn’t bother me what you think about me cloth diapering my kids. In fact a friend of mine, now that our kids are well past nursing and diapers, said she wished she still had those things to set her apart. A calling card of Crunchy Non-Mainstream to weed out the judgers. Now people don’t know at a glance that she’s different. It’s harder sometimes to meet some one, think you might get along, then come to find out they aren’t down with homeschooling. Or whatever the thing is. I’m good with all that. Confident in the choices and proud to own them.
Turns out there are caveats to that whole not caring thing.
Religion? Whole different ballgame. Nope, not going there. I have never wanted to have that discussion, no matter what. I thought I was okay with that, and I thought it was about quiet respect for other people’s views. Turns out it left me floundering and wanting and hiding.
I am finding there are things that come up, and I do care what you think. When it’s about me personally, when it’s a vulnerability, there blooms fear.
People like to ask about, and comment on, my tattoos. Here’s the truth: they make me feel beautiful, and they make me brave. The first part of that comes down to body image issues. When I look at myself, there isn’t much I like, except the ink I’ve chosen to wear. The bravery comes in wearing that ink with pride. I remember a day early on in getting the full sleeve of tattoos, I thought about my agenda for the day and considered dressing to cover up. Then I didn’t. The art is a big part of who I am, and it’s not something I am ashamed of, and I refuse to cover up. I don’t like attention from strangers, and it’s something I’ve had to get used to with the tattoos, both positive and negative. I brought the ink down onto my hand so that my ink will always be visible. As a reminder to myself that I can walk around in this skin and do it without fear.
When I think about it, it seems absolutely illogically absurd that I shouldn’t fess up to little things like writing romance stories and wishing I knew how to embrace the pagan parts of myself. It should be the simplest thing in the world to say what I think and what I want. That’s the thing about fear. It can lurk beneath the surface and take control before you realize what has happened. It can trickle in and stand side by side with it’s friend anxiety until it immobilizes you. Fear will masquerade inside you as memories, all those times in your past that serve as reasons to hold yourself back. It’s a tangled mixed up web, and often it can be difficult to find which threads are fear based - and as I’m learning, it’s nearly all of them.
Where does that leave me? What can I do? How do you face those deep rooted fears that can be so tricky to pin down and see clearly?
I don’t know, but I read somewhere that bravery isn’t the lack of fear, it’s feeling the fear but doing it anyway. That’s my goal. To do it anyway. What’s the worst that could happen?