There’s an enormous rock that thrusts into the creek behind my childhood home. I remember lying on my back, stretching fingers and toes long and not even touching the edges. Above it, the sky hung endless blue with the tips of the trees a dark parenthesis on either side.
The rock was my younger brother and my pretend house when we played castaways, our kitchen table when we played house, and my refuge when I was escaping the terrors held inside my real home.
I’ve always been a collector of stories so I know that my “real” story is better and worse than everyone else’s. It isn’t in me to compare anymore. My past made me who I am.
It isn’t my past that scares me. I’ve moved beyond it…mostly.
I have this random file of character sketches, snippets of scenes. In my file there’s pages and pages of a character I’ve resisted for years now. She scares me because I recognize her. She’s trying to pull back from the edge of insanity and her feet are slipping. The hot breath of evil tickles her neck. She needs a rock, a refuge and I don’t know if she’ll find one in time. And I’m afraid of what that means for me, for my kids, and my marriage.
As my book on WWII Burma is in the hands of editors, I’m exploring her again. This me that isn’t me.
Looking back I can’t really explain how I found my foothold. How I stepped back from the edge.
I had two friends who committed suicide the same night. And the thought of their reality, saved me from swallowing pills, cutting deep into my wrists. The reality is, like most toying with suicide, I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted the ugly to stop.
I met the man who eventually became my husband and he listened to my tears, held my hand, and told me I wasn’t crazy.
Other people have had similar helps and they’ve still fallen. And so my anxiety simmers under the surface, quiet, barely even there wondering if the edge is far enough away, if I’ll ever lose my footing. But I suspect that all of us have those hidden moments and thoughts that haunt us. Those places we’re afraid to prod out of concern for what will come out.
I’ve long known that it’s an artist’s job to look at the things others don’t see. To find a way to communicate it, to point it out to others. And just like there’s beauty in fungus that eats debris, there’s beauty in fear. Let me repeat that.
There’s beauty in fear.Tweet This
See I’m coming to realize that we all live our lives running towards one thing because we’re running away from something else—losing a job, a child, a spouse, not finding our worth, failing in some way. Fear consumes us whether we consciously let it or not.
What, or whom, we fear makes the difference.
If I fear the Rock placed under my feet, I am delivered—I find my foothold. * Tweet This
And so I enter the next book, this next phase of life firmly planted on the rock far larger and more secure than the one in my childhood backyard.
* King David’s 34th Psalm
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