For me, writing about fear is not easy not because I’m revealing things that show I’m vulnerable, but because I have been afraid of how my vulnerabilities will be received. And in the past, they weren’t always received very well. In fact, I’d say most of the time they were minimized, deflected, or rejected outright.
I’ve always thought I was being too hard on people who minimize, deflect, and reject another person’s feelings or experiences but now I realize I’m not being hard on them. I’m speaking my own truth and am also trying very hard not to minimize, deflect, or reject other people’s feelings. But there is a boundary to this and that is not tolerating expressions of hatred, cruelty, or unkindness. It’s not wrong to say to someone their words hurt you because words do hurt. Words are where thoughts and ideas begin, and that beginning can lead to something good or something bad.
What I’ve come to realize is that I am not responsible for another person’s feelings. Each person is responsible for their own thoughts and feelings and how they deal with them. Now I’m sure some wise-ass will say people shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around someone worried they’re going to hurt someone’s precious or fragile feelings. Trust me, those of us who have been hurt by words aren’t fragile. And our feelings do matter. The goal here is to realize that we all have a choice as to what we say and how we say it.
One of the things I’ve been working on over the last few years with my writing is to try to be as clear as possible in what I’m writing about. I’m a very hard critic and editor on my own work but writing is a never-ending work-in-progress. My goal is to make this about me because this is my story to tell.
Writing about fear has made me realize I’m nowhere near as vulnerable as I was before I started this odyssey of the last few years. I used to tell myself I could take whatever was said to me but it’s taken me a long time to realize that I truly can now. I truly believe myself when I say that I’ve pretty much heard it all before and yet I’m still standing.
Because one of the biggest things I had to work through was thinking I didn’t have it in me to write about things I am now. Fear, politics, and anything deemed ‘provocative were things I ran like hell from, and I ran because I didn’t think I was good enough to write about those things. In reality, it was people who wanted me to be silent and that wasn’t just because they sensed I might not agree with them, but because they felt they knew best for me. Good intentions are just as harmful, if not more harmful sometimes than words of anger and cruelty.
I’m also following in a legacy of women who have come before me in sharing their stories of their fears and overcoming them. From women like Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Shonda Rimes, and women from the generations younger than me like Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato. I have so much admiration for their honesty and courage because I have a strong feeling they’ve felt fear like I have when they were getting ready to share their stories with the world.
For the longest time, I thought I had to always turn a negative into a positive in some way. That’s bullshit like the saying I’ve committed to my mind: someone else’s comfort is not more important than someone’s pain. I’ve learned I don’t have to write off the negative with a positive and it’s okay to feel both ways because that’s life, good and bad.
In the end, it’s not easy for me to write about my fears even after I’ve done a lot of work to get through them. So far, no one has reached out to me with wringing hands or harsh words though I do expect that to happen someday. I’m ready for either one with a head tilt to the side followed by one word, “Really?” What I tell myself is people like that are in the minority and that I have to keep myself from giving power to them over me that isn’t theirs to have, nor do they deserve.
There is a quote from the author Anne Rice I read many years ago in a biography about her that has guided me in this journey over the last few years:
“Sometimes you have to go to the places you fear the most.”
You can go to those places and come out of them alive and well. And if you chose to, you can write about them. I write not only for myself, but for anyone reading these words. Not just to help myself and help people, but to shine a light on truths that have been hidden in darkness and silence. I write to give words to fear in order to loosen the hold fear has had on me. Some people think if you talk about fear you’ll give it power but that’s not true. I used to think that but not anymore.
Writing about fear is not easy yes, but once you give words to it, you break the silence surrounding it, and yourself.