Fear. Failure. Fright. These happen to be words that start with F. Words can be thrown around too lightly, or held overly close, like a vise. Words can harm and emotionally maim. They can uplift and change lives. They are thrown like daggers, waved like magic wands, uttered in jest to diffuse tension, cradled with care to share encouragement, whispered in love to a beloved, yelled from the rooftops in excitement.
The word FEAR has become like an F bomb in my life.
Last year, in a frenzied year-long period of inspiration and emotion, I used words to my advantage. I wrote, cried and cursed through 263 pages of a ough draft of my first memoir. From my first inspired thought “I’m going to write a book” to staring in wonder (and some fear) at the impressive stack of papers from my first print-out, I unleashed the power of words to work through trauma, failure and PTSD .
My book tells the story of my firstborn, who almost died as an infant before being diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder. I wrote and paced and cried, and cried and stomped and ran, raged and hyperventilated and wrote some more until the words started to heal me. Until one day last Spring, I sat back and looked at the word count with my mouth open. I had a manuscript. An actual manuscript : my blood, sweat, tears, emotions, growth all there in a jangled, haphazard mesh of words.
The words washed over me like a warm breeze: accomplishment! pride! success!
But now, five months since I wrote down my last word, I am letting an F word keep me from the next stage: editing. Re-writing. Editing some more. That F word is Fear. I look at my desktop and see the file, and then walk away. I almost click it open, then something mysteriously calls me away. Fear.
Well, it’s time for Fear to F off.
Fear is just a word. A word to evoke feelings. A word that captures an emotion: an emotion just as valid as happiness, joy, or guilt. My therapist tells me an emotion lasts 90 seconds before it is gone. 90 seconds to feel it, respect it, and either choose to let that emotion rule your actions or move on from it.
My fear has caused anxiety, self-doubt, distrust. I realize how strange of a dance it’s been: a messy tango of word and emotion. But in a quiet moment today, I knew I would start a blog. Today. Almost instantly, my emotion from this realization-peace-was replaced with fear. Like a nagging little F-word demon on my left shoulder. It whispered in a lilting voice and with a forked tongue : “There are a thousand blogs out there written by moms with crazy kids, busy lives, special needs challenges. Who wants to read yours?”
I am no stranger to this voice. During the stage of rough drafting, F-word doubts haunted me all the time. “No one will want to read this book. Stop fooling yourself.” Or: “This section is crap. You are wasting your time.” Fear, failure, failure, fear.
F off, F words.
Deep down, I know that the imagined people (or person? I am a realist) reading either blog or book never has been the point. Not the goal, not the driving force. I write because I have always written, first as a child growing up in the woods in Washington. Through high school and college and graduate school. Through early 20s angst-filled journalling, through love notes, short stories and long-winded cards.
Somewhere along the way though - the way of raising kids and helping run a business - I have forgotten the power of words and how they can make an impact in both small and large ways.
So, here I am. Blog post one. Opening up the document on my Desktop marked “Second Chance Life, draft 1.” Opening up the envelope containing edits of the second section , sent back to me by my dear friend who graciously agreed to be my first reader. It has been on my library table for two weeks, unopened, the F word holding me back.
Fear is just a word. Either you give a word power or not.
I actually did the latter yesterday with my oldest, Liam. A phone call, a note in his backpack , and an email from his teacher explaining how my autistic, quirky, sweet 5th grader called someone a “bitch” after saying “shit” during circle time.
I know Liam wouldn’t hurt a fly intentionally, let alone someone’s feelings. I heard these words - the words he used out of frustration - and chose to turn them around.
He walked in the door from the bus, a chagrined look on his usually bright face.
“Hey babe, how was your day? Can I see your folder?”
“Hi mom. I’m sorry mom.”
“It’s okay, buddy. What happened? What does your note say?”
Slowly opens backpack. Hesitantly hands me folder. I read.
“Ok, Liam. I see what your teacher wrote. Do you know what she wrote?”
“Why did you say these words? These are not good words.”
“I’m sorry. I was frustrated.”
“It’s okay to be frustrated, honey, but it’s not okay to use these words. Are they nice words?”
“Do you think people like hearing these words?”
“You need to stop saying these words. They make people feel bad.”
“Okay mom. I’m sorry mom.”
And that was that. Power taken from the words, power given back to the speaker.
I will try to apply this logic to the F word Fear. If no one reads my book or my blog, who cares. If some parts read cheesy or disjointed--who cares? If some days I don’t want to write, who cares. It doesn’t mean I fail. I can’t let Fear or its companion Failure take charge of all the other words at my disposal.
If no one but my mom reads the blog, great. If no one but my friends buy the book, awesome. I did it for me, and for the hope that one person out there will read my story and it will sink in. Maybe it will provide insight, empathy or hope in some way, however small.
Or not. Maybe it will be just another memoir on a bookshelf , or accessible as an e-book. I will at least know that I finished something important, for myself, and kicked Fear to the curb.
F you Fear. It’s just another four letter word.