Hello, Fear

Musings

“Hello, fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.”
-Cheryl Strayed

A lot of things frighten me: car wrecks, losing people I love, my hair thinning out to the point where I need a comb over, never getting married, being mediocre, not really succeeding as a writer, old houses—while I am very charmed by old houses, I always assume they are haunted with either soldier ghosts or miner ghosts—, being lost in the woods at night, going to prison for a crime I didn’t commit…

Obviously, I included some highly irrational fears in there just to show that I don’t always use my rational brain while in the midst of being fearful. In fact a couple weeks back I spent some time at two of my best friends houses. Both women have perfectly lovely homes in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and there is nothing remotely sinister about either locale.

However, both houses are very old and so I was scared at both places. The first house—my friend Emily’s—I had been to many times before and had gotten used to sleeping in her spare room, though almost every time I had spent the night prior I would wake up in the night and squint my eyes, surveying the room for ghosts. I hadn’t encountered anything to date. But this most recent time, I went to place my things in the spare bedroom, just as she stopped to inform me that was now the new nursery and the spare bedroom had been moved upstairs.

I left my things in the nursery anyway, informing Em that I would be sleeping on her couch. I simply had no interest in sleeping upstairs away from all the adults, should a ghost try to smother me in my sleep or something. No, no, the couch was much safer. My sister even spent the night with me one night and instead of sleeping on the Lazy-Boy, she—who is an even bigger scaredy baby than I am—insisted on sleeping sandwiched next to me on the couch. It was wildly uncomfortable with her pressed against me, but nonetheless I was wildly comforted with her there.

At my other friend’s house, I was to sleep on the pull-out sleeper sofa downstairs as her and her children’s rooms were all upstairs.

“I am sleeping down here by myself?!” I squeaked nervously as she and her husband inched away from me toward the stairs, having gifted me with blankets, a pillow and the remote to the TV.

“Yes,” Ashley laughed.

“But what about ghosts…” I ventured, skittishly looking around at all the objects in her living room that could potentially look like a ghost in the night.

“We don’t have any ghosts!” Ashley exclaimed.

“I may need to come sleep between the two of you in the night…” I warned.

Ashley told me I would have to fight for space with her son Boone, who already crawled into her bed in the middle of the night. “You can sleep in Boone’s bed,” she offered.

“I don’t want to sleep in Boone’s bed,” I grumbled mostly to myself, “I want to sleep with you guys…” Once as a teenager I had slept over at my aunt and uncle’s for the weekend and they had me sleep downstairs on the couch. I, of course became out of my mind with fear and had to crawl into their room in the night, embarrassingly informing them I was uneasy downstairs. They got an air mattress for me, placing it at the foot of their bed.

But naturally I got over it at Ashley’s. I slept with The Office playing on Netflix, a light on, and one eye repeatedly open for paranormal phenomena. By the second night I was convinced—by my diligent ghost watch—that her house was indeed unhaunted.

This is all to say, facing your fears aren’t always comfortable folks. Being nervous that a ghost could get me or that I could be unjustly incarcerated are fairly irrelevant fears, especially the latter. Dealing with the more real fears of making it, pushing myself outside my comfort zone, landing interviews with cowboys, or even landing a cowboy period, are well… heady to say the least and enough to cause me to sleep uneasily. Perhaps even more so than when I am on ghost patrol.

But here is the thing about all this fear: sleeping with lights on and with one eye open, even though you’re scared and nervous instead of crawling into bed with your best friend and her husband, means at least you’re there in the scared nervousness facing it head on—Annie Oakley style, staring down the barrel of a gun—instead of awkwardly ruining any chance at your married friends having sex that night—although from what I understand marrieds have infrequent sex anyway… so…  I kid, I kid! I just have to tease you smug marrieds, because I am single and having no sex—I digress, but that is my favorite thing to do. Go on wild off-roading tangents. Especially about Annie Oakley and sex; why wouldn’t I? Both of those topics are wondrous to no end.

But do you see where I am going here? I hope you do. Because while I mostly write to myself and for myself, because it helps bring clarity to a life that is often rife with wild turns and doubts, I happily offer up my life circumstances that they may help shed any light or hope onto yours. And the hope in this instance is being better than the fear. I can overcome it, regardless of the spooks in the night or the dastardly notion that I am incompetent when I know deep down I am not.

Incompetence would’ve never landed me where I am today, which is in a world of wonder and new opportunity at every turn: like the world is holding its breath with me waiting to see what will come of all this newness.

And I don’t have any logical clues what will come of all this newness, this untethered, mountain filled life. But I know that I cannot lie down with my fear. It is simply nonsensical and not me. Well it is a little bit me, because I am currently fearful over how sweaty I have gotten while writing this post—honestly I don’t know why I sweat so bad—and if the fetching hipsters all around will judge me when I raise my coffee cup, showcasing all the sweat stains under my arms. But alas, these are the consequences of writing ever so feverishly.

Anyhow, the always uplifting and wise Cheryl Strayed said a couple wonderful things about fear. Like so many brave writers before her have done, they’ve bared forth their pain, their strife and their struggle through their words, open in their fear anyway. And with this they’ve made it possible for writers like me to feel emboldened in my struggle, in my fear and in my uncertainty, allowing me to believe there is quite possibly still a way through it all, fearful or not.

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. That nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”

So maybe first acknowledge your fears (at least the ones that urge you to be better) in that they do have some power in directing you. And then from there, tell the fear to go fuck itself and go forth being madly in love with your life—including the wild turns, because those offer better scenery anyway—and your life purpose. At least that’s what I am going to do.

In a Tight Spot

Musings

So yesterday I had a bit of a flip-out. Errr… or seven, it’s hard to say. Perhaps it was just one long flip-out. Or a series of miniature flip-outs. Either way I couldn’t really stop reeling with some momentous life decisions I have made as of late.

Mainly meaning I am leaving Wyoming for a spell. I say a spell because my love for Wyoming is right up there with French Roast coffee and seeing any number below 200 on my scale.

I don’t leave Wyoming with any real joy as the mountains are a part of my soul in much the same way that God is. They are intrinsically linked. It is simply that waitressing and I are very much through. We’ve had a good—and by good I mean I am sincerely over it and never want to dally in the dark arts again—run, but as the walrus says, “the time has come.” And I knew it. I knew it before I knew it, ya know?

I read this article about quitting things that feel all wrong. And you should read it too, especially if something in you feels all wrong. But maybe don’t take advice from me. I am very whimsical and make most of my decisions based purely on my emotions. It is almost always a trainwreck but I know no other way. I’d make a really lousy president I’ll tell ya that much.

Anyhow, this article struck a chord and I could feel something churning in my gut. Besides the fact that my secluded mountaintop was getting increasingly dark and increasingly less internet signal, something inside of me began to feel restless, cutoff and altogether like this:

insane

I was starting to get real bluesy. And my anxiety levels were rivaling that of a drug lord being chased down by the Feds and their hounds. Do the Feds have hounds or am I thinking Scotland Yard? Anyhow, you get my drift.

It also didn’t help either that my real cute cowboy boyfriend was some 1600 miles away and when I had a freak-out of Cassandra proportions, instead of being able to hug me which would’ve done just fine, he said something cowboy-esque, like, “well you’re in a tight spot,” only adding fuel to my already mile hile anxiety-riddled flames.

Yeah, I am in a tight spot, sir. I put in my two weeks notice at my job, where I have hardly made a tip in months. I overdrew my checking account. And I just texted Sallie Mae who was calling me for their money, “Go fuck yourself Sallie Mae, I don’t have any money.” I typed this knowing full well the number calling me was a landline. It still made me feel marginally better.

I love the mountains/but loathe my job. However moving back East, no matter how many delightful things it brings with it, still has pitfalls of its own. Namely getting a new lifesuck job and writing my freaking novel—that no matter how hard I will it, does not seem to write itself.

I kid you not, I walked in the door last night to see I had an envelope from St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y. and I literally shook while opening it thinking the universe whispered in St. Martin’s ear and said, “psst, she’s ‘penning’ a novel if you’re interested.” And then St. Martin’s just decided to send me a gilt-edged invitation asking to publish me.

It turns out it was my holiday card from one of my all time favorite writers Augusten Burroughs—no we are not close personal friends, though I wish we were. Augusten if you’re reading this, let’s be friends—because I pre-ordered his new book with his promise to send me a holiday card. I was mildly disappointed when I saw that the card wasn’t personally signed by Augusten but merely a typed out thanks.

Ah well. My heart still skipped a couple beats knowing that St. Martin’s Press and Augusten Burroughs now knew my P.O. Box in Wyoming.

And with this I had the dawning realization that no matter where I go or what I say: that mountains or the sea, or a cottage-like interior, or a big writer’s desk or loads of windows, doesn’t magically manifest more writing. I simply have to write wherever I am because it is my calling and it must be done.

So leaving, because leaving feels right for right now, does not mean my writing has to stay here where it’s prettier than a painted pony. No. My writing has to come with me and whether or not I have another lifesuck job (I probably will, because Sallie Mae is ruthless and relentless) I am still a writer and I will still find my way. Muddled and disconcerting though the whole path may be, I shall trudge on anyway.

And I will leave you with this beautiful quote from Cheryl Strayed that made my whole morning brighter and the better for living:

You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts. You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you’ve got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.”