I started a post last year called “Terrifying Things.” I decided to finish it this morning, because my baby decided to sleep in and because I was up early (my toddler has kicked my butt into submission).
It was an exercise in unearthing my subconscious and kickstarting new writing, because when I write, I face what terrifies me.
Writing is the space in which I explore the dark and dusty corners and undersides that I bypass in my non-writing life. It is when I pause to investigate and feel and ask the difficult questions and really stop and let the sensations of living pass over me. Writing is when I examine my fears, pick them up, and explore the shape and texture and alchemy of my terror. Writing is when I feel most brave. Writing is from where my bravery stems. Writing is how I take care of myself. Writing is what saves my life. Writing is how I am okay, no matter what.
These days, I have to pause to process great upheaval and transition. These days, I have to write.
I am writing my terror, which inspires me. Terror is the terroir of my stories. When I unlock my fears, I also unlock all love and courage.
So what are the terrifying things?
- My first night in the dorms, someone offered me a joint for the first time. I had never before been offered drugs, let alone a drink. I stammered out, “I have to get back to my room,” and then proceeded to cry. It was a stark indicator that I was in a new place where I had to set my own rules.
- Being raped.
- My first HIV test. I made everyone take an HIV test. Those things are made to freak people out. I could have been a virgin and still had doubts.
- My first kiss. Anyone’s first kiss really, no? The unknown, the exhilaration. In my case, my first kiss was not a sweet moment. A brute pushed me on my bed and then pushed himself on me.
- Being bullied.
- Watching my friend Tammy give herself an insulin shot through her dirty denim jeans in the back of the bus on the way to school.
- The first day of junior high.
- Having an eating disorder and being in a pink and white striped bathing suit. While being critiqued by middle aged Korean moms and dads at a church party.
- When our pastor came to live with us, and threw my tadpoles down the garbage disposal.
- When the neighbor’s cat ate my pet hamsters. I know this because the neighbor showed me the carcasses and bones in the cat’s food dish. I went hysterical. I was seven.
- I kept a small spider in a jar, one I fed flies (I was a weird child and am a weirder adult, sue me). My grandmother found a cooler insect, she thought–a praying mantis. She put the praying mantis in the jar with my spider. She showed me the praying mantis–all I saw was a little puddle of goo in the hands of the mantis.
- Wishing I were Wonder Woman, but having to wear Wonder Woman’s costume.
The last item on my list was “being alone.” But I needn’t have feared being alone. I was already alone. I was surviving. And learning new lessons. I faced so many of my greatest life fears last year–the most terrifying things of all, the ones I could not and would not list because I feared they would come true.
And yet they came true, anyway.
It was awful but also incredibly rewarding.
Facing fears, I’ve learned, is the way to safety.