Acknowledge Fear, Breathe Courage

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“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventures or to be limited by the fear of it.” – Judy Blume

I have a few true fears that make my heart race and my blood pressure soar. I try not put myself in situations where I may begin to feel the claustrophobic effects of a small, enclosed space or the stomach-dropping terror that comes when I am dangling from a ferris wheel. These fears are visceral. I have no control over the physical symptoms, so I choose to avoid certain circumstances that might accelerate the panic. 

Other are not so well-defined. I can’t swerve around sudden change, failure, rejection, or the unknown. These fears come at me like fast-moving projectiles in an 80s video game. I may attempt to dodge or side-step, but they are always there, bombarding me with anxiety.

The world can be a grim, terrifying place. Danger lurks, even in the bright light of day. How do I cope? Do I hide, cowering in the safety of my little house, never venturing out? Unless I want to embrace agoraphobia, that isn’t a realistic choice. 

Fear is a big part of my writing. I enjoy the process, but I fear everything about it. I’m too old. It is drivel. Someone will be offended. It is embarrassing. I’ve run out of ideas. No one wants to read my inane ramblings. These fears often block my creativity. Fear is my personal writer’s block.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her book Big Magic about how she lives simultaneously with fear and creativity. She states, “…I don’t try to kill off my fear. I don’t go to war against it. Instead, I make all that space for it. Heaps of space. Every single day…I allow my fear to live and breathe and stretch out its legs comfortable. It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.” So she invites fear on the journey. Fear is allowed on the trip, yet it doesn’t make decisions and it definitely doesn’t drive. Fear must sit in the back seat as a member of the family, but it does not have a vote.

This is a novel approach. So much of our lives we are told to “conquer our fears.” If we are afraid of the water, we must learn to swim. If we are petrified of flying, buy that ticket. And if we are scared of the deep water, dive right in. Sometimes these approaches work, but often we are just more afraid. 

What if we invited fear in, introduced ourselves and told it to have a seat? We don’t feed fear any snacks, and we never let it touch the thermostat. We acknowledge fear is part of the family, but we sit it at a small card table in the next room, knowing it is there yet not letting it dominate the conversation. 

Acknowledging our fears is acknowledging our vulnerability. Creative work requires vulnerability, putting our voices out there for the world to judge. We are often shamed back into the cave by our harshest critics, which often are the voices in our own heads. I know this personally. Shame and fear run neck and neck in my world. 

I have been working on a novel for over three years about loss and grief and learning to forgive. Every time I enter the world of my characters I become lost in the smells and sounds. I want to live there. Yet. Yet, I have struggled with the ending. A few weeks ago my dear friend Ann came for a visit while my husband was on a business trip. We giggled, ate, drank wine, and shed a few tears over our shared stories. One night I began to tell Ann the plot of my book. After I was done, I looked at her and said, “You know, that is the first time I have shared the details of my story with anyone.” And she replied, “I’m honored.” I then said, “You know, I think I’m afraid to finish the book, because if I complete the story, then what do I do? I’m scared.” Ann replied, “Then you need to do it. Who knows what will happen, but you’ll never know until it is finished.” The day after she returned home I sat at my laptop and banged out the ending. I then printed out the 150 pages. Three plus years of words stared back at me. I read through them, circling errors and making notes. Some of the story was wonky, but other parts were good. Damn good.

My shitty shitty rough draft now requires hours of editing, revising, and reworking, but I have relegated my fear to the back seat. It is buckled safely in its car seat. I will glance at it from time to time, but I will not grant it power over my process. I will not worry about publishing. Now is the time to dive into the details and work on the flow, dialogue, and pacing. It terrifying and exciting and I’m ready for this journey.

Courage is not conquering fear. Courage is recognizing fear, not giving it power over your heart. Brene Brown writes, “Courage is like – it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn to courage by couraging.” Courage is knowing the truth and showing your truth to the world. My courage, my vulnerability, my truth is writing, and I will no longer grant fear the power to silence it.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” – Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead


“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something-anything-down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

10 Things I Miss and Don’t Miss About You

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A friend of mine asked the other day how I felt after my first semester of retired life. I paused, and then told him, “Good, but there are things I miss.” My life is so different these days. I no longer hold court where I am the queen of my classroom. I abdicated that throne. Now I am a peasant dolling out measly words, hoping a few will read what is in my soul.

So, what do I miss and not miss about my life as a teacher?

  1. I don’t think I will ever not think of the calendar year in terms of fall semester, winter break, spring semester, and summer break, no matter how old I am and how long I will have been retired. I lived according to this schedule for most of my life. Why should I change now?
  2. I love knowing I can go to the bathroom any time I want, instead of holding my bladder until the next bell and then running the gauntlet through the crowded hallways to the faculty break room praying there isn’t a line. It’s a simple joy, one you don’t appreciate unless you have been there.
  3. I so enjoy my mornings. I used to rise at 5:15 AM, get ready, grab a quick breakfast, and be on the road by 6:45 AM. Now I still usually get up before dawn, but I grab my old robe, brew a pot of coffee, and then sit down with my morning pages. This journal is my meditation, my quiet beginning.These notebooks contain clean, white pages that give me inspiration and goals for my day.
  4. In a weird way, I miss saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. I can’t explain it. I just do.
  5. I don’t have to eat lunch at 10:20 AM. I’m still hungry at that time, but I don’t have to eat. Yes, 10:20 AM. Crazy, I know.
  6. Since I don’t eat lunch early, I no longer am starving at 3:00 PM. I don’t consume entire sleeves of crackers or snarf down half boxes of cookies the moment I walk in the door. I’m good.
  7. I miss the noise. I miss the loud hallways, the constant chatter, the boisterous pushing, the inappropriate cussing (kids, not me…well, usually not me), the tangible sound of adolescent lust in the air. All I have is my snoring kittens, the clicking of the keyboard, and the buzz of our furnace. Everything is peaceful. Sigh…
  8. I am embracing each day. I have some commitments, but mostly the days are mine. I can write, read, bake, practice yoga, knit, nap, or just binge watch Netflix. I can tackle a big project or spend time just walking in the woods. 
  9. Every teacher has his or her favorite lesson to teach. Mine was Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. I never tired of it. I miss Romeo’s angst and Juliet’s strength. I miss the gorgeous language that always made me ache with joy. I miss the tragic young love. I miss the looks on kids’ faces when they realized Mercutio was really dead or how Juliet’s father treated her at the end of Act III. (I don’t miss hearing freshmen murder the Bard’s words when reading aloud. Oh. My. Goodness. Never. Never. Never.)
  10. I love being able to reinvent myself. I choke a bit when I call myself a writer, but it gets easier with each blog I post and each article that is published. I guess I will always be a teacher, only now I am using the written word instead of standing up in front of a classroom.

Every day is a quiet, little adventure. Each word is a brick on this new road. All of these present moments create both delight and wistfulness for the past and the future.

“Beware of missing chances; otherwise it may be altogether too late some day.” Franz Liszt

 

Drunk on Love in the Kitchen

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Welcome to Drunk on Love in the Kitchen: Squarespace style.  Blogger was lovely and functional, but it was time to graduate to a cleaner, more professional looking page. I am not quite finished with all of the details; I still need to add email subscriptions, advertisements, and other such work that leads me down to the depths of SEO and keywords hell. I know just enough of this to plunge me into serious woe, and it may take all winter to complete these tasks, but I need to launch today. My Blogger link no longer operates. I am now http://www.drunkinloveinthe.kitchen. I  have a navigation bar which will lead you to past Blogger posts, my blog, and images. I may add one or two links as I continue to work on my site. My idea is to have a separate link for each of my themes, especially food. 

Since I have a new website, I thought I would ponder again the purpose of this blog. What is Drunk on Love in the Kitchen? How does it serve my readers? What does it mean to me? Is it just the ramblings of a frustrated writer? Or the psychotic words of a crazy person?

This blog is an expression of myself. I write because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, but I kept finding excuses. I’m too busy. I’m not a writer. Maybe I suck. Who will read what I write? What self-absorbed nonsense. I’m such a hack. I have more important things to do. Blah. Blah. Blah. I decided after I retired to quash the damn voices in my head. If not now, when? 

And so I write. I write about family, especially the difficulties of parenting grown children. I write about simple joys, everyday life, and really seeing things for the first time. Many of the posts are about my love of baking pies. I’m not a true food blogger; I dwell more about how cooking and baking makes us feel, and the memories a certain recipe can evoke.

Mostly I just write about what’s in my heart. I’m trying to embrace this new life of mine, no longer ruled by bells and piles of papers to grade and twenty minute lunches. It’s about being completely and utterly drunk on love, whether it’s coloring with my granddaughter, laughing with girlfriends, or snuggling with my husband. Through my words I hope to spread that love to my readers, so let’s get drunk on love together! (Shit, I promised myself I would cut down on my overuse of exclamation points…and cussing. Oh, well. Hells bells!)

“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” John Barrymore