In No Particular Order: Fear, Courage, Gratitude

Today my friend came over for a visit. The visit started with a pot of tea and ended with a bottle of wine. We have a lot in common. We are both employed in the business of education. We have constantly have loads of adventures and both both enjoy words and writing.

As she talked about her experiences and her writing, she admitted that of all the stories, short and long and all the poems she has written, she has hardly shared any with anyone. She said that there is a vulnerability in actually letting someone read her work and she’s not ready for it. She’s not ready for the criticism of the writing itself. She’s not ready for people judging her stories and in turn her life. She’s not ready for people trying to figure which fictional character in the book she is writing is which person in her real life.

I listened quietly while she talked about her fear. I considered those ideas of resistance. I remembered a quote I read once from John Wayne: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” It has an element of humor but a whole lot of truth. I recalled all the years I made art, good and bad, and courageously stuck it somewhere
it could be viewed by strangers and acquaintances. I remember the first few times this process felt terrifying. It was like I was posting my physical self some place and asked for criticism. I survived that and I was grateful. And the criticism wasn’t always bad and if it was, today I ask ‘so what?’

Then came the teaching years (I write like this is in past tense). I wasn’t always sure that the way I taught or the subject I taught would be received with enthusiasm or even complacency but two decades later I feel I shook loose the insecurities of showing myself to class after class. I have said that teaching is like pitching your subject to the toughest audience around—the teenage beast. If I could pitch to a crowd
of teenagers and have them buy what I was selling I was doing well.

I also found gratitude in social media. Crazy. I know. I am from the days of a world before the internet. But status updates were my first mass audience. I have always been extremely careful not to post anything cutting or disrespectful to others, not to air my dirty laundry and not to self-deprecate. Sometimes I would get nervous if I walked a line I felt was potentially questionable. If a response from someone leaned towards anything possibly negative I’d take it down.

I have always been aware of digital citizenship. It’s a media that a lot, maybe too many people read. Although my status updates are just status updates, my thoughts seem to always be received so well and I am always surprised by the number of people who read and comment on my words in their humorous and minimal form. I found gratitude in my brother-in-law having confidence enough in my work ethic and creativity to ask me to join him in this writing partnership. I am grateful for the diverse group I passed my first short story out to, even though I was sweating buckets when I did. I received honest feedback and it was okay.

The first blog post I wrote—ever—was daunting. Dave had to prompt me. The blog felt official and it was officially a big deal in my head. Now, I happily look for topics and enjoy this weekly process without a lot of concern of putting my words out there. At each step on the way, I experienced fear of something: criticism, acceptance, happiness, relief, failure. But as Ambrose Redmoon said “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” By transcending fear, I found courage and finally gratitude for trusting myself.

If my friend truly wants it I hope she finds the courage to get her book and stories published. Or, maybe where they sit is as fora as they will grow. For me, there is something more important than my egoistic fear. I think it may be storytelling.

*Originally written in parts on February 5, 2015

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