I am desperately trying to come to terms with the unfortunate fact that I have been in a place of fear pretty much all my life.
Let me put it another way. All my life, I have been afraid.
Sometimes I feel snarling and wild, an animal backed into a corner. Fight or be eaten. My claws come out. I hate this. Rage hurts. It burns like fire.
Sometimes I feel like hurling myself down a deep dark hole, never to be seen again. I think this would feel peaceful. At least, I think, the pain would stop.
Sometimes — most of the time — I just push most of me inside. I am in there somewhere, in some tiny safe place deep inside. I feel small and helpless in there, but being bigger feels more scary so I stay in the familiarity of smallness.
I am afraid to come out. I am afraid I will hurt. I am afraid I will be shamed. I am afraid I won’t be enough.
The irony of all this is that there is a man who loves me. Over and over he says he loves me. Over and over he shows me he loves me. Most of the time I believe him. And yet sometimes I can’t take it in. It scares me. For him to love me, I have to let the wee scared self out from that tiny safe place within me, and it feels so scary to do that. Sometimes it hurts. My man is only human, after all, and sometimes he hurts. I feel his hurt and I hurt. I am scared by his hurt and I hurt feeling scared. Sometimes all I perceive is hurt.
Over and over he tells me he loves me. Over and over I plead with my eyeslipshands do you love me until I am afraid of the asking, afraid that one time the answer will be No, I do not love you, or worse, I did love you but you kept asking, and now, no, I do not love you, I tire of you asking, or worse still, Of course I do not love you, you have dreamed it, I never did love you. But I cannot help but ask. I don’t know how to go from asking to knowing. Trusting. I fear so much because I do not trust. Once upon a time I learned that trusting was risky. People get hurt. I got hurt. So I went inside and shivered.
I bought a new book at the airport bookstore this week. I like buying books in airports because I connect those books to my travels. Life of Pi, for instance, was read one long overly air-conditioned day in the Philadelphia airport. There was nothing else good about that day or any of the days around it so I lost myself in magical realism and I still remember how I felt that day, reading about tigers. My new book has tigers, too. My head hurts now from the places where I tried to use the tiger to beat the fear from its wee hiding place. I pride myself on keeping books pristine and new-looking, but this one now has dents and crumples.
I shiver now to wonder how many actions, large and small, I have taken because I was afraid. Almost all of them, I think.
I tell people to walk down the roads of their deepest fears. Take a friend with you on this journey. Remember you are not alone. I whisper this to the wee scared woman inside me and she beats her books over her ears and does not listen, and instead tries to wedge herself into the deep dark hole she thinks will comfortably swallow her into nothingness.
I am almost afraid to hold resolve in my hand. I should get up from this crumpled heap on the floor. I should follow my own advice and walk down that road of what scares me. I should because I know it will help. So why am I still afraid?