Writing, for me, always involves a confrontation with inner terror. At the same time that I harbor this compulsion to share the crystallized moments and epiphanies that make up the structure of my life, I also have a deep fear of self-exposition. Isn’t that neat? I’m a fan of paradox and irony, even when they use me as the butt of their jokes, which this certainly does. Or maybe it’s just that we all get the tools to grow into ourselves, however those tools may arrange themselves in our lives.
So I try to use them, even though it’s only gotten slightly easier over time. Some of the easiest, most free-flowing writing I ever did was under a pseudonym. Since I began writing under my own name, the degree of difficulty has soared, and my productivity has plummeted. Clicking “publish” on this blog is always hard, and the simple act of sharing each post on Facebook is actually excruciating. But the older I get, the more invisibility chafes. I’d rather learn to put it all out there, the hurts and the vulnerabilities and the hopes, instead of papering over them with bravado or arrogance. I’d rather be whole.
Contrary to popular wisdom, my experience has not been that when we face our fears, they turn out to be overblown or imagined. Instead, I find that I usually get exactly what I feared. The lesson isn’t that our fears are somehow illusory; it’s that we can handle those things that terrify us. We can live through them, incorporate them into our existence, even grow from them.
I think that truth is built into the cellular structure of life, which may explain why I ended up with a brain that insists that I write about and photograph the world, and yet is so terrified of clicking “share.” My friend the ground squirrel and I have the same dilemma: you gotta leave your hole to live your life. There are hawks out there, but that doesn’t change the equation. You have to do it anyway.