I'm pretty sure it's no accident that the pain began shortly after I made the decision to leave teaching for a year, and to spend that year pursuing my dream: a career as a writer. And while it's really no surprise that the pain is at it's worst now, when the school year is beginning and I'm facing this enormous canyon of unknown possibility, I wish it weren't so.
I don't want to be afraid.
I don't want fear to have any more power over my life at all, ever. I've spent years getting to know her, comforting her, choosing new ways of empowerment. Yet there she sits, across the lowest part of my back - pulsing, stabbing, gnawing with relentless vigor.
I don't want to be starting the school year. I'm not feeling sad about not getting a back-to-school letter for the first time in over two decades. I'm not feeling a strong urge to run to the nearest teacher supply store to buy bulletin board borders. I'm not wishing I could be sitting in the inservices and start-up staff meetings where my husband and friends are these days. Truly.
When I left my classroom last June, I was finished with that part of my life. Among the many reasons I had to teach that one last year, being absolutely certain I was done may be at the top of the list. Because without the memory of that certainty, the security just might pull me back in.
Known challenges. A consistent paycheck. Confidence in my ability. The safety of the known world, as boring and energy-sucking as it was, offers itself as an antidote to this pain.
My heart says no to safety. But my muscles are frozen. The fear laughs at me and wrestles me to the ground.
Since last spring, I've anticipated some form of this. Whenever a tremor of fear would make herself known, I acknowledged her and then put her off until after. After my reunion. After our vacation. After school started. After is here, and fear is demanding her due.
While I spent most of the summer playing and finding joy and love and happiness at every turn, I've also been studying. I've read magazines and books and site after site after site about writing and agents and publishing. It's a harsh reality that offers only the encouragement of persistence and confidence and professionalism. I've made myself an expert on query letters and agent preferences and proposal writing. I have a list of potential agents sitting next to my computer.
I have a back that is so frozen with fear that I can barely stand or sit or write. What felt like flying last spring now feels like free-falling without wings. What seemed like listening to my heart and following my dreams a few months ago now sounds like midlife delusion.
I have faced fear before. She does not give ground, ever. The only way to unpower her is to act regardless of her voice. I know that.
The quiet voice, the one that always has the answers in a loving and gentle voice, is saying the same thing she's been saying since spring. "Send one letter. Write one paragraph. Your ground is your heart. You are not lost. Leap."
photo from Flickr