"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lost Ground

My back hurts. The lower part. The part of my body connected to grounding, connection to the earth, security. It's hurt since early last spring, but I managed to ignore/baby/doctor it into levels of pain that didn't interfere with my life. Until recently. As the days of summer dwindle, the pain intensifies.

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


Janna Qualman said...

I feel much through this post. It was beautiful, even with the distress woven throughout. I'll say this:

"You can run from your dreams in fear, or run to your dreams with faith." (author unknown)

You can do it!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"When you leap the net appears." Zen saying

Tabitha Bird said...

Beautiful Deb. Thanks for sharing and I hope you dig deep into that well to find your voice in words. I feel for you about the back pain. Fear can be a powerful thing. I bet you are stronger :)

Jessica said...

Woohoo! Awesome post! I hate fear, I really do.
My favorite verse is "For God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind."
LOL I memorized it because my imagination is WAY too active with night sounds. :-)

This is a beautiful post. You're at such a lovely spot in your life and I'm so glad you're going to ignore fear and act. :-) I hope wonderful things happen!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to a friend's book launching party on Sat. It's his third book. Almost nobody read his first book, a few more read his second and this third book is already doing well. He just kept on writing.

As for the scary bit, I get that. I have a book, inside my head that I'm either too lazy or too afraid to write down.

Hope the back feels better soon.

Midlife Jobhunter said...


Absolutely. Quit studying. You know what you're doing. Take a breath, put your head down, and go. Ready, set, Jump!

Kathryn Magendie said...

leap leap leap -- you can always climb back up and take the path back to where you need to go....

Pam said...

Deb it has been an absolute privilege to visit here, and I am so pleased to meet you (through Elenka) on this cusp of leaving teaching and beginning writing.I have spent much time reading back through previous posts and following your journey. If you choose to visit,(I'd be delighted if you do!) may I ask that you scroll down to the bottom of my posts and open the June postings...the June29th one with the roses? I wish you all the very best and will surely visit again.

Nancy said...

I have faith in you!

Nancy said...

I have faith in you!

Amber said...

I hear you.

Just do some yoga on those muscles, and breeeeath. And then write. You did what was right for you, your body just needs to catch up...and let go of the old.


Kathryn Magendie said...

Hope your back is better! (as a back pain sufferererer, I can relate!)

She said...


And I want to be like you when I grow up! ;-)

Your courage emanates right through the screen.

I hope the back pain subsides and I KNOW your book will find it's home in the publishing world! Can't wait.

Jerri said...

Grow wings, my friend. You're ready to fly.

Hey--come to think of it--maybe that's the pain: your wings emerging.

When fear comes calling in the small of your back, imagine those of us who love you and believe in you and your work, each sending love to that pain and fear.

And then do one more right thing. You don't have to conquer it all at once. You only have to do one more right thing.

We're with you.

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