The year I turned forty, I decided to finally stop making excuses and to start DOING all of the things that I wanted to do. Primarily, that meant writing. Instead of explaining how “I had three kids,” or “I worked full time,” or whatever else it was that I was blaming for not writing, I would just…write. And it worked pretty well. But since then, I have accumulated new fears–fears far scarier than putting words to page. And some fears can’t be conquered…but they can be acknowledged.
In an effort to silence the fears that keep me up at night, I will give those fears a name. I will acknowledge them, and I will let them be…because sometimes it is the things that you avoid that you start to dread the most, thereby adding to its power over you.
1. Failure a/k/a THAT Part of Things
I love to write and, frankly, I really don’t want to suck at it. Writers, as a whole, are notoriously hard on themselves. About a third of the way through any given project, we suddenly decide it sucks. Neil Gamain wrote about it this part of the process. I think that his agent or editor or someone referred to it as “That Part of the Book.” When he would call in a panic thinking that his latest work-in-progress was utter shit, she would simply say, “Ahhhhh, you’re at THAT part of the book.” I really need to remember that…perhaps have it tattooed somewhere. Maybe then I’d remember that all things have a THAT part. Even Life. Perhaps, looking back, I will think, “Ahhhhh, I was at THAT part of my life.”
2. Broke But Not Broken
Some think that speaking of money (or any lack of it) to be quite vulgar. I consider it to be part of life. Whatever money there is simply disappears. That is the nature of having children, and health issues, and a book addiction. I won’t pretend that it isn’t hard, and I’ll be damned if I try to keep up with the Joneses. We are not the fucking Joneses. Period.
3. Scary Health Things
The hardest fear for me to contemplate, to name, to face…is health problems. It is terrifying to see the love of your life struggling. But diseases are faceless bastards and even if you are inclined to try to kick their ass, they don’t really HAVE an ass, so basically it is like punching a void. It is even more infuriating to realize that you can’t manage someone else’s health condition. I cannot eat well for my husband. I cannot exercise for him. I can do those things for ME though (and I do try to), because it helps me feel stronger and better able to be there for him.
4. Last One Standing
Okay, I lied. #3 is not really the scariest. It is this one, #4. I am blessed to have both parents still alive and kicking. Admittedly, my mom is on oxygen…but I’d wager she could still kick some major butt (and she can shop like no one’s business!). My dad is strong and ornery and does more in a day than most people accomplish in a week. My husband and brother are also still alive despite their choice of Dangerous Protect and Serve vocations (*knock on wood*). But I am painfully aware that accidents happen, health fails, violence erupts, and days are numbered, and I am scared of watching those I love died. Maybe it will come without warning. Maybe they will suffer. Yes, this is the one that keeps me up late at night. When I try to stare this one down, I inevitably blink.
I was re-re-reading An Echo in the Bone last night…
(SPOILER WARNING….seriously, you had to see that coming, right?)
…and I came to the part where Jamie and Claire are talking about where Jamie should be buried. (My husband and I had that talk not long after his heart attack. It was not a talk I wanted to have, but some questions should really be asked while there is still someone around to answer. So, yes, this part felt a bit…raw.)
He lifted the flask in salute to me, and drank from it. “Good to know someone will miss me, when I fall.”
“I didn’t miss that ‘when,’ rather than ‘if,'” I said coldly.
“It’s always been ‘when,’ Sassenach,” he said gently. “Every chapter must be so translated. Aye?”
I took a deep breath and watched it drift out in a plume of mist.
“I sincerely hope I’m not going to have to do it,” I said, “but should the question arise–would you want to be buried here? Or taken back to Scotland?” I was thinking of a granite marriage stone in the graveyard at St. Kilda, with his name on it, and mine, too. The bloody thing had nearly given me heart failure when I saw it, and I wasn’t sure I had forgiven Frank for it, even though it had accomplished what he’d meant it to.
Jamie made a small snorting noise, not quite a laugh.
“I shall be lucky too be buried at all, Sassenach. Much more likely I shall be drowned, burnt, or left to rot on some battlefield. Dinna fash yourself. If ye’ve got to dispose of my carcass, just leave it out for the crows.”
Later Claire turns the tables, though:
“You didn’t ask what I want done with my body.” I’d meant it at least half in jest, to lighten his mood, but his fingered curled so abruptly over mine that I gasped.
“No,” he said softly. “And I never will.” He wasn’t looking at me but at the whiteness before us. “I canna think of ye dead, Claire. Anything else–but not that. I can’t.”
(And it is only now, in writing this, that I realized that my wonderful, brave, loving husband never did ask me where I should be buried.)
These fears that find us in the dark of night are never truly conquered. We can struggle with them and subdue then for a while. But they remain. Whatever fears I have, though, I find them lessened in the sharing. For that I am grateful.