The following post is a continuation of a fiction story that has been posted in installments on WordGirl. If you are interested in reading the story up until this point, click here.
I wake the next morning to find breakfast outside the door. The tea is somehow still warm and savoring it helps me shake off the vestiges of sleep. As I settle in to eat, my eyes fall on the clean white paper and pen awaiting me.
Sighing aloud at my stubbornness, I ponder whether I should be more motivated by not doing as Irene suggests or whether I should just do as my heart says and write.
Picking up the pen, I try to clear my mind of Irene’s suggestions as to what to write. What do I have to say? What do I want to remember about the journey so far? What do I want to forget? Maybe that’s the place to start.
Thinking back to walking out of those first four rooms, I hardly feel like the same person. Each step along the way has changed me. But a constant companion has been fear. Sure, I walked through that heavy door, leaving my fears and exposed hopes there, but I didn’t really leave them all behind. Maybe I just bundled some of them up, leaving a token few at the threshold and shoved them into a backpack that weighs me down, slows me down, keeps me down.
“So let’s empty the backpack onto paper,” I think.
Writing “Fears” in bold letters at the top of the page, I pause. What are the fears I carry around? I feel their presence, I know they are there. They are intimately familiar, almost a part of me. But I don’t ever examine them closely. If anything, when one pops up, I shove it deeper into the backpack and pretend it isn’t there. Closing my eyes, I reach inside myself for a fear.
Cradling it in both hands, I feel the weight of it and recognize it as one I have carried for a long time. Its familiarity is oddly comforting. I open my eyes to see the fear of failure staring me in the face. Failure looks up at me brazenly, unflinching beneath my gaze. Its reds and yellows scream caution and its blurred edges make it difficult to see exactly where it starts and stops. I find it hot, drawing my hand back quickly after a tentative touch. The edges are covered with tiny, spiky tentacles and its covering is carapace. Reaching underneath, I find it surprisingly soft and discover I can gently cradle it.
I put it on the table, realizing as I do so that this is a burden I will have to put down many times before it stays away. Even as I close my eyes to examine the next fear, I feel failure begin to inch back onto me. I thrust it away mentally and try to examine the slippery fear I now hold.
It feels slick, gelatinous, shifting in my hands. As I try to edge around its borders with my fingers, it seems to change beneath my hands. I open my eyes and get a quick glimpse of the fear of exposure before it disappears before my eyes.
Surprised at what I’ve found thus far, I once again close my eyes and picture the heavy backpack that has been with me through crevices, canyons and fire. The next fear that I cradle makes no attempt to flee. It sits, heavy and solid, in my hands, roughly the shape of a potato, but so heavy I can barely lift it. Blinking back tears, I see this is the fear that I am unlovable. The fear that at the end of this journey, or any journey, there will be no one waiting, no one who cares whether I make it or not.
I look at my large piece of paper with three small words on it and wonder how they can take up so little space on the paper, but feel so large on my back and in my heart.
And now what? I can't simply banish these fears. So what do I do with them now that I've named them? If nothing else, I now know what I carry around with me. So the next time failure bursts in my mind, flowing through my veins and my vision, I will know it for the intruder that it is. Because as much as these and other fears feel like a part of me, they aren't. I have, for one reason or another, chosen them. Maybe others gave me these fears to carry - either to spread their own burden around or to hobble me on my path. But I was the one who willingly fed the fear, watered it, let it take root and grow. And now it is not so easy to just put the fear aside. Now, I need to chip away at the fear bit by bit until it is gone.
Wanting a symbol of my resolve to fight fear, I pause to think about how to do this. How do I get past failure's spikes? How do I penetrate exposure's rubbery covering? What do I do to or with unlovability's density? Feeling the impossibility of my task bear down on me, I want to get up from the desk and retreat to the bed. I fight this urge, knowing I must do some small thing to fight back.
I use both hands to drag my fear that I am unlovable closer. Its smooth, cool surface seems impenetrable, but I nevertheless reach for my pen. Scratching lines so faint they can't be seen, I write J's name on the rock. I pause, then add the names of A, B and K. While they may love me only in the innocent way children take parents for granted, they do love me. I consider writing my own name on the rock's surface, but know this would not take away the fear's power but add to it. Maybe eventually I can confidently scrawl my signature as testimony that I am loved, but not yet.
I look at the rock. It sits there implacable, unmoved by my coarse scratchings. Needing a break from this thankless task, I stand and stride from the room, deliberately leaving my backpack and its contents behind.