I’m afraid to go hiking. I want to go. I wake up on Friday’s with the phrase, “Friday-hike day” but then I allow other things to cover me up rather than going.
I am afraid that in the full year I have failed to hike I will discover myself more fragile, tired or weak. I am afraid that I’m afraid and that scares me.
So much in life is a contrived narrative. We make ourselves out of scraps of stories from our families and teachers, strangers and culture. We create stories of “us” and the “others” and before long we believe it’s all true.
I believed I would never be afraid of going out alone. Now I am.
Yet, when I push through and I’m out there watching the bees, feeling the breezes blow up from the canyon, standing alone at a cliff edge–the story becomes nothing and reality is all I see.
It’s true. Everything is connected- even fear.
In this way I’m free.
So many things can be beautiful and make you afraid. Freedom is scary.
Creating is terrifying. Like writing a novel on a speeding train through Tokyo.
I read an account where a group of Japanese middle school girls were writing novels on Twitter while commuting on a train. They composed short books -140 characters at a time. The story moved me deeply. I thought of how much focus and perseverance it took to put one sentence after another, day upon day while moving on a train to school.
The bit of their work I have seen is beautiful, born out of the brave notion they could do it.
I know a woman who reminded me of how work, no matter what kind, can be the thing that causes so much else to happen. The work of walking far, of writing a new way–but even the things more ordinary can make miracles.
A woman I knew works at Taco Bell. She has burns, deep and old, scaring her face and neck, hands and arms. They are the kind that might have killed her–but she is alive and smiles easily.
I might think that working in fast food, and fast food itself is a bad thing. I might go deep into the ethics of what real food costs or I might just look in her eyes and watch her careful work and be glad for it.
Life is never as simple as my platitudes. For every bit of darkness there is an equal amount of light. For every strong view there is a kinder middle way.
This is light.
The little girls who live in one of the worlds most populated nations and fly down the tracks on a bullet train using their scrap of free time in an otherwise warp speed life writing novels a sentence at a time—this is light.
I look out my window and say–today is the day. I’ll just take a walk. One foot in front of the other for however far I go.
And that is light also.
There is something poetic about just showing up to all that it is, all that is dark, all that is light. Something noble, too, about being okay with being afraid.
The sun is shining for however long it does. I will write for however long I am alive and some of it will be good and some of it will be rubbish. Some will be written on a train or a deck chair or in a coffee shop–but it will still happen a sentence at a time. And every three to four weeks I’ll pop into Taco Bell and say hi to the people I admire there.
And yes, I will take that long walk. Fear only has so much hold. Today.