Gapawa published a post today titled A Bit of Honesty. He likened himself to Sisyphus, futilely pushing a big rock up a hill only to have it roll back down for him to push back up the hill. Day after day after day. Gapawa concludes the way out is beneath oceans of fear where your dream — whatever that means to you — is carefully concealed.
“It can be reached. But you must be courageous. You must be willing to accept help. You must be strong enough to surrender. Sweet dreams…” Gapawa
I left a comment.
“If you dive into the oceans of fear often enough, you can locate the shallows of experience where you can dream awake and put down your rock.
The first time was the scariest.” Me
He asked me if I’d care to share some of my experience, and my response grew into a post. With credit to Gapawa for prodding me to put it into words, I decided it would be more polite to publish it here than to fill his space with a post-length comment.
Here is my reply:
Let me start here: I have never been married. I’ve never lived with a man. I haven’t worked to pursue money, but to have what I needed so I could spend my free time creating what I wanted to create.
At 24, I left a full time job at SDSU just to change my life. Months before, Mom had died after a 3-year cancer demise. Fear? Yes, but the prospect of failing at the unknown was less daunting than the prospect of ignoring my need to heal and be away from where I was. I took the State’s retirement and pursued my grief and healing through dabbling in art work and some mediocre writing. I didn’t even bother to look for a new job till the funds were almost gone. Fear? Push through it. Do what has to be done.
I ended up in the Forest Service. Moved a couple times and returned to my home town in charge of my speciality, going to law school at night, and pregnant. Gave up law school after the first year because I felt having a baby was more important. Fear? Ohmigod — I was by myself and responsible for another human’s existence. Fear was a constant companion, but what was I going to do? Give up? I continued to work for the FS till my son was 15 months old and I realized letting someone else raise him during the day was killing me. I quit working for the Feds, took that retirement and 5 months with just my son. Fear? Not really. We’d made it this far. Just keep moving forward.
I became a licensed child care provider so I could stay home and earn a living. The love and creativity of the next 22 years (including writing that was a little better than mediocre, and 12 years as a parent volunteering to costume three children’s theatre productions a year), was balanced by the ever-present possibility a child in my care could be injured or a baby might die from SIDS. Believe me, every time I saw a news report of a child care provider who had experienced the death, or some other misfortune, of one of their day care kids, I cried, absolutely certain the first thought in her mind (it was always a woman) was, “They are going to put me in jail.”
But fear? By then I could look back and see that I didn’t need to feel fear. I’m the one who chooses. I’m the one whose strength I can draw on. Dig deep enough, you’ll find what you need.
With that confidence, I transformed costuming into a seamstressing business that allowed me to taper out of child care. Now, 15 years later, my writing partner and I have resubmitted the first part of our YA scifi trilogy to the agent who asked us to do some edits and re-submit. I have a plan that will allow me to give up sewing in the not too distant future, no matter what becomes of the book.
I’m not saying I’ve done it all on my own. I had help when I needed it, and I gave help when people I love needed me to. But I think the key is to always include what you want to do within what you have to do to support yourself. I never believed having a lot of money was important. Living a life I love is important.
The first time you give up what you know for the unknown, maybe you have to just jump. Or be pushed by something bigger than your fear of the unknown. But after that, you make it work or you change directions again till you find something that works. That’s how we build our self-esteem — learn, do, accomplish, live up to our responsibilities. You don’t need anyone else’s praise or attaboys. You just need to look back and see who you are.
I looked back and was happy to see I am a competent, resourceful problem solver. I’m close to fearless. I’ve come through some damned tough times because I’m strong, reliable, and self-reliant. Those are times I won’t ever talk about, but I’m not bitter. I still have a sense of humor and I’m compassionate. And creativity is part my life every day.
At this point, I realized this was just too long to put in someone else’s comments. But wouldn’t it be nice if it provided the impetus even a single reader needed to put down their stupid rock and take the first plunge — the scariest one?
Yeah, that’d be nice. Then I thought about Alexis Chateau, a young woman with a story that floors me. She’s somewhere out there in the world, but you can find her at alexischateau.com. I urge you to visit her site.