Begin Again

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Writing changed my life because writing changed me.

Here’s an example:

You’ve now been reading this piece for a few seconds. I’ve been typing and retyping for over two hours just to get us here. In the past, I would have either concluded this endeavor is hopeless and given up, or smoked a little pot to relax my mind, then hammered out a thousand words of free association and hit the Publish button.

That was the old me. The new me, wiser, now blames my friends.

My two closest friends since childhood have been Fear and Frustration. Fear has been with me the longest, so long that I often don’t recognize his presence. I just expect he’s always around. Too many times I believed I was hanging out with Frustration, only to discover it was actually Fear who passed me the remote and suggested we binge Netflix until 2am on a weeknight. Fear is a dangerously good cuddler.

Our prehistoric brains associate familiar with friend. I’ve grown so familiar with Fear and Frustration that I treated them like my best friends. We usually allow best friends to say anything they want. Writing helped me put an end to that. Writing helped me discover that I should have cut ties with this downer duo years ago. Most surprising of all, writing showed me that I actually possessed the power to break away any time I wanted. My entire problem was using my power. I just had to do. Write.

Fear and Frustration always meant well. They never wanted me to change because change brings risk and risk brings danger. I’m grateful they wanted me safe, but now I want something different for myself in however much time is left in this one and only life of mine. I’m gonna let it shine. Here goes:

I am afraid.

That is an example of how writing changed me. It gave me the power to externalize painful truths cowering inside my mind. There is great power in small steps. I never know if a small step will construct a stairway, if that stairway will be up to code or lead anyone anywhere, but those concerns aren’t necessary when writing, moving thought from mind to page, one thought at a time. Sometimes a thousand tiny steps build Narnia.

I am afraid.

The truth created some daylight between my own thoughts and the opinions of my oldest friends.

I am afraid.

I am afraid.

I’ve discovered that, for me, courage is a byproduct of honesty. When I’m honest, it generates courage, and I use the courage to continue:

I am afraid all the time.

I am afraid of what people think of me.

I am afraid I’m wasting my one and only precious life.

I am afraid that my dreams are too large for my abilities.

I am afraid of never trying.

I am afraid of trying and failing.

I am afraid of hurting others by revealing my true self.

That last fear was the first truth I ever typed where I had to sit back and stare at the screen for a while. “I fear I hurt you by just being myself,” was what I actually wrote. I never knew that thought was in me. It was a major insight into my own mind, generated by my own mind. Once those words were safely on the page they couldn’t be chased away. I had time to reflect. I realized I was writing that to everyone I loved in my life. Although they all seemed to say and do supportive things, I knew there were many lines I could not cross, certain behaviors I could not exhibit, without them acting hurt. This was a revelation. Writing revealed I was eager to please, and terrified to displease. I wanted to help, but always feared I’d harm.

I started writing more. I started talking more. Unfortunately, I started smoking pot more. This led to some insightful (to me) but unintelligible (to everyone, including sober me) articles and conversations. Then the strangest thing happened… a few kind souls on the Internet clapped for my chaotic and rambling pieces.

A New Day

Writing helped me choose to spend time with two true friends I’ve always neglected, Love and Hope. Fear and Frustration still have keys to my house and let themselves in more often that I would like, but I’ve gotten better at noticing their arrival. I don’t even look away from my screen. I hold up my hand and say, “Not now, I have work to do.”

When you spend a lifetime with friends, their ideas take root in your brain without you noticing. Their voices start to sound like yours. If I’m not paying attention, Fear speaks up whenever I attempt to write. His background commentary appears in my mind as, “This article isn’t good enough. It has to be great. Great equals reads. Reads equal money. Money equals success. Success equals happiness. You will never succeed. Give up.”

I’ve learned to notice his voice. I simply say, “Love, can you take Fear out back and toss a ball with him? Make sure it’s squishy, he’s afraid of the hard ones.” Then I send them off together. Frustration, in his uniquely annoying tendencies, is easier to spot and appears much more often. I kindly ask, “Hope, can you take him on a walk, circle the block for a while so I can work?”

When swimming in the ocean, if you get caught in a rip current there is only one way out — to stop fighting the current. Stop struggling. Relax. Let it carry you where it’s going to carry you. Eventually it releases you, and you can easily swim to the new section of shore where it led you. That’s the approach I’ve learned to take with Fear and Frustration. If they grab me, I relax. They do wander away on their own after a while, so long as I don’t fight them or react to them in any way. Fear and Frustration can go make a mess in my kitchen. I’m staying far away, at my desk, with my new writing partners, Love and Hope.

Here are the two steps I use to relax when Fear and Frustration take hold of me more powerfully than a rip current.

  1. I remind myself of my Intention. I want to be a small lighthouse on this vast, rocky shoreline of life. Any light I can generate to reach others might make their journey a little easier and less scary. That’s what I’d like to do for others: illuminate a helpful path.
  2. I remind myself of my Dream. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I appreciate life more when I write. I want to make my Dream a reality and honor my Intention.

Fifty years into this dance upon the Earth and I’m finally spending my days with Intention, Dream, Love and Hope. There is a wider world beyond the walls of my little house, so Fear and Frustration always come running over with scary news and horrible updates. I listen to them, briefly, over tea, then thank them for thinking of me, wish them well, and get back to work with my four new friends for life.

Begin Again

I’ve been publishing on Medium for a while now. This is my first article written and reviewed while sober. It marks a new beginning. I’m no longer afraid.

I’m going to rewrite every one of the 71 pieces I’ve published so far and take down any article that does not serve my Intention or my Dream. I have 36 articles waiting in Drafts, some come across as positively bonkers upon reread, but I know there are important truths in each one that I would like to excavate, polish, and share with you.

Thank you to the extremely kind and open minded souls who have read my work to date. I hope to build a stronger connection with you in the future and shine whatever light I can your way.

This little life of mine
I’m gonna let it shine!

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Middle-aged, possibly insane, lover of moments, THRILLED to finally feel alive. Obsessed with the constellation of bights (binary lights) between people’s ears.

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Neddy Bly

Neddy Bly

Middle-aged, possibly insane, lover of moments, THRILLED to finally feel alive. Obsessed with the constellation of bights (binary lights) between people’s ears.

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