Frostbite is consuming my toes and spreading up my feet. Some days it’s more like treading through the world with ice blocks for shoes. I am absolutely terrified about my next steps in this life.
As you know, I’m a writer. Spending most of my life in the closet, it wasn’t until I went about writing and publishing Follow That Arrow that I actually committed my energy, finances and foreseeable future to writing. I have now been admitted to the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA at the University of Baltimore for the fall, and am slowly (oh so shakily and slowly) launching a little project called Yellow Arrow Publishing with a couple of very gracious partners. Now that this writing thing is becoming really real, I am ready to turn and run. Fast.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” – Georgia O’Keeffe
This anxiousness and fear I feel about the future is nothing new, for better or worse, it’s kind of how I operate. My ability to deal with this anxiety ebbs and flows, heavily dependent on the amount of spiritual work I’m willing to invest. What I’m getting at here is that it’s ok to have cold feet. To shake in your pee pee panties before stepping into the unknown. Some say faith can’t exist while you’re in a state of fear. I say there is more than enough grace to go around for both of these states of being to be present at once.
Being afraid is not exactly a comfort. But it’s also a natural reaction. Life is scary, the unknown can be terrifying. But what if instead of imagining the worst, instead of predicting a big, scary monster ahead on our path, we assumed that what lie ahead was sure to be beautiful? What if we imagined our next steps as tiptoeing over rose petals, or dancing down a yellow brick road?
“Faith and fear both demand you believe in something you cannot see. You choose.” Bob Proctor
Long, long ago on the island of Crete, King Minos made some pretty terrible mistakes and ended up with a son who was half bull and half man, a Minotaur. Since this Minotaur was terrorizing the population, he hid him away in an impenetrable labyrinth, feeding him youth from Athens each year to appease the Gods. Brave Theseus, son of the King of Athens, volunteered one year so that he might enter the labyrinth, kill the Minotaur, and end the terror once and for all. This meant certain death since he wouldn’t be able to find his way out of the labyrinth. Ariadne, daughter of King Minos, caught sight of Theseus as he was about to embark on his doom, and fell in love at first sight. She gave him a ball of thread called a clew, instructing him to stretch the thread out until he reached the center of the labyrinth so that he might find his way out again.
I’ve found myself at the center of a labyrinth of my own. For a time, I was the Minotaur, exiled and lonely, angry enough to eat a bunch of Athenian virgins. In other words, caring for a baby far away from family and even farther from her father, the walls of winter closing in. But then I remembered life is choose your own adventure, not sit in a dark room and hope for the best. And I don’t want to be the Minotaur. I am brave Theseus, ready to slay the beast.
When I arrived at the center of the labyrinth, the beast just sat there and stared at me, despite my gleaming sword. This wimpy beast is my fear, the cloud that keeps me from embracing faith and obsessing over the future. I slay him easily, knowing that Ariadne is waiting for me at the end of this gleaming thread I’ve carried all this time. My darling baby Ella is Ariadne, waiting patiently for my return, ready to embrace each day with delight and joy.
Your personal beast is likely the same as mine, a sad, tortured thing just waiting for you to end it. You don’t need a shiny sword, you need only to make it to the center, to find the beast and look him in the eye. He will shrink back into the shadows from where he came. If you are ready to be done with him once and for all, go ahead and stab him in the heart.
Fear had me imagining that my next steps would lead me to certain death, failure, and shame. Let’s be real, death is certain, failure imminent, and shame omnipresent. There’s no escaping any of that. But maybe, just maybe, some good things are headed our way, too. Maybe I’ll write another book. Maybe a rainbow will appear overhead. Maybe you’ll get exactly what you want for your birthday. Let’s be real, the sun will come up tomorrow, a glorious golden globe, the seasons will change, flowers will insist on blooming even in the cracks of sidewalks, and babies will laugh.