I was looking through my desk the other day when I came across a little notebook I had almost forgotten about. As soon as I saw it I remembered exactly what was in it. At some point during the fall of 2011 I decided to list all my fears. I don’t know why I wanted to do this. I certainly had no desire to face them. Maybe I was just starting to realize how powerful a role fear played in my life and I wanted to see how deep it went.
So I started writing every night when I got into bed. Just before you fall asleep is not the best time to write down every terrifying thought you’ve ever had. In fact, I would say it’s the worst time to do it. But that’s when I always found the pen and paper in my hand so that’s when I did it.
Every night for months I wrote down every thought that ever terrorized me. Some were easy. Birds-they’ve always seemed murderous to me. Going over that waterfall in South America-the one with the 3,000 foot drop. Fear of losing my job and having to live in my car again.
As the weeks went by, the writing itself began to scare me. I didn’t want to admit all the fear that steered my life. Fear that I won’t have courage when I need it. Fear that someone I didn’t like was right about me. Fear that someone would hear my name and roll their eyes thinking, “Ugh, that guy.”
Two nights ago as I read through the book I saw on page 28, right there between sharks and bad milk, “Fear of being honest.” I closed my eyes and put the book down slowly. I felt like I’d just seen a old friend’s name in the obituary column and couldn’t read any further.
Fear of being honest isn’t in me anymore but I remember what it felt like. For me, at the core of being honest was the fear of being alone. Deep down in my heart, somewhere between the cockles and the ventricles, was the belief that I needed to keep my true feelings secret for anyone to stick around.
The good news is not long after I wrote that my life fell apart completely and I got to spend the next two years learning how to put my little Humpty Dumpty heart back together again. If I hadn’t spent those two years relearning how to see the world and my place in it I wouldn’t have been able to reopen the book a few minutes later and read that line again.
This time I managed to keep it open and think back to the guy who wrote it. You know what I remember? He did the best he could with what he had. He had a really good handle on every terrible thing the world could throw at him but he never stopped looking for the love and kindness he’d heard was out there somewhere.
Part of what running this show has taught me is that speaking your fears will bring the people you need into your life. I don’t know why but that’s what it’s done for me. I went from sitting in the dark filling 44 pages with crippling fears to getting onstage and talking about the scariest moments of my life with a room full of strangers. I can’t tell you I’m completely fearless but I can say that if I wrote that book today it would fit on a postcard.
And that’s the kind of story we’d like you to bring to our next show: Change of Heart – Stories of left turns and change ups.
Tell us about an event or series of events that caused you to change how you looked at things or how you live your life. It doesn’t have to be anything big, just something that shifted you one way or the other.
The rules for stories are below but you know the kind we’re looking for: true stories that happened to you that still mean something to you days, months or years later.
Remember to practice out loud on friends or pets and keep it under 8 minutes.
I hope to see you at our next show on Thursday, November 12, 7:00pm at the Roy St Coffee and Tea.