It was just a little piece of steak – a bit gristly – but nothing unusual. If I had thought it unusual, I wouldn’t have tried to swallow it at Philip’s birthday dinner, and if I hadn’t tried to swallow it, my husband of just three weeks wouldn’t have had to give me the Heimlich maneuver and save my life.
It was the closest I’ve ever been to dying – feeling the press of air against my closed windpipe, thinking that this could be it, the end, and then at least I’d see Mom again – and it has marked me. I am terrified of choking, of P choking, of even the little guinea keets out in the coop choking.
Fear has set up residence in my life in a way I have never known before.
Sure, I’m afraid of things – moths, the dark, snakes that somehow end up under my feet – but nothing feels like this fear of choking because, well, because those other things haven’t nearly killed me.
I have lots of ways to cope with fear – including my mom’s layers of story – but the best tool I have at hand is to stand up straight and walk right into it, not because it’s not scary, but because living with the fear is worse than facing it.
In the novel I’m writing, a lot of people are fearful – fearful about history, fearful about change, fearful about the unknown and the Other – and these people take their fear and inflict it on other people. In the book, this action is big and daunting, and I’m just working through how that looks on the page.
But in life, we know how this happens – someone is scared of something so they seed that fear in others. “Do you REALLY want to tell that story? People might not like it.” Or “Do you really want to take that research trip? I hear it’s dangerous there.” Or “Are you sure you know what you’re getting into with quitting your job to write? I mean, what if you don’t have enough food?”
We need to be wise and astute in our decisions, but if fear – rather than compassion or awareness or good judgment – is driving our decisions, we need to go forward instead of back. Especially when it comes to writing.
Writing takes risk. It takes boldness and courage and a vulnerability that our culture cautions us against. And the risk is real – we might get critique, we might get hurt, we might have to live on Ramen for a few months. But anything worth doing is worth the risk. Without a doubt.
I refuse to live my life terrified that I might choke. In fact, I CAN’T live my life if I make decisions based on my fear – I’ll literally starve to death. So I take the next bite. I chew it well. I swallow. And I breathe.
What risks are you hesitating over because of fear? What if you just stepped into the risk and wrote it?