Saturday, September 3, 2016

I Have Fear (and Thirst, and Hunger)

In Spanish, you don’t say you “are” afraid, or thirsty, or hungry. Instead, you say you “have” them. (Tengo miedo; tengo sed; tengo hambre.) In fact, in Spanish there are two different ways to say “to be” depending on what aspect of yourself you’re describing. You can say “I am tall” (soy alta) because tall is an attribute that will likely stay with you for most of your life; at the same time, you can say “I am nervous” estoy nerviosa) and make it clear that you are only nervous right now – that your feeling is not necessarily permanent.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, invisible audience. I am just about to restart teaching Spanish classes, so that is likely part of it, but I’ve also been thinking about it from a perspective of how I talk about myself, and how different it is to say “I am feeling fear” than to say “I am afraid.”

I recently heard a TED talk that is likely what got me thinking about this in the first place. It’s called “Could Your Language Affect Your Ability to Save Money?” by Keith Chen. In the talk, Keith points out that the countries that are best at saving money don’t differentiate between the present and the future. His example is rain. Those countries basically say “It rain today” and “It rain tomorrow” instead of “It rain today” and “It will rain tomorrow.” That single extra word gives us English speakers a separation between today and tomorrow – to these other countries, there is no difference between what happens today and what happens in the future.

With Spanish, my fascination goes the other way. Am I identifying so much with my fear because I hold it as close as how tall I am, my hair color, and my gender? If I say I have fear instead of I am fear, would that change things for me?

I’ve been standing in an interesting place recently. It’s uncomfortable. I don’t like it. I am facing some deep-seated fears that I’ve had for a long time. But instead of moving or leaving like I would have done before, I am practicing patience, and trying to see how it will all work out instead, and staying put.

When I look at what I want out of my life, I am still afraid (I still have fear) of jumping completely into the boat. I want to write. It may not be apparent from my lack of blog posts, but that’s exactly it, invisible audience. In one of her most famous posts on, Cheryl Strayed counseled a would-be writer to just “write like a motherfucker” after the woman sent her a letter about how much she felt a need to write but couldn’t bring herself to do it. “That you’re so bound up about writing tells me that writing is what you’re here to do,” Strayed told her. That line has stuck with me ever since I first read it. It describes me in a way that hurts, deeply.

I look back at some of the posts I wrote in Panama, and I am awed at my own courage. Frankly, it’s some of the best writing I’ve ever done. I was also in more pain than I’d ever been in…although perhaps it’s more accurate to say I was allowing myself to feel more of the pain than I’d ever let myself feel before.

I do not feel as much pain anymore, thank the entire pantheon of gods and goddesses. I am starting to feel a deep need to write again, but I’m not sure what to write about if it’s not about deep, bottomless pain. Perhaps that is what has stalled me. Perhaps I am getting closer to “having” my pain than I am to “being” my pain, and I don’t know how my writing will be different in this new space.

I want to turn more to writing. I have fear around this idea. Despite four published books, a current co-writing project with a friend, and a daily writing practice, I struggle with the idea that I can make money as a writer. This, despite the fact that I have years of evidence that tells me I can make money however I want to. It will likely take more time. It will likely take more courage. It will likely scare the ever-living shit out of me at times. But I like to think that if I have fear instead of being fear, it will be easier to cast off – much like I cast off hunger with a simple, delicious meal.

Love and having hunger kisses,