Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.
Six-plus years ago when my book, Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude, was published I was terrified. I felt naked and exposed. I was, figuratively, both of those. In the weeks leading up to the publication date, I wrestled and considered pulling the plug on the whole thing. But I faced that fear and good came of it.
In the weeks, and months, and years that followed, when people stopped by my office to chat, or I read an email from someone who had been touched by my story, or I sat in a coffee shop talking about brokenness and healing—or that time I looked out into the audience of a panel discussion I was participating in, and saw a young man coming undone with a grief I knew well, who, when I spoke to him later, said “thank you”—I knew that risking vulnerability and sharing my words had been the right thing.
When I was in my early twenties, I read Betty Jean Lifton’s Lost and Found, and the first spark of understanding that I was not alone in my adoptee confusion began a slow burn toward truth. It would be years before I got to the core of it all, but the work started when I read her words.
My daughter feels a call to words. She is just now reaching a place where she is able to begin sharing her truth, with the long-term goal of helping others. She jokes about how I’ve gently nagged (I like to think of it as encouraging) her to return to writing as she has worked through hard and personal stuff. A text message from her last evening (The first post is up!) lets me know she has begun.
And then there is my new manuscript.
Someone asks me about it, and I confess that I’ve set it aside because it feels too vulnerable to continue right now. I wonder, not for the first time, what that is about. It’s memoir-ish, but it’s not about me. It is about my faith, and that feels oddly like standing naked and vulnerable again. I’m not sure I want to do that again.
So I turn to fiction, and dabble with short stories. I enjoy the process, and the way I’m able to craft something with words in a way I haven’t for years. I feel safe.
Gerry and I take a late summer drive to a place neither of us has been before. We travel a long and winding, bumpy road looking for fall colour and whatever else might be interesting to photograph. The ruts in the road in front of us get deeper, and we climb higher on a road leading somewhere-but-we’re-not-sure-where, and I feel fear.
We arrive at the top, and get out of the car and stand looking down over vastness. Before my eyes, the view is breathtaking; all around us is pure and sweet silence. I can’t quite enjoy it because I feel fear.
We drive a short way, and he stops to get out and look at a structure. I wait in the car, watching whispers of clouds brush by as he walks to the edge of the ridge. I imagine a storyline, and think I might pull out my notebook to jot down a few words. Then I realize the story I am imagining is rooted in fear.
And I begin to wonder about this fear, and my faith, and my manuscript, and I just don’t know.
And I still don’t know.
But I know that fear is a liar.