First and foremost: You. Are. Welcome for the creepy featured graphic. VERY WELCOME.
Late last year, Philip and I were walking home from the train in Chicago. Winter had set in. Snow and ice had moved in for the season, as had rectangular parkas and a hat that most certainly made his head look like a penis.
***I call these his penis hats. Four years worth of relationship later, so does he.
As is common in our relationship, I was musing over an opportunity to come — a big trip to LA where I’d be meeting with five different literary managers in the wide world of television who had read and were interested in my work.
First, it was five fucking meetings and yes, there was an exceptional level of gratitude that I had people in my life — amazing mentors — who supported my work and were willing to share it. Trying to break into writing for television is a world where the emerging writer has a near-orgasm each time a single person requests to read their full script.
Now imagine getting a single meeting request.
Then imagine getting five meeting requests.
Grateful is one word.
Scared as hell is… well, it’s four words. But it was closer to my actual feelings.
It’s not that I lack confidence in my storytelling. It’s that I was facing down five potential partners for the next step of my career.
Five opportunities to take the next step.
And it was entirely possible that all five of those opportunities could lead to zilch. I’d return home in 10 days, drinking countless pitchers of I’M GRATEFUL with a fake smile plastered across my face and have nothing to show for it but a pile of NOPE.
***The part where I interject that I’ve built a decades-long career in various iterations powered by NOPE and every no gets you closer to yes please do not make me roll-up a motivational poster and thwack you with it NOPES are inevitable and ever-so-valuable and maybe none of these five meetings would be my “fit” so of course they’d be NOPE because the work you do is just as important as the people you choose to support the work. Do you want some more cold brew? I could totally use a refill.
Swimming in my sea of hypothetical NOPE, Philip did what he does best: he talked me down.
Him: If you come home not having found the right fit, you keep going.
Me: Yeah, I know. But I’m scared.
Him: What are you scared of?
Good question, handsome spouse. Damn fine question.
It took another half block for me to work out exactly what I was scared of. It wasn’t rejection (#pro). Wanting someone who didn’t want me (see also: my 20s). It wasn’t the money spent on a potentially blank trip (see also: my 30s).
Me: I’m terrified that I’m not going to be anything more than I am right now.
I don’t think I said another word for the next 30 minutes. Because woof.
What an utterly vulnerable and human thing to feel.
To want to be more. Feel like I’ve put something good into the world.
To know that I’d come through all of this being more than the one who just… tried.
I’d never spoken that sentiment aloud before. I wondered how many times THIS was what I’d actually been scared of all these years — not achieving my potential. Rising above. Moving beyond. Leaving “possible” in the dust and making “probable” my bitch.
It’s sheer terror — to think I would end my tour on this parallel as nothing more than I was that day.
Nothing more than I am today.
And it’s good terror. It’s the most hella threat in the world, to hold “more” over my head and ask if I’m brave enough to get at it.
Saying that phrase out loud on that day back in late November gave my terror a voice. And I’ve started to perk up when it speaks up.
So today, maybe invite your terror to the table. Give it a voice. Let it speak. Stop hitting the mute button on whatever your personal terror might be and instead, use it to remind you what you want most in this world.
My terror keeps me going. It keeps me up until 2AM to finish a script or hit a deadline that pays me so I can spend the whole next day working on the writing that doesn’t quite pay me. Yet. It keeps me reading and reaching, always searching for the next story I have to tell. It makes me seek out others who have done this brave and bold thing and while they’re far ahead, they keep on giving on down the ladder — arms stretched out to lift others up.
My terror makes me look at the people in my life — my spouse, what’s left of my family, my friends, my mentors — and appreciate the hell out of them. There’s no way I can be more without their help, love, and support.
My terror makes me sit down and write each day because it reminds me how I feel when I don’t write. It also makes me step back from the keyboard long enough to enjoy a rousing game of Turtle Time with Small Dog.
If only we could all derive such enlightenment by the grace of a reptilian squeaky toy. (sigh)
The splendor, rite? She’s so pretty.
There were so many years that I lived without terror, and many of them spent in your company.
Content. Sometime complacent. Never needing to more and looking for ways to do less. I wasn’t even looking to become more efficient. I just didn’t want to work any more than I had to because I didn’t want MORE.
Today, I do.
I do want more. And while there’s much in my life that makes me content — a spouse who operates way above my intellectual pay grade, a 12-pound Small Dog who reminds me that women need to stop apologizing for the space we take up in the world, friends who care enough to ask how my life is going and friends enough so I can tell them when things aren’t… going.
I’ve given a voice to my terror and I’m gonna let it kick my ass for awhile. Let it scare the hell out of me and remind me WHY I do the shit I do. Because…
I’m terrified that I’m not going to be anything more than I am right now.
After I let that gem slip, Philip pulled me close, hugged me, and whispered with quiet confidence:
“You’re going to be so much more.”
I am. My terror will see to that.
And I’m going to stop apologizing for wanting more even though I’ve just begun.
OR super NSFW