My younger son tends to be clingy. He hangs onto things. He had a stuffed tiger named Kitty who traveled with us on every trip for two years, until she ran away (okay, disappeared somewhere in our house, we think.) He had a favorite blanket that he slept with, and chewed on every night, until we talked him into throwing it away on New Year’s Eve 2010 (following the advice of his dentist.) Last weekend, after several months of being a five-year-old, we took the training wheels off his bike, despite his protests.
We went to an empty parking lot and my husband taught him the basics on “big boy bike riding.” My older son strapped elbow and knee pads on his brother. It was a rare moment of compassion that touched me because most of their interactions are not tender at all. My younger son screamed when the bike started moving. He cried that he couldn’t do it. My husband promised he was right there (but neglected to mention that he was not touching the bike at all.)
My younger son would ride for several seconds, but as soon as he realized he was riding unassisted, he would panic, lose his balance and fall. We rode circles around that parking lot to get him comfortable with the bike and he did well at navigating the turns. After several solo laps without a tumble, we thought he was ready to take it to the streets.
As soon as we left the parking lot and rode on the sidewalk by the street, he panicked – falling off the bike and into the street. After several attempts, we decided he wasn’t ready yet, so we went back to the parking lot and he rode four more laps around the lot without him wrecking the bike.
We exited the parking lot, and as soon as we got to the street, my son quit pedaling and his bike fell over, dumping him into the street once again. He screamed and cried angry tears. He begged for the training wheels. That day, riding within the confines of the sidewalk or the paved street was too much for him, so he walked his bike home. Fear had grabbed hold of him and wouldn’t let go. I still believe he had the skills to do it, but his brain wasn’t ready.
I can relate to him. I feel the same way when it comes to writing my second novel. No, I haven’t sat in the street and cried (yet) but I know how it feels when fear won’t let go. I wrote one novel, so I know I have the capacity to do it, but for some reason my brain isn’t cooperating. I can’t imagine what I might be afraid of.
Maybe it’s something else. I’m only guessing that fear is the culprit behind my lack of progress (aided and abetted by procrastination and life) because that’s usually the cause of my stagnation. Fear is unlike mutual funds: past performance is a good indicator of future results. In the past, fear has surrounded me in a cocoon of sameness, protected from the dangers of the world. It pushed air through my lungs and controlled my heart. Fear suspended my dreams in this coma while I went through the motions of living.
Several years ago, I awakened when I began writing that first novel. I’ve got a few novel ideas that I want to plot out and a growing list of short story topics. I’m not willing to close my notebooks, shut down the computer and hand them over to fear, so I continue to fight off this unknown enemy, while searching for its identity.
I’ve ruled out fear of success. Traumatic as it would be to sell my work and get to the point where writing could be my day job, I think I could manage.
It can’t be fear of failure, either. My first novel is gathering dust on a bookshelf; it can only improve from there, right? 🙂