The view from my covered back deck is lovely: a reasonably-sized treed lot in a quiet neighborhood northwest of Austin, Texas where we moved about a year ago to retire. The overhead fan tempers the 87-degree heat. Being outside in nature increases my ability to whack through the bramble bush in my head and allows me to do a brain dump onto the pages of my journal.
What I found myself writing about was the guilt and fear I’m feeling, calling it out by name, admitting to being overwhelmed and scared about so many things. I made an exhaustive list of the pressures, self-induced or otherwise, that were weighing me down. When I reached the commitment identified as “She Writes Press publishing tasks” I seized up.
“I’m terrified,” I wrote.
I began exploring why finishing my manuscript edits and rewrites and associated publishing commitments would cause me to freeze. “What’s up with the terror?” I asked. Well, I replied, it’s totally unknown. It feels huge and foreboding. I feel stupid, inept, and incapable, scared I won’t be able to figure it out. All the feelings I had when, fifteen long years ago, I took a weekend intensive scuba-diving class.
I’m sitting here shaking my head as the memories surround me. After several hours in a classroom setting the first night, I had to ask myself why I was taking the class. Friend Mary, who had encouraged me, said scuba diving was practically a religious experience. I would love it. But why I really signed on was for my new husband, an experienced diver who apparently found God under water. Except, in the class, the instructor was very clear that under no circumstances should one learn scuba diving to make someone else happy. Crap. I pretended I wanted to learn. The truth was, I wanted to please.
The next day, what a disaster. A young, foolish student teacher made me swim eight laps rather than the standard four others were expected to finish, all because I wore fins I thought I was supposed to wear rather than go non-finned. Eight full laps later I was exhausted. The training went from bad to worse. We were in a pool, for God’s sake. How bad could it be? Under water, the deeper we went, the greater my panic. And my vertigo-based ear issue kicked in. The head instructor came to my rescue and stayed with me. She held my hand, helped slow my breathing down, and brought tears to my eyes—which is sort of hard to deal with wearing a mask.
“Scuba diving isn’t for everyone, Jeanne,” she said once we were out of the pool. I sobbed that night as my husband held me and assured me it was okay. I could stick with snorkeling. I skipped dinner, went to bed, and cried myself to sleep feeling like a failure.
I’m trying to figure out the moral of this story. I did have a teensy-weensy aha moment just now as I wrote about the handholding the head instructor provided. I guess that’s the better path rather than quitting in this case; I love writing. I’ll take one step at a time, several deep breaths, look for some handholding, and move into this whole publishing thing.
Besides, in addition to loving writing, I love dinner and skipping it isn’t an option.