A few days ago I stood on the beach and watched my three daughters galloping along on their horses. I watched their hair stream out behind them as they thundered along the shore, laughing wildly, high on adrenaline, any fear they may have had as they took the first tentative steps onto the sand completely conquered.
The mother in me felt so proud of them, happy that they were fulfilling a dream so early in their lives – it was my eldest’s 19th birthday and this had been how she wanted to celebrate. That was after the other mother in me, the worrier, stopped clenching her fists and quivering inside, asking myself the gnawing what-if’s: what if the horses are frightened and rear, what if one of them falls off and hurts themselves, what if, what if, what if?
Another part of me, whatever is left when the mother is removed, felt envious and jealous. I have a horse and I love to ride but generally in an enclosed, familiar arena where the chances of anything going wrong are minimised. Each time I saddle up the worry wart inside me asks what if? My horse Morocco is quiet and reliable, happy to plod like his owner and rarely gives me any cause for concern. And yet the concern lingers. Riding is something I have only taken up in adult life. It’s something I love and have overcome an enormous amount of fear in order to do. It’s a pastime where things can and do go wrong – there are plenty of horror stories out there about people being injured or even killed by horses and for some completely irrational reason it’s these stories that seem to have more influence over my thinking than the joy and freedom that come with riding.
It’s the same with writing, at least for me. Writing is something I love to do with a passion. It’s a way of escaping the world and diving into one of my own creation. A way of making sense of the world around me and where I belong in it. And yet it’s also something I often avoid. I come up with the usual excuses: I don’t have time right now; after the house is cleaned/ the kids are out/ the dog is walked ( and that doesn’t happen often either). You know the drill.
When I do put pen to paper I get that same zing I get when I have a great horse-ride. The pleasure of losing yourself in the moment, of truly letting go, of being free. Writing something that flows and transports you to that other place is, I imagine, like galloping along that beach. Both involve being completely present and both require letting go of fear.
When it all comes down to it the thing that stops me writing, whenever I do stop or avoid it, is fear. Fear of not knowing what to say, fear of making a mistake, the fear of not being good enough. It’s an irrational reaction that I’m sure many writers experience and one many women have on a daily basis in diverse areas of their lives. Giving in to that fear means we miss the joy, the exhilaration that writing can give us, just as I’m missing out on the exhilaration of flying along the beach on my horse, of allowing myself to let go and be. Of living in the present without being afraid of what might – or might not – happen.
So high on my list of resolutions for 2012 is going to be letting go of fear. In writing, in riding and in as many areas of my life as I can manage.
What do you dream of doing that you’re too afraid to try? What fears will you let go of in 2012?