Monday, April 30, 2012

fears and such

Secret: I am a fearful person. For example: I have never actually outgrown my fear of the dark. Also: I have a serious fear of dying. Things like blood clots and brain aneurisms and cancer terrify me on a daily basis. (Weird? Mmm, yes.) Another fear I have is Failing with a capital F. I look around me at the people my age and see them acquiring careers and mortgages and – gulp – children. Inevitably, when I look myself up and down in the mirror, I think, “Is that what I should be doing?” At tax time, the accountant asked, “Do you contribute to RRSPs?” and I had a mini panic attack. (Does anyone else get heart-palpitations when they hear that question?)

Needless to say, I have a great many fears.

I actually don’t want to talk about my fears, though. What I want to talk about is the thing that saves me from them. I was in my favourite coffee shop recently working on revisions when a thought burst into my head: This is what saves me.

Writing is what I meant. And in a much broader sense, stories save me. Stories about living and dying. Stories about struggling. Stories about being true to yourself and the things that are most important to you (or not being true to those things and watching the fallout). Stories remind me that I’m not alone. They re-orient me.

The reason I fear careers and mortgages and RRSPs is because these things assume a sense of permanency and stability. But when I looked around me, I see uncertainty everywhere. Situations change. People change. The world as we know it changes. I myself am the most changeable thing around. Trust me. But stories? Stories don’t change. (That’s actually false in almost every way but the one I mean.) Stories have been around for as long as there have been people living and breathing and surviving alongside each other. When life is good, stories are there. When life is not so good, stories are still there. Stories tell us back to ourselves, like mirrors. They're true in the rawest and wildest sense of the word.

Just like stories, writing is a tool I use to make sense of the world. It helps me not be so afraid. It's the thing I fall back on, again and again and again. And in that sense, writing is for me what RRSPs are for other people. It's a form of security in an ever-changing world. Writing is my saving force.