When I Am Afraid

The muse is silent.

At least that is what I tell myself. I say that my inspiration is dried up, that the words won’t come, that there is really nothing to say right now. I begin to entertain thoughts that maybe the writing life isn’t for me, maybe it was just for a time, and that time has passed. I ponder what it means if my best creative days are behind me, and now I must move on.

Horse shit.

These are a bunch of excuses I have used to bury my feelings and my true condition. What is really going on is this: I have grown afraid. I am afraid of my own stories, my own existence, my own words. I’m afraid they don’t mean anything, that while my experiences may be true, they don’t have any meaning beyond, don’t carry with them a spark of brilliance and truth. I’m afraid my existence is one long stretch of meaningless and unimportance. I’m afraid that my words can’t resonate with anyone else out there, that they are all only self-serving, saying the same things over and over, all the while never really saying anything.

I’m afraid my stories have no place out there in the wider world, so I keep them in here, in my chest, my heart, and I watch them slowly grow cold and die.

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I am so convinced the my stories are less important than other things going on that I don’t even know how to finish this post about fearing my own stories. It’s not that I don’t want to tell them, I just know there are things I deem more important going on. Things like speaking out against child abuse in the church. Things like speaking up about violence against women and sexism in general. Things like the crumbling of self-important religious power structures. There are kidnappings happening around the world, people are inflicted with cancers and disease, and everywhere I look I see important conversations going on about the systemic issues of sin that we are all experiencing.

Meanwhile, I’m over here talking about how depressed I am, what a shitty husband I am, what my mania feels like, and how I’m struggling most of the time to still believe in a God. It feels like navel gazing in the face of important, life altering things going on all around me.

I want to believe that my stories have a place in the world, even as bigger things go on. I want to believe that personal stories have weight, testify to the experience of being human, and ultimately are what form the everydayness in which we find the divine. I want to believe these things, but right now I don’t. At least I don’t about my own stories.

I want to though.

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The truth of my fear is that I don’t think I have a purpose here in life. I am stuck in a rut of trying to go to my job, dealing with mental illness, and sleeping. I fear I have no meaning, no point, no weight.

I wonder what would happen if I gave up dreaming about church and writing. I wonder what I would fill my days with, what I would dream of at night. I wonder how I would make friends and what we would talk about. I wonder what it would be like to just give up because it all feels so pointless anyways.

Thinking this way breaks my heart and piles onto my depression, but I can’t seem to shake it these days.

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I believe that story matters. I believe that it is how we relate to each other, and to the deeper truths of existence. I believe it is good for us to tell our stories and for us to listen to the story of others. There is something so human, so beautiful, right, and good about sharing story. I really believe this. I hear it in songs, see it in movies, and read about it all over the blog world.

I know the stories I was to add to this culture of story. I know the parts of my story that I need to share, the pieces that somewhere deep down I used to believe mattered. I know the stories that I want to own by telling them well. I know the stories that make up my identity, my humanity. I know these things, but I am so afraid of telling them. I am afraid that I am the only one who will see that they mean anything. I am afraid of other people discarding my stories as nothing more than fluffy words strung together. I am afraid of other people being sick of my stories, that I am telling the same ones again and again.

All these fears, all these reasons not to share, all these reasons to keep my stories hidden in my heart.

I’m having a hard time coming up with the reasons to share my stories, the reasons to face these fears, the reasons to be vulnerable and share my words, my stories, myself. Like I said before, I don’t even know how to finish this post because of all my fears.

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I don’t want to be a man of fears. Maybe this is the biggest reason I need to share my stories, to keep writing and working. I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t believe living afraid is what humanity was designed to do, and I want to be a better human (including a better father, friend, husband, and disciple). I want to be a brave heart, a courageous person, someone my son can look up to and be proud of. I can’t be any of those things if I am fearfully keeping my stories silent.

I want to remember what it is to be alive, to feel and to share in the human experience. Fear keeps me small, hidden, quiet, and numb. These are the very things I hate about myself, the very things that make me a shallow father, shitty husband, and scared disciple.

So maybe I share these stories not for the reactions I may or may not receive from other people, but more for myself, for my own battles against fear and scarcity. Maybe I write my books as an act of defiance, even when I don’t feel defiant. Maybe I do this storytelling thing, this weaving of words and ideas, so that I can learn of peaceful revolution against the fear in my own heart.

  • Olivia

    Hi Aaron,
    Thanks for sharing this. I like writing but it’s been a long time since I was doing it on a regular basis. I don’t know why. But hearing you work through your fears makes me wonder if maybe I’m not sharing because I’m afraid of some of the same things. It’s definitely given me something to think about.
    At any rate, please don’t stop sharing your stories. Please don’t think they don’t matter. Your stories matter to me, Aaron. You matter to me.

    Peace,
    Olivia Faix

  • jennifer ellison

    When I saw your new post in my inbox I thought, “oh, good, I always like what he writes,” and then I read it an thought, “crap, I’m not quite courageous enough to admit that I’m not courageous.” I have wanted to write because I’m going through some significant transitions in life and writing helps me process but I’m afraid of what people will think about my insecurity in the process (even more so because my new job is pastoring). I’m sorry that you feel shitty, I wish that you did not, but know that in the midst of it your writing does matter to the people who read it. And, when you feel differently than you do now, your writing will still matter to the people who read it, they might just be different people who connect or need to hear your story.

  • http://clothofmanycolors.wordpress.com Tiffani

    Hey Aaron, I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now, but haven’t commented until now. I just want you to know I read your stories, and I resonate with them. Please keep writing, your words have impact, even when that impact isn’t always easy to see.