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Look At What You’re Afraid Of

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breastShit got real this week, y’all. One of my friends found out her breast cancer spread to several major organs, so they stopped her radiation mid-treatment and sent her home to tell her kids. Another friend found out she has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Another friend has been missing for four days, as in, no one in his family has any idea where he is. He left Tuesday without his phone, hasn’t contacted anyone and hasn’t used any of his credit cards. I cannot wrap my mind around all of this–friends with months to live, a friend possibly already gone forever.

The friend of mine who found out her cancer has spread… she’s been on my mind a lot. vanagonI’ve been wondering about regret, about getting in that camper van. She has a camper van. She has a farm, a husband, and two beautiful sons. She wrote recently about a dream she had 25 years ago, in which she saw herself in a farmhouse, looking out the screen door at her husband working in the garden and her boys playing in the grass. She is living that dream–she made it come true with lots of hard work, thrift, and determination. She also has a deep desire to see her future grandchildren, to fish with them and go camping. That probably won’t happen. But about the life she has now, and the life she has lived so far, I’m pretty sure she has few regrets. She traveled when she was young, she married the handsomest man she met, she bought a small farm and a camper van, and she has raised a family there. Given the reality of her impending death, I see that I need to figure out some things myself. I need to stop feeling desperate and unhappy, and figure out what the hell it is I want to do before I go out.

One thing I know is I am a writer. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? I mean, I write every day. I teach writing. I have stories and essays in magazines. I have a book. Despite all that, I’ve found ways to fight myself and get in the way of my own true desire. A friend talked to me this week about fear. It turns out that if you look at what you’re afraid of, generally you’ll find that it’s already happening. With my writing, I fear that my daydreaming and research will have to amount to something useful, as in a publication. It’s not that it “has to” result in publication, it’s that it does. It’s already here, Lania! You research, you daydream, you build the world for your novel, and yes, you are writing it. It’s all good, Honey. The thing you fear most, that you might have to write something… because you’re a writer… is already happening. So go write, damn it.

Well, I have been writing, thank you very much. Yesterday, I tried to describe to my husband the fevered session I spent working on my new novel. He said, “You mean, you’ve been writing like a motherfucker?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s exactly it!” strayedThank you, Cheryl Strayed, for being such a wise Sugar.

That’s it for now. I gotta tend to my “day job” schtuff… grading and committee work and such. It pays the bills for now, but oh, I do hope one day to support myself entirely with my writing. Like my good friend, David Sedaris, who so graciously gave me tickets to see him last week in Bloomington, IL. When I mentioned to him that I’ll be living in England for four months next year (did I tell you, Dear Reader? I’ll be a Visiting Professor at Harlaxton College, and I’ll be teaching all creative writing, which is about as good as a day job can get)… sedariswell, David said, “I’ll see you in England, then!”

Take care of yourself. Of course, we all know this life is temporary, but it’s good to have a reminder here and there so we don’t accidentally sleep through it all. I had the good fortune to see Richie Stearns and Rose Newton at the C-U Folk & Roots Festival last weekend. I wish I could have a pocket-version of those two to take with me and apply as needed. I hope you enjoy this tune, “Trouble in Mind.”

2 thoughts on “Look At What You’re Afraid Of”

  1. Oh Lania, I’m so sorry to hear about Jeff’s friend. And the sad news of your friends. Cancer is, well, such a cancer. You shine a clear light on just what I’ve been feeling lately. My life is good, even great, but it mostly happens to me, I’m just moving through. I think I could do with some purpose and a challenge or two. Mostly I’ve just gotten lazy in m self-expectations and taking the easy way. Here’s to being more involved. We really do need to get together soon for a soup dinner. Feeding others makes me feel good.

  2. I have a friend also who’s cancer has returned but after a few days of crying she is persevering thru another set of chemo. We went to see LAST VEGAS which was very funny (a little rauchy) but had a lot of truths about life. Each day any of us have is a blessing – enjoy.

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