A beginning: On fear. Gratitude. Being here.

For me, a blank page is a major mental hurdle. It requires a lot of focus and discipline to face it and start writing. The problem is – I love to write. I love getting lost in the words and the sounds of them, the imagery, the sense of place and nostalgia all waiting to unfold. I’ve been circling this thought for weeks – that we have an absolute responsibility to face the things we fear. That in light of everything that is happening in the world – from the people we know directly who are struggling, to the people across the oceans who have suffered the loss and enormity of recent earthquakes, tsunamis, economic struggle, disease – when confronted with all of these things, how on earth can our personal fears stop us from living, being present, squarely in your own body? Right here. What, indeed, do we really have to lose?

Let me warn you right now, this is personal; this is largely stream of consciousness introspection.

For too long, I’ve lived comfortably in the space of being fine, okay, happy often, sad sometimes, but even. The reach for that space of joy and real contentment seemed reserved for people that had it together – the people that went to college right from high school, that graduated with a degree in something useful and tangible rather than taking years to travel and explore the world and the country around us. My time in school consisted of finding ways to get college credit for independent studies where I could travel and write, speak another language – a real liberal arts education-learn about the world you live in-type of experience. My degree is a BA in International Studies, or sometimes I throw in the political science, or the writing focus. I went to The Evergreen State College, known locally as a “hippie school” – and nationally as an incredibly progressive and successful twist on conventional pedagogy. Talking about what your degree from Evergreen is in – well, it really just depends on your audience. All of this to say: I have taken the long way round to find myself in this place – Seattle, working in one area but entirely immersed in another, surrounded by people I love and respect, connected, but often solitary.

I’ve got these thoughts roiling around that are full of people I know dealing with the REAL stuff:

  • One friend, she is vibrant and young and beautiful – she is about the kindest person you may ever meet – she has cancer, she struggles everyday to overcome the utter unfairness and indignities of this disease. She is inspiring – she wakes up every day and fights this. (I am working hard not to swear here, this makes me so angry that invectives seem the only real way to convey.)
  • There is another woman that invited me into her home when I didn’t have much in the world and who allowed me the time and space I needed to get my feet under me after moving to Seattle, she’s been diagnosed with a disease that will slowly suffocate her in the next few years. She is tough and curmudgeonly. I love her.
  • In the midst of all this, my sister (through love and marriage and divorce from my dad, her mom) – she had a baby yesterday. She and her husband are young and no doubt they will struggle financially to make it work. But she had this baby boy and it’s everything you know? She is the most tender and resilient woman I know. I love her like crazy, and her husband too. I worry for them, what they’re up against starting out. But I know they will absolutely make it through, with many stories to tell. I can’t wait to see this unfold.
  • My closest friend of many years is dealing with addiction. She’s too far away and we’re too out of touch for me to know what’s going on in truth. She’s endured unspeakable loss and come through only to succumb to this part of herself again. She is whip-smart, caring, beautiful – she was my place of safety and calm for years. And right now, she is lost to me. I cannot help. Only hope, hope she surfaces and can forgive me for not being there and only able to witness this from across an ocean.

There are so many I know right now, deeply, utterly fighting to exist in a world where every day the news is full of violence, environmental disaster, fear. All this fear. In the face of all this – it seems like an affront to continue living in a space of being just okay. Do you know what I mean? When confronted by all the pressures existing, your only choice must be to live truly, fully, in the present and for yourself.

My own fears seem so trivial. They are. And yet, I think they are common.

  • After years of dropping everything I know to move to a new place, find new friends, make a new life in a new community – I want to stay put. Yet, an equal part of me wants to keep doing it, live in a foreign country, gain fluency in another language. Reinvent. Rediscover.
  • I’ve spent so much time exploring places, experiences, different directions and careers – that it feels like I may have missed that window of finding a partner, a family. It may not be true, but it feels real.
  • The part of me that feels alive and strong is spent volunteering for an organization that I love, but can’t sustain me financially. The career I’ve been in, that I’m actually really good at, doesn’t really feed me on an intellectual or emotional level.
  • And a big part of who I am – the one who creates, who writes, who sees design and truth in a moment, a photograph, that part is far too often set aside for the everyday things.

The part of writing that I love (and sometimes struggle with revealing) is the truth of it. All of what I’ve written above is raw, perhaps filtered a bit, but true. Right now, right here, true. We may have never met. We may have known each other for years. When you write honestly, from that core place, it resonates.

So here it is: I am done with safe, with feeling fine. Risk and fear and love and jumping fully into the unknown again – that is where I’m starting over. It’s the beginning, again.

And here, is what I am grateful for:

Gus Gus & Kathi Pam and Jen Dad goats in the roof Rebecca & Jen Amber & David maine shoreline Gus and Jen hollyhocks ava and chicken scott & amy Lake Sagatagan Jen and Morgan ava jane Morgan Terra Madre Alba Evergreen Mama Mom in OlympiaDeborah and Jen deborah dave fire burning beast henry dave and henry

…there is much more, many more photos, people, moments. All of it – all of it, I know I am entirely lucky and blessed to have both near and far.

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7 thoughts on “A beginning: On fear. Gratitude. Being here.

  1. Beautiful, Jen. This would be inspiring even if I didn’t know you. Fear is worthless. Also, hilarious description of the blessing/curse of the ever-flexible Evergreen degree!

  2. Jennifer, this is very well written. It’s not easy to publish the raw side of ourselves. Thank you for sharing this. It sounds like you have a ton on your mind, and rightfully so! I’m going to keep your friends and family in my thoughts- it’s amazing the shape that life’s lessons take, it’s hard to make sense of some of them. Hang in there!

  3. Thanks all – so much for reading and commenting here! It definitely feels a little like that dream where you find yourself in a big group of people you know and then realize that you’re totally naked and wonder how exactly that happened… but yeah, sometimes you just need to get something out of your system. You’re right too Melissa, all those lessons come in unexpected forms. Life is not all as dire as the parts I talked about above – lots of good too, but sometimes it just feels pretty heavy. Just needed to shine a light.

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