02 June 2016

That one time I overcame my fear of the Internet...

"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" 
 Psalm 27:1

I recently had a real-life, in-person, face-to-face, talking-with-my-mouth conversation with someone I'm getting to know (I didn't say "friend" because I'm not sure she yet considers me one - that's such an introvert thing! Why can't I just bring myself to use the word "friend" a little more gratuitously? Ugh! Introversion is hard!). This person follows me on social media. She asked if I write. Then she said that she likes the way I come across on social media and if I do, in fact, write that she'd like to read some of my stuff. So, I told her that I write on a blog. 

But then I began fumbling over my words because I realized I'd only written on my blog once in 2015. I tried to explain to her why I stopped and basically admitted that it was out of fear.

Fear. The realization shocked me because I'm not a fearful person. I very rarely feel anxiety and I don't "freak out" over things. In fact, I could probably benefit from worrying a little more, according to my husband.

As I talked, I became angry because fear - this thief, this liar - had robbed me of one of the biggest joys of my life.

For me, writing is very personal - almost therapeutic - since I have significant trouble processing out loud. Feelings, emotions, thoughts and words flow much easier from the end of my pen or the tips of my fingers as the keyboard clicks. When you see my words on a page or a screen, know that they have been very carefully analyzed, selected and composed. (I often project this onto other writers as well - so I get very "impassioned" when words are either plagiarized or not accredited to the author.)

When I write and post my work to the World Wide Web, I put myself in a very uncomfortable and vulnerable place as writing is also my artistic outlet. Did you read that Facebook post, 140 character Tweet or Instagram caption of mine? Yeah. It was probably written, edited and rewritten at least five times before it was "perfect." And even then, the perfection falls so far short for the artist. 

A few years ago, I walked through a bit of mess of my own making that shriveled me up a little. Have you ever seen a spider carcass with its legs all pulled in under its body? That's kind of how I felt. Or maybe more like how a scared pill bug rolls in on itself. I hurt someone I love. And coming back from that was difficult. My feelings were numb and raw at the same time. I didn't want to offer them to anyone. 

And then right about the same time, the Internet got really, really mean and the spider carcass crumpled up some more. The pill bug rolled tighter.

So, in 2014 and 2015, I retreated from writing on my blog; I retreated from my art. Internet, I was afraid that you wouldn't like the part of me that I showed you and that you'd say horribly mean things about my thoughts and words right there in the comments section of my art - the same way you say horribly, mean things about all the other the people who look differently than you, believe differently than you, vote differently than you, live differently than you, act differently than you and parent their children differently than you.

So, I hung out on social media and remained innocuous and funny. But even then, little barbs pierced my 140 characters or less. And that made me even more afraid.

When I did write for other sites I contribute to, I balled up in anxiety and I obsessed over the "inevitable backlash" that never came.

This particular piece of art is me unrolling my little pill bug existence and overcoming the fear. And, wow! The sensation of writing - choosing the right words, linking them together to form the sentences that accurately capture my emotions - that feels so much better than the fear. 

Will I get upset if you say mean things about my art? Maybe, a little. But I don't care. Writing makes me feel alive, unfettered, purposeful. It's a gift given to me by the Lord and that knowledge far outweighs the momentary sting of a troll's jab. I refuse to live in fear ever again.

So, to the friend who asked me if I write: Yes, I do. And thank you for reminding me.

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