driving at night in the fog

I will never forget this one particular day, many years ago, covering the FAR NORTH rural route of my pharma sales territory. I was driving from Grande Prairie, Alberta to Fort St. John, B.C. and stopping at all the small towns, doctors offices and pharmacies in between. I don't think it was winter at the time, but I can't remember if it was not quite spring or not quite fall either. What I do remember, is that by the time I had reached the bridge crossing over the Peace River right before the town of Taylor, B.C., it was dark outside, I was driving in the thickest fog I had ever seen in my entire life, I could only see about 5 feet in front of my car and I had no idea if any other vehicles where even on the road with me.

And I was TERRIFIED of going onto that bridge and actually making it over and onto the other side. 

I couldn't risk stopping to get my bearings, psych myself up and perhaps offer up a few prayers to the universe and every god I could think of. I had no idea there were other cars or logging trucks behind me and if they would be able to see me if I stopped and so I just had to keep going. I slowed down to maybe 10-15 km an hour, kept the steering wheel as steady as I could, and my eyes on that five feet in front on me. It was very slow going, but I did not drive off the side of the bridge, and did eventually make it to the other side. And the ball of fear that filled me from the back of my throat to the pit of my stomach did not subside until I was safely in the comfort of my Quality Inn hotel bed in Fort St. John later that night. 

And apparently, according to E.L. Doctorow, writing is EXACTLY like that night. "You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Last week while I was at the Mom 2.0 Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, I had the incredible honour of sitting front and centre in an intimate session with @The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson. She read us the first chapter of her new book, Furiously Happy and it was incredible! And for Jenny, because of the content and context of this book and what she was revealing to all of us, most of it out loud for the first time, it was also very likely an incredibly terrifying experience for her. 

Her honesty, her willingness to just be so ridiculously and sometimes painfully herself and do so even when she is afraid and anxious and yes, often in need of various medications just to stand up on a stage, made me love her even more than I already do. Listening to Jenny read from the bedazzled binder that holds the manuscript of her book and then share some of her insights about writing and life was just the thing I needed to hear.

I needed to hear (again) that writing is hard. Even for those for whom we think it comes so naturally. I needed to know that imposter syndrome is a real thing and that a lot of people have it and it's very much like having a mean girl live in our head and tell us our outfit sucks all the time. I needed to know that perfect prose does not just happen in a day or an hour sitting in front of a computer screen. It takes work, editing, and time, and usually it is a lot of all three of those. I needed to hear that you don't have to be perfect at doing something in order to do it. That it's OK to tell yourself to "pretend to be good at it" and to even write that on your arm if you have to, as a reminder for when you think you are totally going to mess up. 

Jenny and I are going on stage at #mom2summit. She wrote her notes on her arm. @thebloggess

A photo posted by Laura Mayes (@lauramayes) on

Quick fact about me: I am terrified all the time. 

Not in an "OMG the world is going to end and I can't leave my house!" kind of way, it's more of a, "I feel so broken and insecure that the only way I can function is if I make everything look perfect on the outside" kind of way.  I know that doesn't sound terrifying, but there is an insidiousness to perfection and therein lies the terror. Because, if perfection (in any or all it's forms) is the goal, mistakes can't happen. And if you are constantly living with a fear of making mistakes, well, life can get rather intimidating and overwhelming. And then paralysis sets in. Because the best way to avoid making mistakes, is to NOT DO ANYTHING.  

This particular pathway of thinking/not doing is a road very well travelled in my brain. It is quite literally the path of least resistance in almost all creative and personal risk-taking endeavours in my life. When something gets hard, when I can't wrap it up all pretty-like or find a way to say something without offending, or please as many people as possible, then I stop doing it. {For reference - see my overflowing draft folder of posts and rants and things I "can't" write about started and then left to die.} 

My dear friend and unofficial (as in, I don't know if she knows this) life coach, Marissa, calls me on this all the time. I physically do not make eye contact with people when topics of conversation become messy or when I have to confront any of the imperfections in myself or my actions (or inactions). I literally break off the connection with whomever I am talking with and will do all I can to deflect the conversation elsewhere, more often than not, all the way over to a topic, or subject, or very well-rationalize excuse that I have already perfected. 

Perfection and fear are strange, yet completely compatible bedfellows in my life, and I feel like it's time they get their own bedrooms, in their own houses, far, far away from me.

Stephen King once said, "If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered." And so, in that vein and because, well, he is Stephen King and I figure he knows a few things about fear, I thought I would go ahead and articulate my fears.

**deep breath**

1. Clowns. Thanks Mr King. I got that one from you! 

2. I've never really felt like I "fit in" anywhere. We moved around a lot when my parents split up and starting in a new school and in a new language in Grade 3 was a tough transition that I don't think I have ever fully recovered from. I wonder if I purposely keep myself on the outskirts of groups, never really fully committing myself to them or the people in them, because that is where I know how to at least feel a completely dysfunctional sense of "belonging".

3. I fear that no matter what I do, no matter what I accomplish, it is never going to be enough. Not necessarily enough for me, but enough for the people around me whom I fear I am going to disappoint.

4. I am afraid to unlock the truly vulnerable parts of me, on the page/screen, as well as in real life. When I have done so in the past, there have been consequences that, while out of my control (ie: other's responses), still affected me and made me question myself, my writing and my chosen medium of artistic and personal expression and exploration.

5. All racquet sports. I have no depth perception and therefore I have an intense fear of balls flying at my face/head!

6. Gossip. I fear gossip on two fronts. First, I fear that people are talking about me and making assumptions about and judging me, my life, my parenting and my choices, and secondly, I fear how easy it is to get swallowed up in gossip about others and the judgement that then comes from me. 

7. I fear the fact that there are huge chunks of my childhood that I don't remember AT ALL and I wonder why that is. I am deathly afraid of what is behind those locked doors in my mind. 

8. I am afraid that I am not a good mother. Ok, wait. That is not true. I am a GOOD mother. I am afraid that I am just not the kind of mother I think I am supposed to be. And that right there is the most fucked up sentence and thought ever. Replace "mother" with "woman" and it's the same kind of messed up. As a woman and mother, I HATE being told what to do and how to do it. Yet we live in a world where that is our reality, every day, all day. In magazines, blogs, television, movies, we are forever being told and shown how to be a "good" mother or a "good" woman. The bar is set and reset and reset yet again. And we are constantly being measured and weighed and it is exhausting. I fear that in my efforts to keep up, to do what I am supposed to do, I am losing sight of what and who (myself, my children) are right in front of me. 

9. I am afraid that I don't have a "good enough" story to tell. Which is kind of a bummer when your dream in life is to be a really good storyteller. 

10. I am afraid that I lack ambition, that I am lazy and not really trying hard enough. But then I wonder, do I actually lack ambition or am I just paralyzed by ALL THE DAMN FEAR??  

Fears, articulated. 

Notes, written on arms.

Driving in the fog, at night, over a bridge. 


Slowly getting to the other side.