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  • On a more serious note….

    2012 - 03.28

    The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

    FDR may have been more eloquent in the presentation but he couldn’t have felt more passionate.

    As happens many times, I hear a song that strikes a chord within me, brings back a memory, allows me to ponder certain events in my life. That is what is on my mind today.

    I started writing for fun and profit (sarcasm there) in 1995. I sold several short stories that I’d written in the evenings after work. It was thrilling to see my words in national magazines and of course I daydreamed about, one day, seeing my name on the cover of a book, but deep inside I knew I’d never achieve that dream because I was too afraid to write an entire book. I feared rejection, I feared not being good enough, smart enough, witty enough, deep enough-whatever, to garner the attention of anyone that would publish an entire novel created from my imagination. So I toddled along, working my day job, writing whenever the muse came to visit, if I had time. Then time came to a standstill in my world. What at first seemed to be nothing was diagnosed as a very aggressive form of cancer. Whoa.

    Within the space of days, my entire universe tilted on its axis. I’ve often said that when a person has cancer, the entire family, everyone they love, has cancer. The disease is so frightening; it stuns everyone that loves that patient. In fact, it may be harder on the loved ones. All the patient has to do is strive to survive; the loved ones have to sit by and feel helpless and scared out of their minds.

    After several surgeries that I swore I wished I’d died instead of consenting to, the chemo began. Again I questioned why I was even doing that. Surely it was easier to just die already. My poor, terrified husband sought for anything that would make me smile, perk me up so I would want to continue living. He said, “Gloria, you’ve always wanted to be a full-time writer; now is as good a time as any.”

    “Are you insane? Now? I’m hoping to die and NOW is the time to start writing full-time?”

    He shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. “As good a time as any, don’t you think? Start out slow, write more as you have the energy.”

    I mumbled and grumbled, then realized not only was I mad that he thought it was a good time to start a whole new career, in the middle of chemotherapy, but also because I finally had to face the fact that I was afraid I’d fail. I turned it over in my mind for a few days and then I had one of the many epiphanies I had during that time.

    I’m surviving cancer. I’ve all ready lived longer than they thought I would so, indeed, how bad can it be if I fail at being published in book form? I’ve made it through the valley; why not shoot for the moon? Even if I don’t make it, I went farther than I ever dreamed I would and after cancer, heck, what do I have to fear?

    It took months and the first two books were rejected so many times I finally gave up on them. But at that point my hair had grown back in, was shiny, soft and curly, so I got all fiery and sassy and thought, “No siree, publishing is not going to destroy me.”

    I’d written a short story that won first place in a large competition; the story was about my Mamaw, how she used to wash the dead before burial. I’d titled it “Tending the Dead” and it had come from my heart. One day I held that story in my hands and it gave birth to an entire book titled Saturday Night Cocoa Fudge. I submitted it for consideration and a publisher said he liked it and would like to publish it. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have lift-off!

    A few other books followed, including one that should be released this month titled Through the Shadows. I have had 58 short stories and articles published. I had a full page article (with photos!) in Women’s World, and was asked to be a contributor to a couple other authors’ books. When I do the math, I realize that NINETY FIVE percent of that has happened since I was diagnosed with cancer. Most of the success I’ve had came after I made it through that dark valley and said I had nothing left to fear.

    Fear comes in many forms. Fear of flying, fear of commitment, fear of being vulnerable.  One of my fears was being honest with my feelings, in my own life and the way I dealt with other people. I felt if I built a wall around me no one could get through to hurt me. But let me tell you, there’s no greater fear that the one of dying.

    So now I rarely hesitate when it comes to telling people how I feel. Most of the time that’s a good thing. I used to hold back, wouldn’t tell someone I cared about them because I was afraid they’d reject me, think I was being phony, or laugh at my honesty. No more. When someone touches my heart, when I love them, I tell them. I never know when a day may come when they won’t be there and I missed a chance to let them know. By the same token, if you anger me or hurt my feelings, I’m honest about that, too.

    Cancer freed me. I wouldn’t wish a disease or illness on anyone but I do wish that everyone had a life-altering event that made them stop, be still, truly, truly think…and allow themselves to hear what their heart is saying. It’s why I now feel that all life, no matter the creature, is precious. It’s why I’ll find a spider in my house and let it crawl on a piece of paper so I can take it back outside where it belongs. It’s why I’ll stomp the ground to shoo away a snake rather than try to kill it. My life is too short to be driven by fear, anger and discontent.

    Do I still get scared? YES! I still tremble before I speak to large groups, even though I’ve done it more times than I can count, and I’m still afraid to skydive! (Do you know which song I heard that brought this all about? Hint: Tim McGraw sang it.)

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