An Open Letter to My Fear

gun We first met when I was young. You wore a crisp, black suit with a black tie. You knelt down, shook my hand, and introduced yourself as a friend.

You were selling me security, safety. My parents, of course, were on board with this. In the beginning, you started off with simple lessons:

Don't cross the street without holding someone's hand; you could be hit by a car.

Don't play with Dad's razor; you could get cut.

Wear a helmet when you ride your bike; you could damage your head.

After a little while, I started to trust you. You became more and more a part of my life--you moved in, you came with me to school, to church, to the park. You followed me, always just behind me, always ready to jump in and save me from myself.

Still, I made you crazy at times. I could be stubborn. Like the time I ignored your screaming at me not to play with fire. That was the day I almost burned the woods down. I spent 30 minutes stamping out little flames, and you scolded me the whole time. I still think it was one of the funniest days of my life.

It took something a little more close to home for me to listen to you, though.

You remember that night, right? The night my girlfriend told me she was upset because I had ignored her, that she spent the day with that one guy, that she ended the night with her lips on his?

I was lying on the floor, pieces of my heart scattered around me, when you laid your hand on my shoulder like the gnarled claws of a vulture and whispered in my ear, "You see? You see what happens when you open your heart? You see what happens when you make a mistake?"

I did see. You helped me up, and you wrapped your arms around me, and you said, "I know what's best." I nodded and rested my head on your shoulder. You smelled like a hospital room.


Every day, I affixed all of the pieces of armor you wanted me to wear under my clothes. To protect you, you would say. And I would drag myself, clumsy, clanking, toward the door to face the dangerous world outside.

For a while, I walked only where you allowed me to walk. I tried only what you allowed me to try. I shared only what you allowed me to share. I loved only how you allowed me to love.

I would see someone living out their dreams, but you would be there, just over my shoulder, to point out that I could never do that. Tsk, tsk. Too risky.

I would start to speak up about what I wanted or needed, but you would put your hand over my mouth and remind me that she might leave me. Shh. It's not important, then.

You worked so hard to get me like that. You miss those days, I'm sure.


We were in the middle of a fight, you and me. Who knows anymore what set it off, but I was standing there in all my cumbersome armor and telling you how claustrophobic it had all become and how I hated living like this and how I didn't think you actually cared about my well-being after all.

"Without me," you said through clenched teeth, "you wouldn't survive."

I looked at you and began to peel off the armor you made me wear. They fell to the ground until I was surrounded by cast-iron flakes of skin.

"Do your worst," I said.

You pulled a revolver, black as your eyes, out of your coat and pointed it straight at my heart. I followed the barrel with my eyes to your hand and up your arm and shoulder and to your sick, still face with all its quiet hate.

I thought you were bluffing.

I was wrong.


After you pulled the trigger, after you left me a bloody mess there on the floor, you thought you had finally broken me for good.

You thought you had made me your blind Samson, shackled and docile, with nothing left to do but grind grain and wait for death.

You were wrong.


I saw you, Fear, do your worst, and realized my heart was still squeezing blood to all corners of my body, my lungs were still feeding me air, and that your gospel of safety and security and self preservation was a slick sales pitch designed to steal my life, not protect it.

Now that I've seen you for what you are--not a friend, not family, not someone who wants what's best but a slimy, slithering parasite--I want you out. Gone. You're not welcome here anymore.

No more following me like my shadow. No more whispers in my ear. No more scary stories at night while I'm trying to fall asleep. I'm done with that now.

I'm sure I'll find you on the sidewalk outside my house begging to get a word in, or that I'll find some messages from you late at night trying to tell me about how dangerous it is to put my heart on the line or dream dreams or risk disappointment. I'm sure you'll do everything you can to work yourself back in.

Go ahead and try.

I stared down the barrel of your gun.

I watched you pull the trigger.

I felt your bullet tear through my flesh and lodge itself in my chest.

On what should have been my death bed, Love found me, reached inside and pulled the bullet out and reconnected my blood vessels and pieced my tissue back together and set my rib cage back in place and told my heart to beat and my lungs to expand and stood me on my feet and looked me in my eyes and said in a voice simultaneously as powerful as a waterfall and as soft as the dew:

"Fear no longer has power here."

Love has moved in now, and I only have room for one.

I hope you'll understand.

Farewell, fear.


Feature photo ©2008 AppleDave | Flickr | cc

On Hope: I May Have a Problem


"May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." -Nelson Mandela

Ever since I first stumbled upon these words on January 17th, I haven't stopped thinking about them. They've climbed out of my computer screen and, like vines, have wrapped and twisted themselves all around me.

For almost two weeks now, I've wrestled with the words and what they might actually look like in my life. What choices am I making out of fear? What choices could I make out of hope? Which choices are wise, cautious choices and which ones are steeped in sanitized safety?

I have a dark little secret I've been hiding.

Every time I've sat down to grapple with these questions, it's as if I've taken a small sip of hope--I like to envision it with a bit of tonic water, some ice, and a squeeze of lime. I've been holding the glass close to my lips these past two weeks, letting the contents sting my nostrils. Eventually, sips quickened and became gulps. I've kept pouring into my glass, cutting more limes, refilling the ice trays. And after days and days and days of downing this stuff, when I finally went to stand up, the room was spinning. I started thinking wild thoughts. I could feel the liquid courage coursing through my veins.

Friends, I'm completely, shamelessly drunk on hope.

I'm gone, man.

I'm so gone, I don't even care what making hopeful decisions "looks like" anymore. You see, when you've had too much hope to drink, you don't worry about the details anymore. You say whatever hope brings rushing out of your mouth. You throw your chair down, march in a crooked line to the dance floor, and start moving your body in awkward and glorious freedom. It doesn't matter what people think at that point--hope has taken over.

I know some of you are laughing at me. I know some of you are shaking your head, thinking, So sad. So naive. If only he could see what we're seeing. It's quite embarrassing, really.

I'm okay with that. I'm okay that you think almost all of those things; you can even go as far as to feel pity for me. I know I'm stumbling around, eyes glazed over with dreams, moving my limbs with the grace of a giraffe on sedatives.

Do not, however, mistake me as naive. I know full well the dark side of hope and its brutal, crippling hangover. I know the cost. I know the risk. I've paid dearly, and I have the scars to prove it.

I understand that I'm headed for disappointment.

I understand my heart will be broken.

But here's what analyzing that Mandela quote, what binge drinking hope has made me realize:

I'm so done being afraid of disappointment and fearing the worst. 

You know, I used to be young and reckless with hope. I used to climb to the roof and, with stupid confidence, declare that I could make the leap into the pool below. I used to laugh when people would tell me I couldn't or that I was crazy.

I've lived for some years now an existence in which I let sensible, sober people convince me that my dreams were too big, that my hopes were too high, that my expectations were too great. I came to believe that I wasn't allowed to ask or hope for anything good, let alone great. I buried my bottle. I flushed all my hope down the drain--every last drop.

That dry, hopeless way of living? It's been more unbearable than any disappointment I've felt from trying and then failing.

Never again. I will not resign myself to that timid, tame life.

Instead of cowering in the shadow of disappointment, instead of covering my eyes to avoid seeing a potential tumble, instead of piling up stones to protect my exposed heart, I want to stare straight down the barrel of the gun. And I'll have a goofy grin on my face, and I'll be singing a slurred, falsetto rendition of Teenage Dream. I refuse to bow down to the fear of failure.

This kind of approach to life isn't for everyone. It's foolishness, really. You have to be ready to peel yourself off the floor again and again when disappointment inevitably knocks you off your feet. You have to keep opening your chest at the risk of adding another scar to your heart. You won't escape unscathed.

You have to be slightly off your rocker to sell out to hope.

Just so happens I'm looking to get a little crazy. To the people are also crazy enough to join me: