I’ve never trusted railings. Even in childhood, when you have some unspoken faith in everything created by adults, I wouldn’t go near them. The sturdiest of hotel balconies, fire escapes, wooden rails on a porch. It seemed strange to me that I was the only one who seemed to notice this absurd parody of safety. You see, the safety I needed required a guarantee.
Over time, I learned that you aren’t supposed to be afraid of railings. You’re supposed to lean on them, stare past them, trust them completely with your weight and your life. But still, I couldn’t get over it, so I avoided them at every turn. Let others risk the fall, it wouldn’t be me. I would stand alone. I would miss the view, but I would be safe. Beyond the railings, fear and a lack of trust would be come the sturdy mainstays upon which I would build my foundation. I thought they kept me safe, but they also kept me from trying, from being vulnerable. Still I crouched behind them in something that felt like security.
But it's a tricky thing, fear. It's the name of the book I could not write, of the life I could not live. A fear that’s so red, it would look black in the moonlight. I don't live there anymore. But that doesn't mean that I am not afraid. I am. Constantly. But, I know the difference now between fear that's a warning and fear that's a challenge, an invitation. Writing feels like that to me. Like fear extending an invitation.
I shared my writing with my closest people last week, my parents. I have never been a person who shares. I don't share the things that count. I always felt that if I did, people would not understand, or that they would be repelled by who and what I really am. That the real me wasn't worthy enough.
I struggle with this, I think I always will on some level. But I am trying. It didn't feel right that the story of my drinking be out in the world without them knowing it. But, still, sending the link felt like taking my heart out of my chest and tossing it onto the dinner table. I couldn't protect it, it was already too vulnerable. There was no way to take it back and in those nervous, in-between hours while I waited for them to read it, I panicked. I imagined so many situations where they would never speak to me again. Where they would be angry that I shared so much on such an available platform. I thought they wouldn't understand. And in those moments I felt afraid. Groundless.
You see, I lived the first 23 years of my life as an only child. I have always been impossibly close to my parents, even through my drinking years, even now that I live across the country. They are my touchpoint, my grounding force. My people. They are very different from each other, but my husband always says that I am so obviously the product of the two of them. I have the same sense of humor, I have the same temper, the same fierce loyalty. I love the same. The threat of a loss of any of this felt unbearable.
I called them back and asked them to read it immediately. I couldn't take the uncertainty of waiting. I apologized for being an emotional bulldozer of a child, even now when I am not a child anymore and I tried to go about my day normally, but I was incapable of doing more than putting one foot in front of the other. Like a ghost in my own life, waiting to be real. And then, my dad called. And then my mom.
Finding out that your people still love you when you think you've given them every reason not to is like stepping out into the light of the morning before anyone else is awake. It feels like breaking open. I spoke with both of my parents that day and they both called me brave. Said that they hadn't known. That they love me. That they wanted me to keep writing. It felt like the purest love I have ever felt. Like the very best gift that I will ever be given. To be seen and understood and loved anyway is the most incredible thing. I cannot believe I waited this long to feel this. I will never stop being grateful.
And of course it's hard. Sharing in the world and sharing with the people I love is messy. There are no hard edges and I don't know what the boundaries are yet. But, I am not scared of railings anymore. I'm learning that it is okay to lean on the things and the people that are supposed to catch and support you, even if you're a little afraid that you may fall anyway. Nothing and no one can catch you every time, but I think you have to give them the chance to try.