When I was thirteen I applied to my first writer’s workshop. I sent a thick packet of papers in an envelope I’d lifted from my father’s office store room, where shelves lined the walls with boxes of binder clips and ink for stamps.
I wrapped that tension tie tightly with string. I sent off the words and went about the business of ninth grade.
What I’d written that day when I sat down at the brand-new Hewlett Packard was stupid, really. Embarrassing. Trite. The kind of adolescent poetry whose sugary sweetness causes cavities as the words are read. But buried in the third paragraph was a single point of truth.
She’s afraid she hasn’t been in enough pain to write well. (Yes. Third person. I was being innovative, you understand.)
My naive wish for hurt was granted and then some. My cup of sadness would soon overflow, like a flash flood through the foothills where I called home. But pain enough to write well wouldn’t come for years.
I didn’t understand pain until I became a mother. I’m not talking about the pain of teenage angst or an unexpected jab in the gut. The mother pain I came to know had more to do with worry. Fear. The vulnerability of a newborn shook me to my core.
The moment I knew I was going to be a mother the pain formed a list in my mind.
Bee stings. Bug bites. Fevers and carsickness. Bullies and big kids who sit in the back of the bus.
Roaming dogs. Strangers who passed me in the park.
Balls that roll into the street. Drivers who don’t always look.
Loaded guns and hormones in milk.
Sunburn and bad genes. Middle school. Skate boards.
Monkey bars, trampolines, rusty nails and trips by plane.
Outliving my children and alternately, leaving them to face their own fears alone.
The threshold of fear and love is an invisible line, and I cross over it and back again one thousand times a day.
At thirteen I couldn’t have known about the fine line between fear and love. I know it now. It’s a Strait of Gibraltar that connects us at the heart.
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And just because I love you, don’t forget to stop by yesterday’s post for a chance to win a copy of Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.