There was a long stretch of my childhood when I went out of my way not to step on any cracks in the sidewalk. It was almost a full-blown phobia. Imagine, if you will, a ten year old girl walking down the street, eyes glued to the pavement, her stride abrupt and uneven to avoid not only the outlines of each block of concrete, but any crack within it. Because, you know, it just might break my mother’s back.
I didn’t really believe this. But you never know. Just in case. Why tempt fate? I took the same kind of precautions with all sorts of superstitions: be careful not to break that mirror, it will bring seven years bad luck. Same with popping up an umbrella inside the house. Never say or write the triple six number (see, I won’t even type it here). Remember that 1992 movie Candyman? I dare you to say “Candyman” three times while looking in the mirror. I never have, to this day. I don’t want to get butchered by the boogeyman.
They’re all so silly. Of course I don’t really believe any of that bunk, that they’ll bring bad luck or call down the devil.
(But what if it does?)
While my rational mind insists that I don’t believe in superstitions, some part of my deep dark subconscious mind must indeed believe. Or maybe-light bulb moment here-maybe it’s just part of my personality to play it safe.
There’s something horribly depressing about that thought.
Perhaps that’s why I never left my hometown; maybe that’s why I never went away to college, only to the local community college. After all, things can happen to you in that big, wide world. We don’t travel that much, not because we don’t want to see new places, but because we want to avoid the discomfort of actual travelling, as well as other horrible things like getting robbed, kidnapped, murdered, or God forbid, lost. I panic at the thought of not knowing where I am. It’s all part of my need to control my world.
Taking risks means sacrificing control.
So I look around the safe little world I’ve constructed, and I wonder-Is there any place in my life where I’ve thrown caution to the wind? Where I’ve rolled the dice and who knows what will come up?
Of course. That one thing is writing.
I don’t have any practical, sensible plan concerning this. I don’t have degrees in writing. I’m not a teacher or journalist, to pay the bills while I write the Great American Novel. There’s no good health insurance plan or a 401k attached to it. I just write stories and blog, writing one word, one paragraph, one page at a time, to see where it takes me. It’s a labor of love. Or desperation. I have a secret hope that it will one day save me; that money and accolades will someday redeem me, that I won’t end up an old woman in the gutter pushing her notebooks around in the grocery cart.
Success isn’t guaranteed, but I persevere anyway. Is that incredibly stupid or incredibly brave? One thing’s for sure-it’s risky.
Yet it’s not enough to simply pick up the pen and write. Now I have to take risks in the writing itself, to push myself to go beyond the ordinary, to probe the painful places to get to the heart of the matter. This is the one place where I can be brave, where I can step on those cracks, call down the devil and face him, defeat the boogeyman. For me, the battleground isn’t out there in the world, it’s right here in the notebook, written not in blood, but in ink.