I’m trying to write. I’m reading the first post of my blog to prove to myself that I did it before, and can do it again. But my eye keeps going to the photo of the hiker stepping across the gap, and all I can see is that she falls, that her step isn’t big enough to get her to the other side.
My pulse is racing. I’m scared, not of heights, but of writing. ‘I can’t write’ ‘I never could’ ‘I never will’.
I’m pouring with sweat. I open a window and drink the cool air. I think, ‘Whoa, what just happened?’ And I see the word ‘racing’, how it led straight to ‘I’m scared’, which turned into ‘I can’t’.
So I try out other words for my strongly beating heart and find ‘pumping’, which takes me to the mechanics of it, to chambers and valves, and the job of getting oxygen around the body. And it’s easier, then, to stay with the thudding in my chest, to be grateful for it, to remember all the other times my heart works hard for me, cycling, carrying shopping, climbing a hill.
There’s an ache in my throat and cheeks and jaw, so I look and find thoughts like ‘I failed’ ‘My life never turned out as I intended’. Thoughts my mind slips into as easily as my feet into my old walking boots, which I still wear though the stitching’s come undone, and the wet gets in, and new ones lie in their box in the corner.
There’s an ache in my heart, similar but softer and not really mine, for everyone who thinks they failed, or wanted life to go one way but it went another. And the fear response, when it comes back, is that of anyone who’s frightened; the blustering politician, the child starting back at school, even the earthworms on the lawn on a wet night, the way they shoot into their holes, fast as pink rubber bands, when my footsteps shake their ground.