I was walking into the living room, with a plate of cheese and crackers, where our friends were sitting having a glass of wine before dinner. On the way I had this realization that I’ve always been afraid to offer people cheese and crackers like I was about to do. So afraid and embarrassed, I never told anyone about it, not even Jon.
Immediately after acknowledging this, I decided that this time I would do something different, this time I wouldn’t be afraid.
Later that same evening, I got into a political discussion about something I feel strongly about.
Usually when politics come up in a conversation, I go quiet.
Politics always seem a dangerous subject to me. I experienced too many angry arguments growing up in my family to feel comfortable expressing my point of view. I learned from my mother when to stop talking, how to become invisible and how to stay out of trouble.
It’s hard to write this, embarrassing to admit that I felt fear and anxiety about passing around cheese and crackers to friends. It’s not something I thought about, just something that always was.
I don’t know where the idea to do something different came from last night. I don’t know where the courage came from for me to let go of my fear. I imagine it was a much desired change, shifting slowly inside of me.
I know that when I walked into the living room and offered our friends the cheese and crackers and didn’t worry, as I always have, that I was pushing food on them, offering them something they might not want but felt obliged to eat, I felt different.
I wasn’t hesitant, apologetic or anticipating rejection. I wasn’t offering my own issues and fears (I still don’t really understand them all) along with the cheese and crackers as I had done in the past.
It was an honest and direct exchange. I made an offer and the person could either accept or reject it. That simple.
And later when I was thoughtfully and passionately expressing my opinion in the conversation we were having, I wasn’t afraid either. I spoke my mind and even though there was disagreement, no one yelled at me, no one got up and walked out angry, no one tried to make me feel stupid about what I was saying.
And even if they had, I decided I wasn’t going to be afraid of those things that kept me quiet for so long.
I know that admitting to myself my fear of serving cheese and crackers (as weird as it still sounds to me) and making the choice not to feel it, was what freed me to be able to voice my opinion later in the evening. Because it was a truth I was embarrassed and ashamed to admit.
And the more I kept it hidden, the more I repressed it, the stronger it grew.
But bringing it into the light and acting on it, behaving differently, released its power over me.
I feel like I’ve been discovering my fears and learning to let go of them for years. Some of them are so ingrained in me (like the cheese and crackers), they are such a part of who I am, I didn’t even see them as something I have a choice about.
But being honest about my fears, having someone I can trust to tell them too, without having to worry that I’ll be ridiculed, makes confronting and dealing with them so much easier.
I had a hard time writing this piece. In some ways it felt trite to me considering the fears that so many people have to deal with.
But it’s really about the fear, not the cheese and crackers. It’s about understanding and being able to change myself for the better.
It’s about finding my strength and my voice, again and again.