Confession: I Am (Still, A Little, Sometimes) Afraid

It happened nearly every night.  

Five years, eight years, who can remember.  I know it was there when I lived in the historically landmarked brownstone (or whitestone, because it wasn’t really brown) on the Upper West Side, downstairs from the family who owned it, underneath the girl who was a music prodigy with her daily piano lessons.  It followed me downtown to my apartment just outside the Meatpacking District, where it still sort of smelled like meat to me, or maybe just the memory of meat, in those cobblestoned streets.  Where the tranny prostitutes would compliment my hair, or sometimes my shoes, as I left for work in the mornings.  It trekked further east when I lived in the West Village building where that famous director died, the one who was hung from her shower rod by the illegal construction worker, back when it was still real, before it became a Law & Order episode.  Somehow it even knew when I moved to LA; it migrated west like a bird that mistakenly didn’t fly south with the others.  Into my beautiful, newly built Mediterranean condo, that reeked of marble and granite and space, it penetrated through the door that was almost too heavy for me to open.  But it got in.  How did it do that?  How could it slip in without a whisper, cutting through the still air without so much as a ripple, and find me, time after time.

I would wake with a start, bolting straight up in bed, eyes wildly and blindly and frantically searching every corner.  Sometimes I would see it in the dark shadows, sometimes it was almost next to me, just beyond my reach.  Other nights I would wake up more gradually, heart speeding up as I regained consciousness, aware that it was there again.  Those nights I would lie still, so still I was barely inhaling breath.  Exhaling silently under the covers, thinking that if I could just pretend I wasn’t here, it wouldn’t know.  I would be safe.
It always knew.  It always found me.  Fear doesn’t need directions, or a maps app, or even Siri.  It just…knows. 

There was never anyone there of course.  When I turned on the light, fully awake and ready to face my intruder, he was never there.  When I crept quietly into the living room, and then the kitchen, maybe the bathroom even.  No one was ever there.  JUST THE FEAR.
Last week I booked a solo trip to Vietnam for this spring.  I have grown accustomed to people asking me, incredulously, “Aren’t you afraid to travel alone?!?”, so when my friend threw out that question after I told her about this trip, I was prepared.  I started to answer her with my practiced bravado about how anything that could happen to me when traveling alone could just as easily happen if I was traveling with someone.  How I typically fly by myself across the country, or across the world and it’s really no big deal.  But she tacked on an addendum to the question, seemingly without having heard my initial reply.  “Aren’t you afraid you will be lonely?”.
Oh.  I hadn’t prepared an answer to that question.
Sure, the thought had fleetingly crossed my mind as I was hitting “purchase” on the plane ticket, but I immediately pushed it out of my head.  Stamped it out and buried it quickly, like I did when a rogue chocolate Sixlet flew out of my hand and landed by my feet in the sand at the beach.  I piled sand over it quickly, making it disappear before a seagull could come and snatch it up in its bill.  Piled up the sand and packed it tightly over that thought until I could no longer see it, until it didn’t exist anymore.  Until someone else gave voice to it and it was unearthed again, this time with no seagull even to take it away from me.  So I was left alone with the fear again.
Yes, I am afraid of being lonely.  Yes, it may be an awful trip and I may wake up every night with that same pounding heart that I have felt for years at 2am, seeing my enemy in the shadows of a dark room.  Yes, it does make me question whether I should be going.  
Yes, I Am Afraid.
I took a special Jennifer Pastiloff Manifestation Workshop over the weekend while in Atlanta.  I’ve done a lot in the past year, and considered maybe skipping this one, but when I heard the theme for the day, it spoke to me, and demanded my attendance.
“If I Wasn’t Afraid, I Would…”
If I wasn’t afraid, I would…well, finish that sentence, to start.  Isn’t it a little scary, owning up to what we’re afraid of?  Seeing it in black ink between the lines of a blue Moleskine notebook, no longer covered up by sand?
If I wasn’t afraid, I would…talk about my feelings instead of just writing them.
If I wasn’t afraid, I would…be able to share my writing with everyone without having heart palpitations.
If I wasn’t afraid, I would…try more things without worrying about being judged.
If I wasn’t afraid, I would risk being lonely and go on this trip that I really, really want to go on.  I wouldn’t save this place for some imagined future boyfriend or husband; I would go now, travel now, experience now.
I’m ready to take that step at least.  The other things may take a little more time, a little more practice, a little more writing down.  For now, I can go on my trip, and be the beauty hunter I so want to be.  Chasing sunsets and sunrises, exploring unspoiled beaches and reading all day in solitude and doing exactly every single thing that I want to do, just for me, just with me.
As I was writing this tonight, I half-watched one of my favorite shows, glancing up here and there when something caught my ear.  But it was how the episode ended that grabbed my attention, when one of the characters softly consoled another with a simple phrase in Hebrew (phonetically): “Aht Lo Leh-VAHD”
את לא לבד.  You Are Not Alone.
Doesn’t it sound beautiful in Hebrew?  Doesn’t it resonate even more?  Isn’t it one of the most absolutely perfect things that you can ever hear, regardless even of who says it?  You Are Not Alone.  
If I feel the loneliness threaten to creep in when I am halfway around the world in Vietnam, halfway around the world from everyone I know but me, I can whisper that softly, and console myself.
Aht Lo Leh-VAHD.  You Are Not Alone.

18 thoughts on “Confession: I Am (Still, A Little, Sometimes) Afraid

  1. I’ll tell you what- you will feel lonely your first day or two. Then you’ll start feeling comfortable, then brave. You’re going to hate those first few hours/maybe even days. But when you break through it, you explore and you actually have fun. Then you come back, and you are more thankful for the experience than you’ll ever know. xo

  2. Katie!!! I love this. I applaud your fearlessness in writing it, in writing what I call “the I-don’t-want-to-write-this-and-therefore-it-most- NEEDS-to-be-written, the gunk, the MARROW of being human.” You are so courageous. I admire you. Aht Lo Leh-VAHD, beautiful, Aht Lo Leh-VAHD.

  3. Pingback: Confession: I Am (Still, A Little, Sometimes) Afraid | Body Karma

  4. beautiful ❤ now i carry that Hebrew phrase with me wherever I go ❤ Aht-Lo-Leh-VAHD…. how powerful. thank you for spreading love and light with your words. what a brave heart- thank you ❤

    • Thank you Marika! I’m sorry I’m just seeing this comment now but I’m so glad to discover it. Doesn’t it sound just beautiful in Hebrew? I still get a little choked up when I whisper it, just to hear how it sounds again. xx

  5. Booking a solo trip is incredibly brave. I’m inspired! I usually book a trip with the intent of seeing someone, meeting someone or going with someone – never by myself. Reading this, it feels like a “me trip” or “solocation” may be in order…

  6. Hi Katie,
    I found your blog a few weeks ago and I’m not sure how- I was stumbling around down the rabbit hole of the internet and following links and somehow found myself here. I read everything you had written up to that point and was so inspired by how brave, thoughtful and incredible your writing is. It really spoke to me. And then I somehow lost the page and couldn’t remember how I got there! I’ve been thinking of your writing a lot since then and was disappointed I had lost track of your lovely blog.

    This morning I woke up and somehow remembered the tag – Confessions of an Imperfect Life, googled it and here you are. Feels like the Universe really sent me here that day a few weeks ago and especially today- when I really REALLY needed to read this. Admitting the fear is sometimes the hardest part. You are SO brave to first acknowledge and then face your fears in taking this trip and in WRITING these posts. Truly inspiring.

    BOOKMARKED so I don’t lose you again! Thank you.

    • Wow S….wow. Thank you for this message–it made my day. I am so happy you are reading and that you re-found me (oh and you can sign up to follow via email so you just get the new posts delivered when they’re up). It is the support from people like YOU who make me believe that I can do this writing thing, and make it very much worth it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! xx

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