Last night I got an e-mail from my publisher containing the latest edits for the new book. I had expected a literary bloodbath, as my inadequate grammar and punctuation were torn apart by expert eyes, attuned to high quality prose. I envisioned the red pen being wielded like a bloody blade, glistening in a murderous half light before being plunged again into its helpless victim. Death by semi colon.
Thankfully this wasn’t the case. The editing process was a light touch, tightening and improving the narrative where required. My publisher included constructive and encouraging notes which allayed any fears I might have had and reassured me that I was on the right track. He showed he believed in my work and his offer of a contract for ‘A New Jerusalem’ wasn’t a horrible April Fool’s Day prank delivered several weeks late.
I’m my own worst enemy I know. The reception for ‘Skelly’s Square’ should have put any concerns I retained about the quality of my prose to bed. People like, indeed love, it and I’ve over one hundred 5 star Amazon reviews to bolster that bold statement. Yet still the whispering doubts remain, the solitary voice that tells me I am a fraud, a fake, a fool whose latest mid life crisis is bound to end in abject failure and humiliation.
The same applies to my running and most other tasks I tackle in life. I’m convinced I’m going to mess up even before I’ve crossed the starting line. I’ve run nine marathons, in perfectly respectable times, yet every time I lace up my trainers I am wracked with worry that this will be the run that will expose me as the chubby teenager who was never good enough to make the school rugby team. Always one of the last to be picked for any sporting activity.
This fear factor can bring you to your knees. Yet, somehow I must learn to confront and overcome its seductive tones. Giving up would be so easy, especially in these strange times when staying in on the sofa and doing nothing is considered a heroic act. It would be so easy to let go of the rope and fall back into the pit, there to lie forever and never trouble another soul. I would be forgiven, accepted, exalted by the voice. It would soothe my wounds with junk food and vacuous online distractions.
I don’t want to be that person. I want to clamber, hand over fist, out of the pit into the dazzling light. I want God to look over and protect me as I push myself beyond the boundaries onto greener, lusher pastures. I want to succeed, to make my family proud; to look in the mirror and hold the stare of the man I see, to connect with him, engage with him, be at ease with who he was and who he is striving to become. I want to change, to heal, to improve.
These are hard days, challenging days, where everything we held fast to and believed in has been turned upside down and inside out. It’s a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions with no real sign of ending. It’s too easy to stick your head in the sand, to curl up into a foetal ball and turn your back on a new world full of dangerous unknowns and frightening permutations. Giving up would be the easiest of options, the percentage call. Nobody would blame us.
Yet I won’t. Today I will switch on my laptop and dive into the edits. I will open the front door and go out for a run. I will be a good father, husband and son. I will do it for others and I will do it for myself. I will do it for you, the person reading this post who thinks the same thoughts and fears the same demons. I want you to kill them, to stand atop the dragon of despair and thrust your broadsword into its toxic heart. We will slay them, til all are gone.