Afraid Again

What do I do when I’m afraid? I revise.

I have revised the story of my nanny stint in Denver to sound like it was a heroic act of risk taking in the name of pursuing my dreams. “I left my cousin’s house to live with friends and work on my novel every day for six months.” I revised that spring of 2013 to sound like that had been, like, a plan. When really it was a tangled mess of anxiety, inaction, angst and two really nice people named Starman and Starlily, who offered refuge to me when stuff didn’t work out at Nancy Drew’s. Like I said folks, this is a time in my life when I really didn’t have a plan in the way grown ups should have a plan. I’m really in awe of the way my cousin took me in and paid me for my work, and, in a way, helped to push me to face my issues in my life when our arrangement came to an end.

What really happened: by M, my nanny stint came to an end.  One night Nancy Drew took me out to a Vietnamese restaurant down the street where she loves the pho, and she told me her stepson needed the room where I slept. This was the way we brought the six month stint to an end, but in truth, six months was everyone’s limit. Everyone told me that working for my (younger) cousin as her live-in nanny would change our relationship, and not necessarily for the better. I wouldn’t say our relationship has been damaged, but things got a lot more real in ways they just can’t when you hand-pick the ingredients of a close friendship through long distance phone calls once a month.

I landed in her home in northwest Denver, complete with her career woman schedule, Mr. Drew’s demanding entrepreneurial lifestyle as head of a boutique sports marketing agency, and tried to insert myself as much as possible as combination trusted friend/educator-type nanny/relative/extended houseguest/employee into an erratic lifestyle that included a toddler’s routine bedtimes and naptimes or routines. I didn’t like being the paid employee for my younger cousin, just as a Buddhist friend of mine once predicted. It was hard because I was embarrassed at how much pride and fragility of ego I brought to the situation. Childishly, I didn’t like that Nancy Drew and I had no time for our heart to hearts, or our supportive talks about love and life and career. We caught what we could in snatches between her morning commute (which was crowded with anecdotes about how poorly Wild Boo had slept in their bed the night before) and sometimes through afterthought texts while he napped. Our exchanges were more about bowel movements and repairmen and could I come downstairs now because Mr. Drew needs to pick up someone at the airport? Because that’s what the job was.

I would like to say that I was very classy about the transition from cousin-friend to paid help. I would like to say I handled the stress and the transitions with grace, and that the change from getting 100% of Nancy Drew’s attention on the phone to getting 20% of it in person was seamless.


The week before I moved out, Nancy Drew saw me toiling over a job application for two days straight and said to me, “A lot of the time it’s better to get it done than get it right.” And she addressed one of my biggest problems: the overthinking, the taking-things-too-seriously, the very thing that made this arrangement at her place difficult for me was the thing that kept me stepping on my own feet in life. I got in my own way.

I moved into Starlily and Starman’s house and I was a little bit lost.

I am afraid. I am afraid at this point in the story and I was afraid at this time in the living of the story. I am sad to say how many times fear is a guiding force in my life and how my words and stories are shaped.

Many times I have used my life in my writing as one would use play-doh, manipulating the soft material to jam up gaps in logic or to make an explanation for something about which I am struggling to make sense. I am terrified of writing this story because once a story is done what comes after that? I am terrified of writing a story and getting it wrong.

I tried to stop talking to Lost Boy this spring because everything I knew about online romance told me this was crazy and would probably end poorly. I was afraid. Plus, what sort of revised version of myself would he think he was getting close to? A version of someone with their shit in one sock?

The thing about talking to Lost Boy is that he seemed to want to show me vulnerable things, like mistakes he had made, and lessons he had learned about his strengths and weaknesses. Every email was a ladder of words that ended in a question, How are you doing out there?

By April I found I needed to send him one, then another picture of things around me in my day.

There is a cat in one of these windows of a Denver high rise. Lost Boy found it. Can you see it?

About alison barker