An Essay on Fear

I have always been afraid.

Whispering thoughts circle my head at night—so many things I’ve done, words I’ve said that I can’t take back.

How my choices might hurt my children—the things that I can’t undo as well as the things that I don’t want to undo.

I wonder what people really think about me, and who they tell. Will my children overhear them? It’s not lies I am afraid of as much as the unexplained truths. I always had a reason for my behavior—though not always a good one.

I can say that I generally meant well, but that doesn’t always hold up over time.

I’ve been selfish. So many times I have let people down. But the worst of it….

The worst of it is that I wasn’t raised to be good or pure or to keep my legs crossed. I didn’t see the value of it. But I wear the shame of it like a moth-eaten trench coat.  These are the stories I hope remain untold, and these are the stories I can’t help writing.


(Write your shame write your shame write your shame)


The shame-words flow easy and I trust that I placed them in sentences in such a way that you can see that I wasn’t bad.  I send them into the world and I don’t look back. But every year my children get older and older and now my son is teetering on the verge of high school.


The internet is forever. I am easily found.


I worry about my children reading my words, but not as much as I worry about the rumors of my words they may overhear.


(No one reads essays no one reads essays no one reads essays)


But they do read books. unFortunately I will soon have one published.

I do so many things in life planning to be braver later on down the road. I think it is important to speak unspeakable stories.

This is what was done to/by me/other people.

Somewhere there is a girl/woman/person who is also wrapped in a moth-eaten trench coat of shame and they need to know they aren’t the only one.

The words belong on paper and on websites and places where someone who wasn’t always a good girl can find them. You never know who is standing on the ledge, arms held wide to the cold drizzling rain waiting to hear that they don’t have to jump.

I write my words and send them into the world like skipping stones on a lake. The brave crests and the anxiety-ridden lulls between them reverberate out in concentric circles. I know this is what I am meant to do, in spite of the doubt at the fringes and the riptide fear and 3 am terror. Someone is waiting for my words. My children are old enough to understand.

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Lara Lillibridge sings off-beat and dances off-key. She writes a lot, and sometimes even likes how it turns out. Her memoir, Girlish, available for preorder on Amazon, is slated for release in February 2018 with Skyhorse Publishing. Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and The American Literary Review's Contest in Nonfiction. She has had essays published in Pure Slush Vol. 11, Vandalia, and Polychrome Ink; on the web at Hippocampus, Crab Fat Magazine, Luna Luna, Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, and Airplane Reading, among others. Read her work at

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This article has 4 Comments

  1. “unFortunately I will soon have one published. I do so many things in life planning to be braver later on down the road.” I felt that way too!! I don’t know if it helps, but as soon as Caged Eyes was published my anxiety/fear transformed. It isn’t that publication has been any easier than I expected – it hasn’t – but it’s easier to deal with what’s in front of you than imagining what that will be.

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