Mom got me out of school one incredible spring day so we could go fishing. She did that periodically–for which I’ll always love her. Some of our best times were spent on the banks of a private pond that hadn’t been fished in years. You’d have to be totally inept not to catch something there. On second thought, even the clueless could succeed. Once, as I was walking around the pond to get to another spot, I dipped my minnow in the shallow end of the water to keep it alive and caught a three pound bass.
This particular day was spectacular, complete with clear blue sky, vivid Monarch butterflies, and buzzing bumble bees nipping nectar from an abundance of wild flowers. And the fish were hungry! According to our stringer, we were in for a finger-lickin’ fish fry.
At one point, my rod bent almost double, and my blood pumped at the thought of having caught a whopper. The line ripped off my reel as the king of the pond took off with its treasure, and I went into battle to get it back. I’d win a few inches of line, he’d reclaim it. We went back and forth like this several times until the line went slack.
My heart toppled to the grass as I realized I probably lost the biggest fish I’d ever catch in my entire life (a point proven wrong in a more recent salt-water trip), and with far less enthusiasm, I reeled the line back in. Next thing I knew, the line doubled back on itself and whatever was at the end of it was coming straight toward me. Soon, a turtle five times bigger than that little wannabe in the picture emerged from the water, fully stretched out of his shell. Seriously. He looked like a round coffee table with a head and tail.
The critter’s mouth stretched wider than I’d ever realized a turtle’s could, and the loudest, most savage hiss I’d ever heard emitted from that cavern. He stalked toward me, all stretched out and hissing, and scared me half out of my wits. I threw the rod at him and took off, and didn’t stop running until my mama could rescue me from that pit bull of the pond. She saved my rod from getting dragged back into the water and cut the line with her pocket knife–then spent a minute or two giggling at me for being so silly.
Some fears are unfounded, and that one was. As scary as the turtle looked, he was still just a turtle. He couldn’t eat me whole if he tried.
This episode from my past cropped up in my mind recently as I was dealing with my agent and his editor about my book, The Cat Lady’s Secret. I’d engaged the help of a professional editor friend to give me a report on the weaknesses of the manuscript. Then, she ended the letter with, “Welcome to the big league.”
Although I’m published, I know I haven’t made it to “the big league” yet, and stepping into this unfamiliar territory is scary–like an enormous hissing turtle at the end of the line. And some of that fear stems back to the little voice in my head telling me that someday someone’s gonna figure out that I’m a fraud. No matter how many compliments I get on my work, my mind latches on to the negatives, and the turtle hisses.
Part of it, of course, is the fear of the unknown. What if my book doesn’t get published? What if it does?! Am I ready for this? What changes are in store? Do I really want to do this???
Anyone with sense would be excited over the bend of the rod, even before they know what’s bending it. Me? I’m too aware that a turtle can be on the other end. But some fears are unfounded, and this one is. Whatever’s on the end of the line can’t eat me whole if it tries.