Friday, July 16, 2010

Life Is Not Fear

A friend of mine accidentally wrote this the other day, when she meant to type, "Life is not fair." I didn't write back and say, "ha! TYPO!" because I sort of like it this way. That, and what kind of person do you think I am, anyway? The kind who points out misspellings in my friends' posts? The kind of person who looks for any little reason to one-up someone? 
So life is not fear.
My life used to be fear. When I was born I was afraid it would be too close to Christmas and everyone would hate me for ruining their Christmas with my birthday party. Not to worry -- it was usually my birthday that was overlooked in favor of Christmas.
When I was 7 and my brother 6 I was afraid that if mom came home and found out we hadn't finished putting away the dishes we'd be punished, for she was sure to be mad, so we scrambled to get things done when we heard her car pull up to the apartment complex, but I don't remember anything else. Another unnecessary fear.
When I was 10 and my father remarried I was worried that my new stepmother and stepsiblings wouldn't like me. I was right, that time, but it's not as if they waged war against me and tortured me to death or anything.
When I was in basic training I feared I wouldn't finish, or I'd be set back and have to stay longer. I'd watch others wash out, and I'd think, "I'm next," but even though I could barely walk and had to limp behind my flight like some sort of giant flightless bird, I finished with the rest of my flight.
When I was 18 I feared my stepmother was right, and no one would ever want to marry me.
When I was 19 I got married and feared I'd rushed into it. Ya think?
Life continued in this same sort of fashion for many years, fear rummaging around the corners of my psyche like some kind of rat, looking for a way in so it can gnaw on my brain and leave me, for all practical purposes, unable to act or move or think.
Have you ever been paralyzed by fear? I have. That's when the fear is a sudden dawning thought that something has gone amiss, that perhaps I forgot to do something really truly important and the world will explode in on me as punishment for my ineptitude. The core of me goes ice cold when that happens, and within the tiny little portion of the brain that I actually use while the rest of it is off gallivanting with unicorns I feel a pinprick of doubt, if one can define a pinprick as a giant sledgehammer. I hear a rushing sound, as if I'm in free fall (and yes, I know what that feels like), but unlike free fall, my chute's not going to open so I can descend gracefully, but instead I will fall to the ground just like that, smashed to smithereens.
Fortunately this condition does not last long and I usually start thawing out before I go splat and become a medical curiosity. 
And I often find out that the fear was for nothing, a pointless exercise. On those few occasions where it wasn't exactly pointless it was also not nearly as horrible as I'd imagined. It's always far less important than I'd imagined, or the thing I worried most about wasn't what I thought, or I was just being silly. It happens to the best of us.
Which isn't to say there isn't plenty to be fearful of in our world. There are more things going on that we can't control than we can even imagine, and if we're to fear them all we're going to keep ourselves very busy, far too busy to do anything really productive like tell people we love that we love them.
But there are things we can control. I am not in expert in these things. There are a few things I am an expert in, and this is not one of them. So I'm working on eliminating the fear, on a more or less daily basis. I've gotten much better, maybe because I'm older and past caring so much, or maybe because I'd like to spend my energy on other things. 
Just today I found myself in a room with ten or so other people I'd never met before, and I was fearful of looking stupid. Well, sounding stupid, anyway. I can't help the way I look. But you know what? Everyone else was busy thinking about 1) themselves, or 2) the people they knew who were there, or 3) themselves, or 4) lunch. That's how people are. 
Before you get any ideas, there'll be no stealing of the words "Life is not fear." They're my words, I stole them honestly, and you can't have them.


  1. Nice! You are my favorite thief!! And you've taught me so much about not fearing fear... hell, you've taught me so much about so much!!

  2. Just taking a moment out from my fear-based schedule to say I love this post.