Being Unafraid to Live

I have fears.  A bunch of them.

I’m afraid of spiders.

I hate closed-in spaces.

I do not enjoy heights.

I’m afraid of pain, especially anything related to my mouth.

I’m afraid of being financially destitute.

I’m afraid of dying a violent death (specifically, being stabbed).

I’m terrified of making mistakes, of hurting people, or causing irreparable emotional damage.

I’m terrified of letting people down, of seeing the look of sick disappointment flush against someone’s face.

I live in a closet filled with fear and will press my hands against the walls and feel the living, breathing phantoms of my fears and phobias pulsate against me.

I know my fears.  To a degree, I am almost comforted by them because they are my friends, we have known each other for so long.

I’m afraid of not being good enough.  Of getting so close to achieving and then being let down.

I’m afraid of getting my hopes up only to have them smashed.

I’m afraid of taking steps into the unknown and just flubbing up and causing financial problems and hearing “You should have known better.”

Or

Worse

“I TOLD YOU SO.”

Let me make my mistakes in private.  I can conceal them beneath sugary lies and surreptitious dance moves.  Let me peel apart all my biggest errors by myself and I will haunt myself with my own private demons who hold giant cacti sized clubs covered in thorns.

I don’t need anyone to help me see that I can really screw things up.  I do that quite well myself, thank you very much.

Somewhere in the last ten years, though, I realized that I was holding myself back.

I was not allowing myself to live.

I was afraid of being a bad parent, a bad wife, a bad human for wanting to do things that were important to me.

Reading is a good thing to want.  If I go to the library, then I won’t spend money and reading enriches the mind and sets a good example for my children to follow.

But I didn’t want to go to the library.  I didn’t want to borrow good stories.  I wanted to own them and bathe in the words and the sounds and the meanings.

I wanted to read but in different places.  New York City.  The Taj Mahal.  The mountains on the east, west, middle coasts, in different planes of the world.  I want to go to Australia more than I want to go to Germany because I have been to Germany and I want to see new places.

But I was afraid of letting down my family and visiting something new and then not seeing the right things which meant that the trip was not a 100% success and then I would have spent a huge amount of money on nothing.

So I stayed huddled in my recliner and watched the shows I knew I would like and read beautiful literature and did my best to raise two kids who I think are pretty amazing.

And then I hit 40.

Now, before I hit 40, I was working with an amazing woman who thinks I am amazing but she’s amazing but refuses to see that she’s amazing.  Maybe, she’s afraid to realize that she’s amazing?

I’ll just have to keep telling her.

She gave me a Willow Creek figurine.  It’s arms are shot up over its head in triumph.  My friend gave it to me because when I was excited, when I was happy, when I had triumphed over my fears, or…frankly…when I was mischievous, I would shoot my arms over my head and say, “Yes!!!”

The figure is named for Courage.  I was given it because it reminded my friend of me collapsing back into my reclining office chair, my arms shooting over my head, and joyfully crowing, “YES!”

Courage is in my office.  She sits on a shelf not far from my signed copy of The Kite Runner.  She is beside a ceramic mask from Venice.  A cross that says “Never Stop Praying.”

I hit 40.  My children were 11 and 8.  I needed to start living again.  I needed to stop being afraid because my children were starting to inherit my fears.

My son, who had never been afraid of spiders before, started shrieking when he saw them.  My daughter cried because bugs were close to her.  I had done everything I could to keep my children from my terrors and my paranoias and my phobias.  And I had failed.

My worst fear ever.

Worst of all, I am my mother’s primary female role model.  It is my job to teach her that a woman can do anything and do it well and do it without fear.

So I stopped.

Not living in fear.  But living with my fears.  And choosing not to be afraid.

I forced myself to let go of my spider fear.  I forced myself to handle closed in places which I still hate but deal with because sometimes the elevator is a whole lot easier and faster than flights of stairs.  I hate making people upset, but I realized how I was twisting myself to avoid hurting others.

Nobility hit enabling which created co-dependency.

I am not divorced from my world.  I care about my family and my students and my friends.  I still do everything I can do to keep from hurting them.  But I will not live my life in fear.  I will not live my life in this pulsating, living, breathing closet filled with my monsters that used to live under the bed but like the closet better.

This year, I hiked a hundred miles.  Of paths I knew fairly well and in an area I knew exceptionally well.  Next year, I am ready to chase a different horizon.  I still want to hike the Appalachian Trail.  But I’m ready for a different part of the path.

I will not be afraid.  I will not be defeated.

In two years, I will drive across the country.  I have no idea where I am going.  I want to go to Chicago to see my family again.  And then, I will point my car west and drive towards the Pacific.

I will not be afraid.  I will not be defeated.

I will continue to send out my novel.  If I reach100 rejections from professional agents, I will try indi publishing.  And if that still doesn’t work, then I’ll self-publish.

I will not be afraid.  I will not be defeated.

I recently read a gorgeous Albert Camus quote,

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

Where are my hiking boots?  Where’s my pen?  Let me shoo the spiders out of my boots and find the next path.  Life waits for no one.

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