The Thing About Fear Is…

Day 11: #Trust30 Project

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have made giant leaps in my life, I have taken huge risks and succeeded wildly. I have hid my feelings only to be rejected and heartbroken. I have lived on the edge of disaster in ways that others would never dream of trying, yet this question seems to be asking–is it enough? Well, I’m still alive. I’m still writing, but sometimes–like now–I’m writing the stuff I don’t want to write about. I “should” be working on my book, but instead I’m blogging about my fear of writing. My very own rabbit-hole now realized.

Growing up, my best friend constantly picked at her legs. She said she did it because of the mosquito bites. But I was with her almost every minute of the day except breakfast, dinner and sleeping, and I didn’t have any scratchy, red bumps. She picked at these imaginary flaws as a way to relieve whatever feelings of discomfort she was experiencing. This sort of writing feels like that. I’m obligated to pick at an itch that doesn’t really scratch the surface. How can I possibly begin to surmise what it would feel like to never finish what I started?

I’m not really afraid to die. I know for most people this is the thought they never want to think about. Whether it’s because they think if they think about it then it will happen, or they’re so focused on raising young children they could not even fathom not being around for every future moment, or they think it means they will shrivel up and smell, unable to see the ear hair growing out of their once perfectly-landscaped bodies like the roots of a rotten potato. We will all be forgotten, left unfinished, unsatisfied, unresolved eventually. Some people are so consumed by the fear that they live their lives like they wish they were dead already. A drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other, a noisy breathing apparatus at their side, stuck in a chair playing video games.

I’m not really afraid to die, but there is one way I do not want to go. I do not want to be left at sea in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sharks on a moonless night. When I was a child, I would have a recurring nightmare about this scenario, an after-effect of seeing the movie Jaws. Sometimes I couldn’t separate the dream from my waking state. I would imagine the outline of a fin circling my bed, terrified and unable to make the trip to the light switch only eight steps away. At one point, the dreams got so bad I created a path to the switch from my bed consisting of two chairs and a stack of books. That way, in the dark, my feet would be high enough above the water’s surface that I could safely reach the light and the sharks would disappear. In the morning I could see how ridiculous it was as I put away the chairs and the encyclopedias, but in the middle of the night, I was floating in the sea and I didn’t want to be dinner for a big-finned fish.

I feel the same way about love now. I do not want to be cast out at sea adrift in the middle of nowhere, abandoned and exhausted from trying to hold my head up above the water. I have felt this way more than once because when my heart has been broken, I left me too. I blamed myself even when it was unreasonable to do so. I was the shark willing to attack anything remotely vulnerable inside of me. That’s the real fear, isn’t it? That we will not be enough, not even for ourselves. But I’m not that little girl who was emotionally abandoned by her father as he chased his own demons running rampant through his head. I’m no longer the woman who carelessly gave her heart away to selfish men who saw her as a way to make themselves feel better. I’ve stopped running away from myself. I see me for who I am. I’ve got my own back.

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