Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Motif Monday... but on Tuesday

Courtesy of mtrl

I saw the first of today’s Motif posts “Fear” on Nanina’s Hawk Talk blog, it got me thinking, and I decided I needed to write something about fear myself.

Fear is an insidious emotion. It creeps into our lives and can often cause a near paralysis of our ability to act. In my life I’ve had fear as a companion more often than not.

Fear of:
  • Failure
  • Success
  • Acceptance
  • Rejection
  • Living
  • Dying
  • Motorcycles
  • Learning new things
  • Not learning new things
  • Dentists

Well, you get the picture, or at least I hope you do. I lived a good share of my life afraid. Afraid, of doing, and of not doing something, anything and at times nearly everything. I felt trapped in my own body, that at times I was looking out, from eyes that were not my own.

Although I stopped being afraid of dying after facing death, close up twice, I found that I had an even bigger fear ‘about’ dying, than I did ‘of’ dying. I still have that one. I don’t want to die wishing I’d done, said, or tried, just one more thing. So, I resolved myself to living, instead of wishing I could, to begin, in small ways to take control of the fears, and press on despite them.

My fear of motorcycles is the first fear I can remember conquering. It began immediately after a near fatal motorcycle accident. Before that, I had no fear of them at all, in retrospect; it was precisely that lack of fear that led to the accident. The day I got released from the hospital, I went out and bought a new bike, before I actually rode it though, I spent a lot of hours riding a little ‘Honda-matic’ just to get ‘back in the saddle’, and get over the shaking that overtook me when I’d get on.

It was my love of riding that helped me past the fear. I truly believed if I didn’t conquer that fear, and right then, I’d never find the courage later in life. I no longer fear motorcycles, in fact riding is one of my favorite activities, but, I still to this day have a healthy dose of respect for what can happen if you ever forget the consequences of losing a respect for them.

My fear of failure nearly destroyed me as the garage saga was ending. I’d worked so hard, sacrificed nearly everything I had at the time, in an effort to make that place flourish. It was devastating to me to see it slipping away, almost visibly through my fingers. I started drinking, nearly every night, to lose myself and the pain. I nearly did lose myself, but never the pain, it was always there, no matter how much I drank, it never went away.

Once Josephine offered me a ‘way out’ though, my outlook started to change as well. I would be working with my friend and cohort Al Dimauro and receiving a steady paycheck again.

As things go though, working ‘for’ Al, was different than working ‘with’ him. The demands of production body work were beyond my skill set at the time and as such were dragging down the body shop's production, as a result I shifted over to the repair side of the shop.

Once there I settled into a daily routine, and was doing all right, except, I still felt as though something was missing.

I started looking for other jobs, but it seemed I couldn’t even get an interview, let alone a job, without a college degree. My earlier attempts at college had not been exactly spectacular successes. I’d passed, but, never really excelled. My fear of failure caused me to drag my feet, forever it seemed, until my wife (at the time) suggested we could make it even if I wasn’t working. Between the GI bill money I still had, and the available college loans, if I managed to find a little part time work we’d be ok.

With that little bit of courage, I enrolled, and managed to get through college and graduate with honors. I even started grad school, intending to earn an MBA and become some sort of high powered executive. But, at the first roadblock, a professor that I’d had in undergrad studies… I bolted, fearing failure, I bolted.

I’ve thought back on that moment for several decades now. If I were the man then, that I am today, I would not have bolted. I would have stood tough, done whatever I had to do to get through his class, and move on. I wasn’t that man then, I simply gave up. I’ve made a lot of excuses, mostly about family finances (and we were b-r-o-k-e for sure), but in the end that was just a convenient excuse to bail on what had become a very scary situation for me.

However, I credit that moment with changing how I view fear(s), and more importantly how I try to deal with them.

I read somewhere that “Courage is not the absence of fear, but acting in spite of the fear” or something close to that.

I’d like to be able to tell you all that I always act, in spite of my fears, but I don’t. My fear of Dentists, born of many, many traumatic dental visits as a child, haunts me to this day. I’ll go to the dentist, but if I get out of a regular dental visit cycle, it’s nearly impossible for me to re-establish one. My rational mind tells me it’ll be ok, and 99 out of 100 times it is, but there’s that little kid still in there constantly reminding me of those ‘other’ times. It’s one fear I’d like to be able to eventually completely conquer.

I still fear failure and rejection, but choose to act now instead of being paralyzed by the fear. Sometimes, all I need is a little encouragement from Maryan, a little word or phrase that lets me know “she” believes I can do it, to propel me forward to action. At other times I manage to get moving on my own.

Let’s take the truck project as an example. This is a much larger restoration project than I’ve ever done alone. I’ve done several with the help of some very talented folks, never one this extensive, on my own. As I began planning it, I had a thousand reasons not to start it. It might cost too much money, take too long, what if we decided we wanted to move and it wasn’t finished, and many, many more.

In the end though, I was able to picture her face, and the smile that this truck, restored and running perfectly, and maybe more importantly, brought to this condition for her, would bring. That thought is what keeps me going out to the shop, and slowly but surely making progress. I still have fears, as I’m working on it, that I’ll be unable to do the task at hand. That my skills won’t be good enough to pull off what I’m trying to do, I keep going anyway.

What I fear most in life now though, is losing loved ones. Family and/or friends, I’ve learned that when they’re gone, they’re gone. There’s no, one last chance, to tell them how you feel, or that your life is better, richer, for having them in it, so you have to tell them now!

I still fear divorce, I’ve been though one, I do not want to go through another. When I started dating after the divorce, if the ‘marriage’ topic came up, I’d let it be known, in no uncertain terms, it was not in the cards for me. Fortunately for me, Maryan felt strongly enough about me (and us) to stay with me anyway. She hadn’t wanted another marriage in her life either, so my attitude wasn’t ‘the end of the world’, although the longer we were together, the more we both began to see we wanted to, and should, get married.

Yep, I was scared as we moved closer to getting, and eventually got, married. I was more nervous this time than the first… some would say with more reason as I knew now the downsides. In retrospect though, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, she colors my world in ways I’d never imagined. Once again, fear was just an obstacle to be climbed over.

That’s what I try to do these days, square up on my fears and climb over them. I’m not always successful, but, I keep trying.

What am I afraid of now?

  • Moving back to New York. I know I’d be happy living close to my friends again, but, there’s not the work there, that there is here. I’ve grown accustomed to being able to pay the bills!
  • Not moving back to New York. I’ve been away over ten years now, I’ve met some new friends along the way, but none that are even remotely close to the folks there.
  • Something happening to the Mrs. I don’t know how I could deal with that. Greg commented on how she keeps me sane, and the truth is, she does. Sane and centered, before her I was very much ‘in the wind’.
  • Not being able to finish my novel, it was moving along so quickly at first, then the muse left me, and it’s been difficult to find it again.
  • Finishing the novel and being told it’s not worth publishing. Even though I know that’s the most likely outcome, I still fear that likely eventuality.

Well... that’s enough about fear(s) for now, I hadn’t really intended to write this much, but once I started it just sort of flowed out.

Maryan is doing MUCH better today! The fever is gone and she’s been sleeping a lot, which she should be! She’s also moving about the house pretty well, and trying to do things she shouldn’t be doing (which lets me know she is truly feeling better!).

Once again I want to thank all of you for your prayers, thoughts and words of encouragement, both of us greatly appreciated each of them!!


mg said...

What an awesome post, Bill. As a fellow rider, I applaud you for getting back on the road. I know how challenging overcoming that fear can be.

I actually started riding with my ex years ago, to help get over my anxiety from a nasty car accident a few years earlier.

I am glad to hear Maryan is doing better~

Have a beautiful day~


Nina said...

Wonderful post Bill, I love reading about how much you appreciate your wife. I am glad Maryan is doing better and resting.

BushCheney08 said...

nice post!


Firehawk said...


Thoughtful post. You hit on the real point of a "cycle of fear", where we are afraid to go forward and afraid to go back. We stand there on our emotional ledge, afraid of every step in any direction. Fear erodes our confidence and dissipates our enthusiasm for things we love, but it also provides us with the biggest opportunity for triumph--if you succeed and you knew you could, and weren't scared the whole time, what kind of victory is that? If you succeed despite all manner of trevails and lapses in moral courage, then you can look back on that and be proud of yourself. There's an old quote from a guy named E. Talbot Donaldson that said this: "Courage is the mechanism by which a hero creates himself."

Without fear, there is no courage, and we are deprived of the opportunity to "create ourselves" in this way. There is no winning without the possibility of loss.

You've faced up to a lot of things in your travels, Bill. The reason you're the man you are now, rather than the frailer personality of the past, is the fact you've had to bear up under fear and doubt, still somehow getting what you need to do, done.

Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us. We often feel alone with our own day-to-day terrors, but we aren't. It's good to be reminded that it's just being human.

Judith said...

I can relate to the want to/don't want to move back to friends and family. I am living on the West Coast, but am from NY. We are living very comfortably, but if we were to move my dh would be making a major commute, and that's just the beginning of things that would start going terribly wrong.

Braleigh said...

That was a spectacular and thoughtful post. I'm glad to hear that Maryan is doing better.

I find it amazing that you immediately bought a new bike after your release from the hospital. I always have problems following the whole 'getting back on the horse' method of coping, even though I have experienced that it is the best means in overcoming a fear.

Jay said...

Great post Bill - life is about fear, living with it, dealing with it, and learning to reel it in so it doesn't overwhelm you. Often easier said than done.

Trevor Record said...

I'm afraid of America, I'm afraid of the world.

Actually, what I am afraid of is ghosts. Seriously!

I'm glad MAryan is going better.

Bill said...

MG - Thanks, I was only 19 when that happened, I doubt I could pull it off today... although I'd probably try!

Nanina - I do appreciate her, she's a constant source of inspiration for me in so many ways! Thanks, she's even better this evening.

bushcheney - Thanks..

Firehawk - It is a cycle if we don't find a way to break it! I think it's another of those 'universal' elements we've discussed... one we all feel alone with, but, we all ultimately have!

Fear has definitely molded many of my experiences, I simply am glad I learned to move beyond fear in most cases.

Judith - Thanks, I don't know as anything would go wrong, stay or go... It's those 'decidings' we do that often hold us back from making a change when we want to.

Braleigh - Thanks, It was mostly false bravado I think... but regardless it had the desired result. How we get past the roadblock, isn't all that important, IMO, that we get by it is.

Jay - Yes it is, and at times it is overwhelming... that's when I head for the shop and beat on some steel, or throw a leg over the bike and take a ride... get away, get some perspective and then have at it all again.

Trevor - You don't need to fear America, we're too busy worrying about being too fat, too skinny, having too much hair, not enough.. etc, etc to be a real problem for you! Ghosts... Hmmmm.. once I actually see one, well *then* I'll be scared of them too! :)

Thanks everyone for all the good wishes for Maryan, she's doing real well, and her biggest challenge is not doing, what she's NOT supposed to do!

Beth said...

One at a time, you keep on conquering!

I'm so glad your wife is doing better.

Bill said...

GK - Yes we do, one thing at a time, one day after the other, one foot in front of the other... it's a process after all :)

Thanks, me too, now if I could just keep her planted on the sofa or the bed until we see the Doc next!!

A. Darcy said...

I am afrade of being alone, but have a serious dislike of people. Crowds are too big, small gatherings are too intimate, ...guess I never thought about the dicotomy of fear before.
Great post.

Spirit Of Owl said...

I feel the fear of leaving a comment that's going to seem inane right now... :) That was quite something to read. I relate comletely to what you're saying, having allowed anxiety push me out of opportunity after opportunity. Now, though, like you, I think I'm starting to learn about facing fears - but I have to keep taking the pills too.

I notice that you mentioned dental fear... Hmmm. Sounds familiar...! I'm really glad that Maryan's recovering, and I so hope that she continues to do so. Mean Girl said it best - have a beautiful day!

Comfort Addict said...

Great post, Bill. You and I have a lot of the same fears (except the dentist; I have always had good experiences with mine). My favorite recent fear is the fear that I'll lose my job or be poor. Neither of these are too probable but I can dream, can't I?

Bill said...

a. darcy - It is definitely a two headed beast for me, seems to want me stuck in the middle all the time! Thanks for stopping by!

Spirit - I love your comments... you're rarely off the mark! :)

I let anxiety nearly ruin my life, it was a big step to admit that to myself and get help, like you I needed some pills to get me from where I was, to where I am. I feel fortunate that they were a short term solution, but, I'd have continued to take them, if I'd needed to!

Maryan is doing much better!! I'm actually at the job today!

CA - Got that one too! Contract work can really get to you if you let the uncertainty of finding the next gig get to ya!! I don't 'fear' being poor though, been there, done that. I'd rather not repeat it, but I know I could survive it.

Thanks again evryone for stopping by, and for taking the time to leave your toughts with me!