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.
- Learning new things
- Not learning new things
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!!