Don’t Let Fear Live Your Life For You
I was on Twitter this morning, and I wrote a couple of tweets about my fears. It began innocently enough. I was listening to my Pandora radio app. I have rather a few stations on it and I leave it to where the app will shuffle through every station. I get a really good mix of music this way, and I love that one minute I will be listening to Mumford & Sons and then The Cure comes on after. Or maybe, like today, I will get Louis Armstrong in between The Killers and Panic! At the Disco. The other day I even had Yanni come up. I was like, “whoa”. That one was out of the blue. Today, though (before Louis), a piece from the Independence Day soundtrack came on, and I felt the hairs rise on the back of my neck and chills went down my spine. There was this one note/chord that I swear sounded exactly like the beginning of the theme from Jaws. I saw that movie when I was five, I think. I don’t remember where I saw it, just that I did and it scared the lights out of me, and I’ve been afraid of sharks ever since. It left such an impression that for the longest time I would not touch any page in a book that had a picture of a shark on it. And anytime I heard the Jaws theme, my heart would race. I live, and have always lived, in North Central Texas, and I had never been to a beach until 1997. The only thing that scared me worse than sharks were snakes. That was at least a reasonable fear. Snakes are everywhere.
So, I did a little research today and found the top ten fears most people have. These are:
1. Speaking before a group/in public.
3. Insects and bugs
4. Financial problems
5. Deep water
I can understand the first one well. I have that fear. Getting up in front of people is scary. For me, it’s always a self-esteem issue. Do I look stupid? Are these people going to make fun of me? Am I going to sound intelligent or dumb? But the thing is, I can, and have done it. I hope to do it more so I can get over that fear. The rest, though, I don’t fear. I don’t like some insects (roaches, flies), but I’m not afraid of them. Heights? Nope, but I do get vertigo. In fact, I used to never get vertigo and I loved being up high. When I was pregnant with my Sean, however, my center of balance changed, and I’ve had vertigo ever since, even though everything else went back to normal. Financial problems are a part of life. I’m only afraid of deep water because of sharks, but I’m not afraid of deep water itself. I went scuba diving in 1997 and it was really fun and not scary at all. Sickness, nope. I don’t like the idea of getting cancer or some other disease, but there’s not much I can do about that other than take care of myself and exercise. Death? I have never been afraid of death, even as a little girl. There was nothing to fear about that for me. I have come close to dying several times. When I was 6 months old I had pneumonia and was given penicillen, to which, as it turns out, I have an allergy. When I was ten I nearly stepped on a copperhead snake (probably where that fear came from), and if it hadn’t been because it was late in the day and the snake was lethargic, I probably would have been bitten and we lived about 30 minutes away from the nearest hospital. When I was 16 I had yet another medical allergy, which cut off my breathing and is the second closest I came to dying (not where my biggest fear originated from). At 20, I was in a collision with a taxi that should have, according to the officer on the scene, thrown me through the windshield at full force. I was wearing my seat belt and suffered only a few scrapes and whiplash. At 24, Sean’s birth was 7 weeks early because the placenta was tearing away from the wall of the uterus. There was only a quarter inch of tissue holding it on. If I had waited even five more minutes to go to the hospital I would have bled to death and Sean would have suffocated. The last timeI faced death was in 2011 when I went in to the emergency room because I was having abdominal pains and I thought it might be appendicitis. Turns out it was a highly infected gall bladder that was about to burst. If it had, it would have had the same effect as a burst appendix. Death and I are old friends, and I can honestly say that when my time comes, I’ll probably smile and say, “it’s about bloody time!”
Flying, loneliness, dogs…all part of life (except I love dogs; can’t imagine being afraid of them). My biggest fears aren’t related to any of those on that list. In relation, I consider those things that I am afraid of, not scared of. To me, there is a big difference. To me, being afraid means I can overcome that of which I am afraid. Those things that I am scared of are deeper in intensity and I will go so far out of my way to avoid them that it borders on the irrational. What am I afraid of? Snakes, sharks, being bitten by a poisonous anything. These are what I consider little things that either have no basis for irrational fear or can be overcome or of no concern in my day-to-day life.
What am I scared of? Dying too soon and leaving my kids without their mom or how far I would go to protect them (i.e., what would that teach them and what kind of person would I become?), my deepest, darkest secrets being discovered (we all have skeletons, though some may not be as dark as we think-they are still OUR secrets and we protect them, don’t we?), and not being loved by anyone (I know I am loved, but the fear still exists that I might do something to cost myself that love, that trust. ). These are the kinds of fears I’d do anything to keep from facing, including ignoring them or the truth of them. How far would you go to avoid facing your deepest fears? You know the ones. Those you won’t admit to anyone, maybe even yourself, that you have.
My biggest fear is suffocation. The only word used for that is claustrophobia but that’s not exactly my fear. Claustrophobia is the fear of being enclosed or trapped in small places. I don’t have that. I am mortally frightened of suffocation, not being able to breathe, drowning, of not getting any oxygen. I have always had this fear. I don’t know where it originated from or why I even have it. In winter, I cannot have heat blowing directly at my face. This causes me to hold my breath. When I am in a crowded elevator, it isn’t the small space that bothers me. It’s the idea that I am not getting enough oxygen, although, I am glad to say that this does not worry me so much anymore. To be honest, I believe this is one fear that I am overcoming and turning more into a dislike, rather than a fear. But for a very long time, this was a terrible fear. As I’ve grown older I have been discovering that I’m more frightened of being ripped open emotionally, and my deepest feelings being known. That’s ironic, isn’t it? I’m a poet and I put my feelings on display in every poem I write. I have written poems that come from so deep inside me and, yet, I’d rather speak in public than admit to those same feelings out loud, to anyone. I keep a lot of thoughts and feelings to myself, and only a few come out in my poetry and writing. But when they do, it feels intense to me. I have been finding it interesting when someone reads one of my poems and thinks that it came from such a well of emotion, when the one they have read really was not the one I had the deep emotion on. In fact, the most interesting thing has been that the poems where I’ve experienced the intense emotions are the ones most people do not like as much. I’ve wondered if maybe it touched on something they don’t want to face themselves. Then, I also wonder if maybe anyone will ever figure me out, because I sure haven’t. I am a living juxtaposition, even to myself. I’m a challenge, and you should be warned before you take me on. But at least I’m an interesting one, with a little bit of cheek, and I’m cute. Plus, I can cook. *wink*
The point for all of this is to get you to thinking about your fears. Last year I faced one of my minor ones: snakes. Jack had a class field trip to go to the Fort Worth Zoo. They have completely re-vamped the herpetarium, although they kept the silly snake doorhandles (I really don’t like those things). Jack wanted to go inside and we did. Inside they had a zoo worker with a snake that you could touch. I still don’ t know why I did it. Maybe it was the look on Jack’s face, maybe it was that rare show of bravery I sometimes get. For whatever reason, I saw Jack and thought how I didn’t want him to grow up to be as afraid of things as I was. So, I walked up to the counter and after some very deep breathing, I touched the snake and handled it. All of my kids know how much I dislike snakes. The look on Jack’s face was worth it. He had the biggest smile and couldn’t wait to tell his brothers how I touched a snake. The reason: I truly did it for Jack. I would face my deepest fears for my kids. I would face all of hell for my kids, and stare down Lucifer himself. And do you know what I learned from that experience? Snakes still creep me out. But I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I am braver than I thought I was.
Don’t let your fear rule your life. They can inhibit us, and make us miserable if we live our lives by our fears. I’m glad I went scuba diving even though I’m afraid of sharks. That fear is not going to keep me out of the ocean, which I love. I’m glad I touched the snake and had the opportunity to teach Jack a life lesson, that you can overcome a fear for someone you love, and that he was that important to me. I’m not going to stop writing my poetry because I don’t want people to see my feelings, and I’m not going to stop enjoying life because I might die tomorrow. Neither should you.