There are many times in my life that I have felt genuine fear. And there are many times when others told me to be fearful.
These are not necessarily the same times for the same things.
We can learn to be afraid of everything. But determining when to be afraid is different.
When I set off to travel the world, others warned me about every mishap I might encounter, and I was told to be fearful and that I would risk my life. None of these “wise” people who warned me had been on an around-the-world backpacking trip, and almost all had not traveled to most of the countries I was setting off to.
Did I feel guilty in 1987 about quitting my job and taking off for as long as the money would last with no concrete plans, no means of staying in touch? Not really. But others tried to put that guilt trip on me too. And the non-stop questions; What would I do when I came home without a job? Why was I using up my savings, I’d have no money? What if I got sick? They warned me of faraway hospitals, lack of medical care.
But no one could mar the beauty of my daydreams.
I marched right into my quest for National Geographic moments. And I found that if I kept my wits about me and made smart decisions and choices, all my travels were much easier and safer than I thought they would be or that all those naysayers led me to believe. The times I was most fearful on my journey, public transport. You know, the – let me take two lanes and turn them into six while scooting by on the edge of a cliff kind. Yeah, those times scared me shitless. But they never stopped me from clamoring on another bus the next day.
Now I am writing memoirs. Painful memoirs, embarrassing ones. Some humorous, too. I would love to get published one day. But as I wrote in my post “I Am Just Writing A Memoir” I am in control of how far down the path I take this.
I can question, “will I be good enough?” “Will I receive a critical review?” “Will I make a fool of myself?” “Are my dreams too grandiose?” These are thoughts I bring on myself. No one else does. No one else is really fearful of the results that might happen to ME. But many think I should be. That is their own fear of it coming through. Not my fear of doing.
I make a choice to listen or not.
But, please, I ask, don’t place your fear onto me.
Someone asked me a couple of months ago to do a fifteen-minute podcast on blogging as part of their workshop. I jumped in and said yes. Then I jumped out the next day saying I need more credentials to feel worthy of others paying money to hear me talk. I need more time to prepare that part of me. It wasn’t fear that stopped me. I wasn’t afraid I couldn’t do it. I just took stock of where I was right then and felt I could do a better job farther down the road. Ask me in a few months. I might say yes. I am new at all of this and first impressions can’t have do-overs.
We choose these fears for travel and writing. If I engaged in them, I would put myself into situations. No one else would. Unless of course, I travel with someone. Then our commitment to safety would be between us. But would we have fear?
I can easily not travel or not write. And those fears of what might happen will simply not be. Not touch me. I just have to say no.
Or, I can jump into them, knowing I can get out just as easily. I have the means and money. I am lucky that way, and I know it. In that way, I am protected.
When I was homeless, and during my breakdown, I experienced gut-wrenching fear. This was the fear of being up against genuine possibilities. Having to go straight through unfamiliar and dangerous.
Would I ever be “myself” again? Would I end up on a park bench and then die on it? Would I have value again? Would I lose social services? Would I be attacked? robbed? Unable to function? Destitute? Would they commit and forget me? Would I lose my thread of sanity? Dissolve?
My mind would crank out never-ending thoughts that kept circling and would not give me a moment of rest or peace. I was constantly scanning my environs for the bottom to fall out of my world. I lived fearfully. Every Day!
If I received a piece of mail, I immediately thought it meant something, of my small some things, would be taken away. I would panic and escalate and shake and cry. My insides would pound together. All before I even opened the letter to find out its contents.
I ruminated and convinced myself that if I lost one element, one piece in my precarious life, it would lead to suicide.
In exhausted, paralyzed days, I thought this would be the answer. Just stop everything.
I was living with a boyfriend then. It was better for two homeless people to share their situations than one to go it alone. He was not in good health. I was so sure that he would die, then I would die. I scanned him daily too.
Most changes in my situation brought the fear of death. Everything led down that path.
Those fears were life and death ones. The ones you just can’t get away from by changing your mind. The fear that is innate to each one of us. It is survival fear. It is fear protecting. Giving warning.
There are many fears like that. Heade those. Take care, be aware, seek help. Do whatever you can.
But my fears of choice?
There are two paths I can take. Yes or no.
My mind or your mind. Whose is more important?
If I worry about your mind, your fears projected onto me, I am selling myself short. I am letting go of me.
I can own nervous or wary or cautious. I can gather opinions or suggestions. I can listen and absorb other’s tales of woe or situations gone wrong. I can use them to make informed decisions.
But Fear, there better be life and death involved.
I realize any fear of embarrassment is another jail for me.
I base embarrassment on my idea of me, the image in my mind, and the censors. The more I take bold steps, the stronger I get, the less hold it has on me.
I am weird and quirky. I own that.
Most of the people I talk myself into fear of being embarrassed in front of, don’t know me, or I them. When I turn off ZOOM or walk out of the room, they won’t be coming with me.
I just started writing personal essays to try for publication. And I received my first rejection. I was disappointed, but also elated. I did something for the first time. Someone read it. The next time will be easier.
An editor doesn’t know me. And after she reads my essay, she is on to the next. Her rejection or acceptance isn’t personal. No one is sitting there tallying up how many rejections I have, and I don’t need to tell anyone either. So why the fear? And, as a couple of my readers pointed out, a rejection, comment, etc. is an opinion. Opinions change from person to person.
The only failure I will experience with my writing is if I don’t try at all. Trying is good. I can learn from it. I can sit down and evaluate what I could improve on.
And those that are in my circle, my power people, the ones that lift me up and wish me well, they will still be here tomorrow.