Is There Room for Fear?

Since removing my boot (broken foot, long story, maybe a blog post down the road) in June, I’ve made it my mission to conquer fear.

Conquer may be the wrong word. I’ll never completely get over certain fears, but I do want to learn to live with my fears. I want to acknowledge those fears exist, and then flip them the finger.

A few weeks ago I went snorkeling. Those who know me know that I have an unfounded fear of being in water, despite being an excellent swimmer. One night, maybe in my early teens, I had a dream that I was drowning. Not pleasant. The same dream occurred on a regular basis for years, into my mid-twenties. Always, I was alone and drowning in murky ocean water. Until I moved to Phoenix and the heat forced me to be okay with pools, I wouldn’t even go in a pool! So, snorkeling was a HUGE deal for me.

I hyperventilated, I silently repeated a mantra, at one point on the boat I said “hell, no,” but that didn’t fly because I had told my husband earlier to not let me sit this one out. And then I got in the water. I started to really panic then because, while pool water is safe, this was ocean water. Not safe, according to my fear based on a reoccurring dream.

That’s when I made an arrangement with myself. I said: Self, you’re going to have this fear, but work with me. Let’s put on the mask and peek our head underwater for a second.

I had a death grip on my husband’s hand. We swam against the current and away from a rock that supposedly burned like acid if you touched it (hey, that’s what the guide said). And then nature showed her beauty. A school of rainbow-colored fish swam around me. For an instant my vision blurred not from water, but from the bright colors of a hundred fish!

Fear–whether imagined or learned by experience– is a barrier. Conquering fear might help some people, but I prefer my less-intense approach of accepting fear and living beside it. I don’t want to miss the magic that surprises us in moments of living. Maybe someday I’ll be over my fear of open water, but until that day comes, I plan to live along side of that fear, but still live.

When Shadows Threaten

Most of my life has been in the shadow of someone else. Whether this was a real person, or a fictitious nemesis, there was always something to outdo me; to outshine me. Shrinks would probably call this anxiety. I call this my Bane; the big dude telling Batman that he will break him.

Part of what drives me is my comparison to others. Part of what makes me a perfectionist is the way I study what others do to receive the recognition that I, myself, want. Part of it is that I don’t want to fail. I’m afraid.

BIG SIGH now that my biggest secret is out in the open. But is it? Really, that’s just the surface. Anyone who deals with their own Bane knows it goes much deeper. I deleted a paragraph of ranting about life not being fair, about family pitted against one another, because you know what? At the end of the day, those are only excuses brought on by fear.

To move forward and to become a better person–to shed my Bane– I need to shake it off. I might even sing that Taylor Swift song at the top of my lungs! (In reality, probably not. I’m too ashamed of my way off key voice.)  I’m still going to compare myself to the next person; I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give that up! However, I’m going to look closely at the larger shadow next to me to see if they truly possess a quality that I want to work towards.

So much of what we see is only surface deep; the things a person wants you to see. I must dig deeper, observe, evaluate: does this idolized figure have a quality that I admire? Perhaps then my internal Bane will be a whisper instead of a booming shout.

What I’m reading: Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

Past Self vs. Future Self

We look to our past to get a sense of who we are. Where we come from. Our genes, our ancestors. But why don’t we look at our present and ask who we want to be. Who are we in this moment? Are we thrill seekers, the introvert gamer, the 9-5er? Or are we somewhere in between? What experiences and how do we react to things make us more of who we are than any family hierarchy.

My friend is addicted to solving the mysteries of her family tree and recently found out her background isn’t what she’s been told for thirty plus years. When she told me, I was stunned. It was like our giant pink balloon had popped and we were left with broken pieces. Until I realized that this piece of knowledge doesn’t change one thing about her or our friendship. She’s still my best friend, she’s still the most beautiful soul you will ever meet.

While I’m not saying it isn’t great to identify with your heritage–because it totally is. Own it! But you shouldn’t let it define you. Let your current actions and your future dreams define you. Who are you today? Who do you want to be tomorrow? And finally, what will you DO right now to be the person you are meant to be?

What I’m reading now: Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach

The Social of Social Media

The realization began when a friend reached out on Facebook to thank me for something that hadn’t considered a big deal. But to her it was. She thanked me for coming up to her–a complete stranger at the time–and talking to her. I remember the moment from approximately three years ago, but not in the same way she remembers it.

She sat at a table by herself, new to our MFA residency, an adult beverage in front of her. Me being the lush I am, sat with her so that I wouldn’t be drinking alone. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, other than my circle of friends didn’t drink and I didn’t want to feel awkward (I don’t know why I try to not be awkward–I’ll always be that girl). It’s something I’ve always done. I flit from group to group, never really establishing deep roots.

Then, years after that brief moment, through social media, she publicly thanked me. Without realizing it, she had returned the favor full-fold. My own struggles and self-doubt had taken a toll on me and I felt alone. With her words, not only did she remind me that I am a decent human being, but she affirmed that I do have true friends despite not belonging to one particular “group.”

I think we sometimes forget that social media and our “friends” can not replace the those real moments of what makes us human: those moments of raw connection that illicit a genuine feeling. Because without these complex emotions, what really separates us from artificial intelligence or a pet?

While social media is a wonderful avenue for so many ventures, this year I am going to step out from behind the screen. I am going to make more physical memories, more human connections, so that I have more stories to tell.

Why I Write

I write because I need to write. That is what many writers say.

I write because I need to feel. I need to process the world around me, take in the images I see, and process the feelings, the emotions that linger long after the image is gone. Writing keeps me grounded. Without writing, I would go through life, not truly seeing what is around me.

As a writer, I sit at the edge of a conversation or interaction. Being a writer means taking into account what is around me, observing what takes place during gatherings or impromptu conversations. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a daydreamer.

I’ve always been a writer; however, it wasn’t until recently that I identified myself as a writer. In elementary school I wrote stories about my cat and dog; middle school I copied Edgar Allan Poe’s style, and wrote stories and plays of the macabre. High school I penned poems of unrequited love (because who didn’t do that in high school?). College killed my creative writing. I was excited to take a creative fiction writing class, but not so excited the mechanics of sentence structure. I stopped writing. I stopped feeling.

Only recently, at my husband’s suggestion, did I attend graduate school for creative writing. I had dreams of being an editor. He had dreams of being married to the next very successful author.

I learned all over again how to feel through words.

Now I write because I need to write. Days without writing negatively affects my mood. Of course I want to be a successful author, but that is not why I write.

Currently reading: What’s Important is Feeling by Adam Wilson