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.

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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

My Version of the Truth

Someone asked me last night if I tell the truth. What a loaded question. This person referred to a specific event in our lives, but their question got me thinking about my writing. What truth is in my writing?

“Write what you know” is common advice for writers. Does that mean that fiction books represent real events? Maybe, probably, no way in hell. But a real event can be construed so many ways by the “what if this happens?” question that writers ask themselves as they place their characters in the middle of a huge shit storm.

A seed of a truth can be taken, used, morphed, rewritten so many times that the original seed is no longer visible. Does this make something any less true?

While writing, I take an incident– or several incidents– and blend them into a story. The only truth that matters to me while I write is the question I ask myself every day: did I tell this story to the best of my ability? This is one of the hardest questions to answer truthfully, but also one of the most important instances for me to be honest.

So, truth in writing only matters at the end of the day, once the words are on the page. Is this my best work to date? Did I pour my soul into these words? If the answer is yes, then it is the only truth that matters.

Currently reading: Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion