Monday, July 4, 2011

What about fear?

Once there was a little girl who was afraid of needles. So when she learned that she was scheduled to get a vaccination in a few days she sunk into a pattern of fear ruling her life. She only thought about getting a shot and how much it would hurt. When the day arrived she pinched herself as hard as she could over and over, telling herself how it would feel. When she finally got the shot she didn’t feel it. She pinched her arm so much she had numbed it. Years later when she shared this story with me she told me how she realized that fear of something can be worse than the actual thing.

My earliest memories of Independence Day were hiding under the covers while fireworks exploded outside. I would hear the loud bang followed by laughter. I didn’t know there was any difference between fireworks and firecrackers. I thought they looked like a saltine cracker with a fuse that people lit and then flung into the air. I didn’t understand what was so fun about them. At that young age loud noises frightened me. Back then I also didn’t care for my dad’s lawn mower because it was so loud.

I finally outgrew my fear of loud noises and nowadays crank up my MP3 player while I vacuum. I like to think that I am not really afraid of anything. Aside from talking on the telephone which I dread I have no typical phobias. Spiders, sharks snakes, and heights don’t paralyze me. But to say I’m fearless is way off.

I don’t risk anything very much any more. I’m afraid of failure. I failed at trying to get my teaching credential and be a school teacher. Some might call it a setback but I called it a failure and I gave up trying. So now the only goal I have with writing is to wake up and write something as many days a week as I can. I don’t fail at publication or even word count because that is not the goal. No goals, no failures.

Throughout college and my life after it I took significant risks and achieved a lot. I think that I remembered the story of the little girl getting the shot and plowed on never letting fear stop me. It’s hard to imagine I was ever like that. Indeed here I am sitting in a comfortable chair sipping coffee with my kitten watching me on my day off from my nice comfortable job. Why would I possibly want to risk anything to do anything? Leave that to the kids who just graduated High School or college. I’m done.

If the second half of the above paragraph looks a little overconfident and naïve I noticed that too. I bluster about how I’ll just sit here and never have to risk anything again and that is a big fat lie. I have two teenagers in the house. In six months I’ll have three. I won’t be back down to having two for six years. Teenage headaches I have been able to weather… so far. But this week I realized that I need to step out of my comfort zone in order to lead. It’s time for college applications, driver licenses and chats about adult topics. There is no place for paralyzing fear of the future because now it’s more than my future. The future was thrilling two decades ago. But maybe that joy wasn’t squashed. Maybe it was only made dormant. I hope that under the fear of failure and layers of comfort I can take that thrill and excitement over what the future holds and harness it and model it.

So, let the fireworks begin.

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