Friday, August 31, 2012

On Fear

In a short conversation with Alana Sheeren (see previous post) she asked "what's the worst that can happen." Knowing it was only a 15 minute call and I didn't have time for a laundry list of "worsts" I blurted out failure.

Yeh, I'm pretty afraid of failing even though I've had some mighty successes in my life. Weird.

Later on Alana asked me what would I say to Little ME.  As I did in my therapist's office a few months ago after an EMDR session, I imagined holding her hand and saying, "it's going to be okay."

There I am feeling so scared I'm almost paralyzed with moving ahead in my life and at the same time I'm telling my inner child everything is going to be ok. I used to be like that with my children.  For example, when traveling, I'm a worry-wort of the highest degree. I check my ticket, put my i.d. in a place where I'll find it easily, check my ticket, shuffle through my purse looking for my i.d., go to the bathroom then start the process over again. On our most recent trip Sweetie just patted his pocket and kept on reading after the third time I asked him if he had the tickets he. BUT, when I traveled with my kids, I had a noticeable (to me) air of confidence. I knew where the tickets were. I guided the children through airports like I knew where I was going. I was strong because they needed me to be.

My daughter is getting married next month. She gets a little anxious. And even though I know if I were in her shoes, I'd be wobbly in the knees and my chest would be pounding before the party began, I tell her "it's going to be okay." And I'm not blowing smoke, or just being motherly. I know it's going to be okay. Whatever happens is going to be okay.

So the question I have for myself is why don't I have those same assurances for Scaredy Cat ME? Why do I forget that my inner child is afraid of being judged, of failing, of looking stupid, of being laughed at, of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and just needs me to hold her hand? Why don't I say, "it's going to be okay" ? It doesn't seem like it's that hard of a thing to do.

So I'm driving to the post office this morning and hear a repeat of an interview with Jack Black on NPR's Fresh Air.  It was a short trip so I only heard a small part of the interview, but it's the part I needed to hear. I love it when things happen like that.

Black: Oh, it's got to be "Pippin." That was my best one. But we also did a production of a Bertolt Brecht play called "The Caucasian Chalk Circle." And I played Azdak, the kind of anarchistic judge in a land that was sort of in turmoil. That was a kind of a heavy play to do in high school. It was pretty advanced.
GROSS: Mm-hmm.
BLACK: But I had a blast, and I overcame a lot of fears. I remember I was so scared opening night, when we were supposed to do our first performance for all the parents, that I just called my teacher and said, I'm not doing the play. And he said, just come meet me at the diner. And so I met him at the diner that day. And he talked me into it, said don't worry about failing; it's going to be fine. You know, it is what it is. It's an experience. You're going to learn from it. I was like, OK. And I did it. And I was so filled with fear and adrenaline that I gave probably my best performance of my life that day.
And it's a lesson that I've carried with me - that just because I'm terrified doesn't mean that I shouldn't do it. You know, and a lot of times I'll want to turn down a role or something because I'm scared of what it is, or that I won't do it well and people will judge me. And then I have to say, eh, remember high school? You were scared of Azdak.
And I'll - more often than not - do it if I think that the fear is based in just cowardice, as opposed to something that I really shouldn't do.
The word cowardice jumped out of the radio and screamed at me to take a closer look. Merriam Webster's Student dictionary defines cowardice as "lack of courage to face danger : shameful fear."

Ah, now we're getting somewhere. Shame-filled fear. There's a difference between being afraid of something that can really hurt you and being afraid of just about everything like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. The fight or flight fear that is nature's way of making our decision for us in a dangerous situation is different from being afraid that there is a giant sweeping, look-at-this-fool spotlight on me shining its glaring light on everything I do.

Next time I'm feeling afraid, I think I will just look over my shoulder and if there is no bear coming after me, I'll grab my Little girl's hand and remind us both, "it's going to be okay." I don't know if it will work, but it's worth a try.

Wishing for you a moment of clarity.
Merry ME

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Treating yuorself with loving kindness ALWAYS works, Merry. Small, consistent, encouragement and praise.