This I Believe

Monta - Winona, Minnesota
Entered on October 29, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: courage, hope

I believe in a fearless life. Like many things we believe in, it is something I work towards. I try not to be afraid.

I am not particularly afraid of dying. I believe there just might be something for us after we die; I don’t know exactly what, but I think it exists, so I have the anticipation of anticipating it, but not until the time comes – there is too much to live for now.

Before I got control of myself, before I discovered my own strength and confidence, I spent over 20 years living in fear, worrying about ridiculous things like hot water heaters blowing up, or elevators stalling with me inside, or large windows shattering without warning. In the winter I kept a hammer in the car to break a window, something to cut through seat belts, and a rope with loops tied in it that could be fastened around each child’s waist to pull them to safety. I was afraid that I’d slide off the road and into a cranberry bog when it was icy. I don’t think cranberry bogs are very deep; it wasn’t a rational fear.

For years I worried about the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it. I always made sure that there was many months worth of food in the pantry and cellar and ammunition for the guns. I told myself I could shoot a looter – to protect my children – I tried to make myself believe it.

I made sure I knew how to grow and preserve my own foods without electricity. I kept spare parts for the essential pieces of equipment, used wood to heat the house, and got water from a spring on the side of the mountain. I raised sheep for meat and wool. I knew how to spin and weave. I had a treadle sewing machine so that I could make clothing even if electricity was unavailable.

I remember deciding we should not buy a piece of property solely because the house would be visible from the highway and we lived just about where people fleeing from Washington DC would run out of gasoline.

My then-husband liked to exaggerate the risks and encourage the fear in me that kept me agitated most of the time. It made him seem an indispensable source of security – the mighty hunter, the protector, the madman openly longing for the downfall of civilization, fantasizing about being out in the wilderness, tackling the natural world. He was forever telling people he was born in the wrong century – that he wished he’d been born when the men were men and the women knew a good thing when they saw it. He couldn’t help exaggerating and feeding me a daily diet of fear. It was how he made himself feel good about being him.

It took me a long time to realize that I was out from under that dark shadow; that I no longer worried about catastrophes or disasters or my husband. It crept up on me, in the midst of a nasty divorce. One morning I discovered that I wasn’t afraid and that I hadn’t been in a long, long time.

I believe in a fearless life. The belief itself feels like a victory.