Getting Off My Butt and Out of Fear

Laura - Pine Grove, Louisiana
Entered on July 10, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I recently felt the swell of emotion that only accompanies being present at a wedding… and exactly one month prior, I also felt the sucking, draining sensation that comes only from attending a funeral. Life had book ended a great spectrum of emotion for me and my family, and the result was that I couldn’t really make more sense of the experiences than just what I could make out from one moment to the next. Perhaps that was the point.

We are, daily, touched by the full range of the “human experience” and yet it is only in these times of great impact that we hardly notice at all. At both events I found myself regretting. Regretting that I hadn’t been a better friend, that I hadn’t made more time, that I hadn’t done more noticing. These regrets weren’t limited to specific areas of my life, but instead encompassed all. Between hopes and legacies, there is a great divide. For me, the chasm was filled with one clanging question… why hadn’t I gotten off my butt and told every single person in my life how I felt? In truth, there was a second, nagging inquiry too… why hadn’t I worked harder to rip up the very best of every day, of every moment?

The answer, in hard truth form, is that I have been paralyzed by fear of failure and from an ailing perspective. The perspective point is easier to address – who among us has not focused on the negative things in their life when instead they should be grateful? Who has not rented space out in their brain to people who did not deserve it? Our absolution seems to come just in the utterance of the shortcoming, so we dust ourselves off and raise our china a bit higher and feel cleansed and anew in a way that is clearer than ten Hail Marys. In short, I can admit that I have gotten angry over inconsequential arguments with friends, or that I have wasted precious time bickering with my husband when I could have been kissing him. I’ve gone to bed mad on occasion, wasted valuable time having to be “heard” and even slammed the phone down with a much more satisfying “thunk,” rather than an “I Love You.” I am guilty, guilty, guilty, and each time I realize my folly I promise to remember the special gifts in my life and focus on the positive. These goals are realistic. Once you lose a friend because he wrapped himself around a tree going 110 miles per hour, you tend to gain some perspective.

Fear, however, is the ugliest demon in my underworld. It is what has made me unhappy time and again, and it is my most embarrassing self. It does not have a place in the image I’ve carved for myself or that I share with others: a scrappy, strong-willed, gentle, and loving cowgirl, teacher, wife, mother, and friend. The reality is that were I this person that I long to be, I would not have two reflections in one mirror. The truth is that all of the things I want to be I am not because I have been paralyzed with the fear that I will fail, that the curtain will fall away and I will be left yelling into a mic with a voice amplifier for those listening to pay no attention to the person behind the curtain. This truth is hardest to bear because I’ve talked a good game about letting out the full length of the reins and living life to the fullest and other such sentimental sound bites.

I’ve realized that truth is the distance between hopes and legacies, and that the choice in this moment is mine. Whether it is a cantata or a dirge underscoring the event, or even some distant memory of either, it is this difficult honesty that propels me forward. Unrealistic as it may be, starting today, I will not be afraid.