I’m big into decorating for Halloween. And dressing up. For a number of years I’ve picked something that plays on a literary concept, because well, writer–English teacher–makes sense, right? One year I was Ann-Tagonist, and another year I was a meta-4, and another year I was an unreliable narrator. Not sure what this year will bring. Totally open to your ideas!
It’s as an adult that I’ve come to love Halloween and dressing up. Here’s an old post about a Halloween when I was in middle school when my shyness kept me from inhabiting my costume with confidence. That’s partly what dressing up is tied up for me now. A desire to fully inhabit my imagination without giving two fucks what others think of me. This gets better with age, for sure.
But this is a post about fear. While I have a lot less fear these days about what other people are going to think or say than I did as a young person, it’s still in there and comes out at odd times. I worked with a personal coach for three months during the heart of the pandemic who supported me on a quest to be bolder. I’m still working on it.
I fear driving fast in cars. I have panic attacks if I try to drive on the freeway, and when someone else is driving, I white-knuckle it and try to hide my nose in a book. I’m often convinced a car wreck is how I’ll die. At my worst moments when riding on the freeway, my imagination plays out the death-moment.
I fear that I have passed on too much of my fear to my son. More than anything, I want him to inhabit his power and worth and light. He’s anxious, like me, like his dad. He’s starting to find his way out of that trap. There’s nothing I want more. I pass on to him all the books, yoga poses, bits of wisdom he’ll allow me to. I tell him my stories.
I fear incompetence most of all. This one gets hard to describe. It starts way back with a sniffly, bullied kid who learned to tip-toe through life because the wrong thing said could mean a pinch, a bruise, a spanking with a belt. But I was always good at school. And I learned that if I kept my room organized and if I made lists of ways I could be better, I had a sort of control. I learned that I could achieve things. I could lose weight by lying for years that I hated chocolate and learning that if I caved and ate all the things I wanted to, I had a failsafe in the laxatives mom kept in the medicine cabinet. I learned that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I got really good at managing my time and filling out forms and applications and doing a good job.
I suppose I am too much of a control freak to have ever given myself fully over to alcohol. But it became a failsafe too, a release valve at the end of the day. The first drinks I ever had taught me that when I was drunk, boys liked me. Get a few drinks in me and I would laugh and dance, and fearful me would leave my body for a while, so it was all so easy. I realize now what a trap that was. A release at the end of the day traded for more anxiety the next day, and thus more need of relief. A vicious cycle fueled by a big money industry that preys on people for profit.
I’m sober now. I’ve been sober-ish since last spring, slips along the way, but mostly soaking up resources and support to make the big move, the commitment. I didn’t start out planning to write about how I’m not drinking anymore. This is a theme-based blog post about fear. How did I get here?
Being an anxious person who has managed to live a fairly successful life means that I’ve learned a lot about how to cope with fear. I trained to run a marathon to stave off the increasing panic attacks plaguing me in my twenties. I picked up yoga at fifteen and never stopped because I realized immediately sitting on a towel in my bedroom floor trying to wrap my body and mind around pose after pose in Richard Hittleman’s book that there was something there for me. I’m all in on the movement meditations to garner what peace I can from life.
What I am not very good at is doing nothing. And that’s what alcohol gave me. An artificial stillness from care. Permission to binge-watch. Okay, so I write this, but I don’t know what to do with it. *pauses *reads it over again. Still not sure and that’s okay.
The other day I was driving to the grocery store when I got hit with a wave of panic. No rhyme or reason, just the usual way that feelings of impending doom hit you on a Sunday morning out shopping. My first instinct was to pull over and call for help. Then, I told myself, hey, you’ve got this. You know this fear and you know what to do. So, I remembered where my feet were, where my hands were, and I took some deep breaths and began to sing. Critical me questioned my song choice. Better me said go ahead and sing whatever the fuck you want. There’s a reason there are so many songs about rainbows. I got all the shopping done in the knick of time to make it to writer’s group.
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Some past posts to keep you making time:
Adjust your pace accordingly.
It’s about the routine and how you shake up the routine
There are things you will have to give up
See it to achieve it
Washing the dishes
A celebration of the pause
Monday, a run through the driving rain
Get out of your comfort zone