How would your life be different if you were incapable of feeling fear?
Would your life be better or worse than it is now?
I published this back in January, but felt it fit today’s prompt so I am re posting it
As I crossed the icy parking lot on my way into the gym this morning, looking down watching my every step, a girl maybe 20 years younger than me ran past- ran across the lot – which was full of snow and ice- and all I could think as she ran was, she is running with “abandon”- abandon! fool! Doesn’t she know she could fall- doesn’t she think about it- realize it? 15 years ago I was just walking- not running, and slipped on black ice and broke my pelvis. It was after that I became aware of “hidden dangers”- the things you can’t see, that you are not thinking about that can land you bedridden for 3 weeks and on crutches for 12. But I also thought how freeing it must be to be able to just go about your life and not think about the what could happen, and the it might happen, and what if happens.
I was fearful as a child- lack of confidence which as an adult I attributed to growing up with a mother who was negative, and wore down my confidence. I was also the oldest, and never allowed to venture too far- something could happen. My mother’s own fear imposed on me. Becoming ingrained in me. Becoming who I would become. Don’t go near the street sewer, you could fall in. Don’t touch the plug socket, you could get electrocuted, watch when you are stepping between the dock & the boat, you could fall into the water, you can’t go into new York City it is too dangerous. I have a sister who is ten years younger than I am, fourth in line, and by the time she came along my mother was tired, my parent’s marriage was on the rocks, and it was as if she grew up in a different house with a different mother. While at age 18 I was still not allowed to go into NYC with friends, when she was 18 she was flying with a friend to Rio de Janeiro for a week. Needless to say, my sister is afraid of nothing.
I was not always thinking about the what could happens until I became older though. I was never very outgoing and never was the type to take chances, I liked playing it safe, I wasn’t adventurous, didn’t partake in risky behavior, (except for getting high in my teens and occasionally drinking too much) My friends went to sleep away camp for the summer, but I didn’t mind not going away from home like my friends did. In my 20’s I had a full life and good friends, had my own apartment, was working in New York City (much to my mother’s chagrin) and traveled every summer-Europe, Israel, Canada. The fears abated, and certainly didn’t stifle me-I seemed to break out of the worrisome child I had been.
I married a man who always sees the cup half full not empty, who helped to chip away at the lack of confidence that kept me from venturing out to try new things. And so I became less afraid of failing, and if I did fail, so what, at least I tried. It was refreshing and liberating to realize that I was capable of things I never thought I could do. He is not a worrier, and helped me realize that my time spent worrying was counter productive, as very often, and most times, whatever I was worrying about never came to pass. But I had grown up learning to worry from all of those things that I had not been allowed to do, was told to stay away from. The fear and worry cycle is a hard one to break.
Then I started volunteering in a hospital, visiting patients, and was thrust into the world of people who get sick, often young people, that had no warning, that sometimes died from what was making them sick. Seeing this side of life did not make me worry more, it made me realize that random things happen, that things happen to people for no “reason” and that is just the way of life. But they do happen, they can happen. So I was back to the what ifs, and the could be. And it was not just the idea of becoming sick, but also that random things can happen. I do my best now to attempt to prevent things from happening that I can prevent- I watch where I am walking when it is icy, I drive carefully and let the speeders go past, I try to keep myself in “safe” surroundings- I don’t go hiking down unmarked trails in the woods- so have I regressed to the fearful child I was- not willing to take the chance, for fear of what could happen? In many ways, yes I have- but it is now a choice I have made- I know myself, I like feeling safe, I am not a risk taker- it is just not who I am. I fight with myself not to worry- not to sweat the small stuff that I have no control over. But I do live a life of caution- I look before I leap- if I ever do take that leap. There are things we have no control over that will happen, but there are things that maybe we do have control over and can prevent from happening- the girl running over the ice this morning is lucky she did not fall- but I am not willing to take that chance, to run when I can walk- to try to keep myself out of harms way when I can. There are times when I wish I didn’t think so much, wish I could “throw caution to the wind”- but it is hard to change, it is hard to learn a new way “to be.” Maybe someday- someday when I am even older and in a place where the things I feared would happen, haven’t- maybe then.