Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fearful isn't Living

You will be relieved to know that I finally finished the review of "Stuff" and am stepping away from my obsession with the obsession of hoarding.

Before I put the book on the shelf, I managed to de-clutter my office. That is to say, I moved the containers of papers that need to be looked at and properly filed. I moved them into the guest room.

I like a room without clutter which is why eventually the guest room will get cleaned as well and the filing done. Oh and I actually threw away quite a few items that had just been sitting around gathering dust.

This concern with things seems to stem from fear. Norman Vincent Peale said, "Fear can infect us early in life until eventually it cuts a deep groove of apprehension in all our thinking. To counteract it, let faith, hope and courage enter your thinking. Fear is strong, but faith is stronger yet."

He's right you know. Fears we learn as children or adolescents can color our world for a lifetime. My parents are good examples of the work of fear. They came of age during The Great Depression and experienced the loss of any and all security. My father's family were impoverished to begin with. His father worked building oil rigs. He was a master carpenter, but then someone invented metal derricks and he was out of a job. The boys started working as mere toddlers. Dad was shining shoes at the age of four with his older brothers. As he grew the jobs changed. He sold newspapers on street corners and biked around town delivering telegrams in all kinds of weather. He understood how precious everything was. His Christmas -- if it was a good year -- was an orange and new underwear or socks or maybe gloves. I hadn't realized that poverty had left a mark on him until after I had left home and happened upon an article about the effects of malnutrition.

Dad's front teeth looked strong enough, but there was a groove that ran horizontally across them. It is the result of malnourishment when he was a child. Dad would never have told us that and maybe like most children, he just thought that the way he lived was the way every one lived. But Dad would always dislike Christmas and the pile of presents under the tree. He also never wanted to amass things; but rather invest in a secure life and independence.

Mom lived on a farm so they grew their own food. They were not malnourished, but they couldn't buy anything. No new clothes or shoes. She'd find a dime now and then and go with friends to the movies -- an escape for sure. Compared to Dad she had an easy time during the Great Depression. At least until her father lost his farm to the Insurance Company/Bank/Mortgage lender. It was the beginning of the end for her father. He was a broken and angry man after that. So, fear formed my parents, Mom more than Dad. He learned to survive and he had brothers and sisters to share the situation. They were all in it together. Mom was alone with her parents in a position where she was powerless to do anything other than domestic chores.

She raised her children with this fear of loss. The fear to try something. Her father had placed a mortgage on their farm in good times so he could fix it up, make their home more beautiful and comfortable. He lost everything.

There are other fears that may seem harmless, but will leave lasting scars. Children can do such harm --playmates, siblings. Behaviors can be shrugged off as 'child's play' or 'boys will be boys' or 'sticks and stones.' Recently a conversation turned from soccer matches to sports related traumas. One woman pointed out that the kids quickly learned that she was an easy target in dodge ball. She still remembered the humiliation. Another remembered a track experience. Jumping hurdles, falling, getting up, falling, falling, falling. Public humiliation at its finest.

Sometimes siblings are the worst. You love even adore them and they take advantage of that love. One woman recalls how her brother took advantage of her trust. It seems that every woman has a story of sexual assault by someone she knew or trusted. Some learn to deal with it. Some never do. But they all remember the incident. It colors their lives.

Fears guide our decisiona and choices. Ever wonder what you would do if you were fearless? The question was posed to a group of fabric artists. Some said 'sky diving' and 'rock climbing.' Others mentioned travel. This woman who had been sexually abused as a child added, "Love unconditionally."

Looking back on one's life quickly points out how short our lives truly are. Letting fear rob us of what little time we have seems like an unspeakable crime. We can't always protect that little vulnerable self that sits at the center of our being and shivers in fear. There comes a time when we must nudge her out into the light and encourage her to take those first steps toward growth and actualization. Who is the real you? Shrug off that cloak of fear and see who you were created to be. No fear.

What would I do if I had no fear? I have this fear of failure and this fear of success....without those, I'd jettison that self censor and write my book. Write my books! I listen to authors who have actually written a novel. They have found their voices. Fear no longer silences or stifles them.

What about you?