I don't need to be 90 on my way to Jesus and thinking back say to myself, "Wow, I'm so glad I aspired to spend more time with family, lose ten pounds, and read a book a month over the course of 2012." No, I doubt it'll be like that at all.
In fact, at this point in life I fear that at 90 I'll look back and wonder why, when I was so able, had my entire life in front of me, that I was too paralyzed with fear to do anything. Hello confession, because that is what this blog entry is going to be. You may want to hold on to your seats... or get some popcorn, whichever you prefer.
Let's go back, say, 20 years or so. (Ok, that does make me feel old.) An average seven year old has rational fears (if any are, say, rational): the dark, being shaving creamed at a sleepover, falling off the top bunk, you know, seven year old fear type things.
Me? Not so much. Maybe it was too much Law and Order or Walker Texas Ranger with my parents, but I feared about burglars and rapists being outside my window. I'm not kidding.
Need a break for that popcorn yet? Just checking.
I would walk the playground at school, and if a helicopter flew over, I'd fear something happened to one of my parents and they were airflighting them out. Again, not kidding. These fears seem even more ridiculous to me seeing them in print, but I'm being honest, remember?
Although those were some of the most extreme, they weren't the ones that paralyzed me. At some point in my life I was able to cope that there were some things I had no control over. If someone wanted to break into our house and rape me as a seven year old, he'd probably succeed. If something was going to happen to one of my parents, there wasn't much I could do to stop it. And so, if I couldn't have control over these situations, I began to try to control the other fears in my life. Generically, I'd define these as the fear of failure, social inadequacy, and just not measuring up in general.
I've had migraine headaches since I could remember, but they really took off when I started kindergarten. (Tragic, right?) Oddly enough, that is when my expectations for myself took off as well. I needed accolades from my parents. If I wasn't getting accolades, I wasn't succeeding. My entire life I did great at school. I figured out in first grade when my neighbor and I started a neighborhood newspaper that I had a knack for writing. I clung to that like a life preserver. Aside from my task oriented, good works life, I was extremely shy, and though I did have friends, it was hard for me to feel like anyone would ever like me, so my shyness stemmed from fear, fear that I'd be disliked, fear that I'd be made fun of. And I've carried this with me for a long, long time.
Through middle school I was losing my shyness. I had my first, um, permanent boyfriend (you can't call it a 'real' boyfriend because, let's face it, we spoke literally about 10 times in two years) when I was in 5th and 6th grade. It was very innocent, very 5th and 6th gradish (at the time anyway, I don't even want to think about an average 5th / 6th grade relationship now), but a small part of my shyness began shaking lose. I desperately needed companionship of others, and up until this point, I was basically close friends with very few and acquaintances with those who could use me at appropriate times. Maybe my self - esteem was increasing, to at least be out of the negative, or maybe I was just tired of being lonely.
It was a slow incline after that, but somewhere I realized I was decent at school and the pressure wasn't near as great as it once was. The migraines slowly started tapering, a welcome finding since I'd literally had them every day of my life for years. I grew a small group of close friends, but as soon as anyone got too close, I moved on. At any notice that I'd disappointed anyone I tucked and ran. I didn't like conflict, didn't want people to think poorly of me, and didn't have the self esteem to think that a friendship with me was worth fighting for. For this reason, I had a lot of different friends, people I cared genuinely about, but people that I didn't allow to see the flaws that I carried, the places I didn't measure up. Believe it or not, in 8th grade I was voted the friendliest girl in my class of 100 or so. I think it largely has to do with this reason.
High school was an interesting turning point in my life. I was more into friendships and social scenes, allowing myself to get closer to a few individuals than I'd ever allowed myself before. It felt good to have friends, to have people who cared about me, a very select few even in spite of myself. Though I enjoyed friendships with several, I can probably count on one hand the number of people who really... really know me after high school. Maybe both hands, but I'd definitely have fingers left over. I was so... average... that the fear was overwhelming that I wouldn't fit in, couldn't perform, yada yada yada.
I'm 27 years old, and I've carried this with me my entire life. Some of the biggest fights I've been in with my husband revolve around my own fears and inadaquecies. A trip to the gym, at one point, turned into a knock down, drag out. He's often joked (though not really) that in a world of 'glass half fulls and empties," I don't even have a glass. And he's right. I don't even have a friggin' glass.
I'm 27 years old with regrets. Regrets that I never let people in. Regrets that I didn't try things outside of my comfort zone. Regrets that my mentality, though only now finally verbalized, has always been, "I'd rather think that I have a chance at doing something than fail and remove all doubt." I have regrets that my self esteem is so poor that I've missed out on people in my life who could have grown me and cared for me. I regret feeling as if I've had nothing to offer in return. I mean, it's regretful that of all of the people I've known in my life, few know me vulnerably. It occurs to me every time I need someone to talk to, to confide in, and the list in my head immediately narrows to the individuals that I've let into my life in that capacity, and then narrows again to those whom I've actually had contact with in the last ten years.
But you know what - here's where the 90 year old woman sits. I refuse to have this regret as my old wrinkly self 60 years from now. I refuse to allow my fears of inadequacy to keep me from who I really am. I want to be able to dream with the possibility of fulfilling it! I want to be able to tangibly see the fears I've overcome.
It doesn't mean I'm not going to be scared as all get out (edited). Because, you know, I am. I'm scared to let my guard down. I mean, I want to write a book and have a publisher want it, but my fear of being unwanted is so strong that I've always used the excuse, "I don't have time to write a book for nothing to happen with it." I have a fear of almost any athletic endeavor because, well, you don't have to know me well at all to know that me and athletics aren't exactly bff's. I hate going in restaurants alone, I hate going to a new place alone, I hate feeling like I have nothing to offer the world, and I'm done with it.
So this year is not a year for resolutions, this year is the year I take ownership of the life I never really had. This year is the year that I erase the boring, calculated, predictable future from my slate, and fill in with risks, failures and successes, successes I may not ever know if I don't conquer this fear that has paralyzed me my entire life. NO, this year isn't a resolution, this year will revolutionize who I will become from here on out. Not that the real 'vulnerable' me will change, but maybe she will gain some confidence, maybe she'll be more trusting, maybe she'll appreciate who she is.
And so - this is the backstory - the novel to get it all going, but for the rest of the year on this blog, not that I won't be sharing about my kids and family and what not, but you'll be seeing a lot of my journey, a lot of heeding opportunities to do things I wouldn't have before and the obstacles I have to overcome to get there.
I realize that this encompasses a lot of possibilities, but two are inevitable... the only two - ahem - goals I've set for myself this year are two that will allow me to tangibly and physically see my fears being overcome:
- Run a half marathon: What it accomplishes (besides losing that extra baby weight): makes me have to work hard and stick with something. It's a long process of overcoming the fear of failing, I'll have to face it, literally, every single day of my life for around 20 weeks of training, at the end I have only to push through it (without dying, of course) to see that I've overcome my own stereotype and perception of myself as an athlete and a competitor. (Not that I'll be winning any gold medals, I don't care if I finish last, as long as I finish, but let's face it, in my history, my biggest competitor is me.)
- Write a book and see it through to completion, and then pray my little heart out that something happens with it. Don't get me wrong, if I finish it, that's an accomplishment, but let's be honest, the entire reason I blog is because I see it useless to write something that someone else can't enjoy, learn from, or understand. Others don't see it that way, I do. So part of achieving this goal means going through all of the motions to submit to a publishing company. If I'm rejected, that is beyond my control, but having tried I know that I at least made the effort. (And maybe next years goal will be to write again, despite it.)
That's it for my first novel. Maybe writing that book will be easier than I thought ;)
Until next time (sooner rather than later) -