Fear and a Freebie

Rogue Wave, which I am coming to the end of producing, is about a woman who lets fear control her for thirteen years. After all this time writing this novel, I’m still mulling over fear. So this is thinking in print. Read to the end for a freebie. Hang on, here we go.

When have I been afraid?

When I’ve done something wrong, and feared people would find out. So then, I’d hide it or lie. That kind of fear has bad outcomes–distancing me from people I love, defining me as the stupid choices I make, starting a downward spiral. Those are just a few consequences I can think of. As I think back, it was only when I told someone the truth that I was freed from the tyrany of the fear. Though sometimes the process of freeing me took a while, depending upon the seriousness of the screwup.

Once I was left at the wrong baseball park to see a game when I was in junior high. By the time it dawned on me no one else was coming, night was falling. I started the walk home. However, it was autumn and when leaves skittered behind me I just knew someone with poor motives followed me. My walk turned into a run fueled by fear. I guess, in truth, there was really nothing to be afraid of. And yet the fear was real. Hmmm.

My protagonist isn’t afraid for herself, but for her daughter. I can relate to that because I’ve always been more willing to protect and defend others than I am myself. I hope I’m not the only one who does that, but I hope I wouldn’t do it for thirteen years. Only, I happen to know I’ve been really affected by stuff that happened in my life more than 13 years ago. How could someone who experienced something fierce manage to climb out of the fear it caused? Running doesn’t work. Fear goes with you, even when there’s nothing to be afraid of. I know from the basefall field experience. Counseling might work. Someone to talk it through with. Dang, there’s that talking thing again.

I remember once I saw two guys jump out of pickup trucks and just start beating each other in a gas station. Maybe it was road rage, or something. It’s frightening watching men fight with your own eyes, not like on TV. I was stopped at a stoplight, and about eight months pregnant, so I kept going. (It was before cell phones.) Only, I did feel fear. Violence is fear-causing.

I live a pretty comfortable, peaceable life. There’s not an occasion for fear except every once in a while. Some people don’t have that luxury. I’m thinking homeless people probably spend a huge percentage of their time afraid. Anyway, I would. Just imagining having to sleep in the open on a city street, freaks me out. I’d be afraid if I were getting my food from dumpsters what kind of destructive germs I might eat.  If I hadn’t had a shower in weeks or months, I’d be afraid to get close to other people.  Or what about people who live in gang-ruled neighborhoods? It would be so lousy to have to “not see” what happened right outside your house, or watch your children and grandchildren be pulled into that dark world. Fear.

My writing mentor, Ethel Herr, who now lives with God, once told me that if my writing held no hope, it wasn’t worth writing. Is there hope at the end of fear? I think the hope comes when we face the fear, evaluate what we can do, and do it. Whether it’s remove ourselves from the situation, confess, get counseling, stand up to the bully, or simply tell ourselves the truth. So, that’s what I think.

If you’d like a preview of Rogue Wave, I’ll send you a copy of the first chapter if you’ll leave your email address in the comments.


What if …

What if I made it my plan to do a kindness every day. I could: give a dozen eggs to someone one day; listen to someone who needed an ear another; give water to someone who was thirsty; pay for the person behind me in a drive thru; smile at the driver who changes lanes without signalling on my front bumper; teach someone to speak English or read; hug everybody I know when I see them; send a donation to help in Texas.

OK, that’s seven. That’ll keep me busy for a week.

Now get out there and change lanes in front of me without signalling.

How Do I Know?

IMG_0898.jpg  So, I look around me, and a bunch of people appear to know exactly what to do in any given situation. Yet, when I’m faced with more than making a cup of tea, I hesitate and wonder. How do you know the difference between serving and codependency? How do you know the difference between reconciliation and doormatism? Fortunately for me, I’m married to a marriage and family therapist. He’s been working on me for 48 years, not in public or anything, but kind of nudge therapy.

For instance, every Saturday morning since we got smart, we eschew the world, and hold a pow wow on our bed. Usually, we start off with small talk, or what the coming week looks like. I admit, I do most of the talking. Suppose, after we get the small talk and planning out of the way, I said, “OK, So and So said such and such about whoseit. Do I have any place in this?”

I can tell you what he would say, or pretty close. “Do you have a monkey in this circus?”

That would make me consider. I do this best out loud. “Well, whoseit is my friend, maybe I’m supposed to defend or support her?”

And he’d say, “Does she need defending or supporting, or can she handle it herself?” (See that’s the codependency thing. If she can do it herself, and I get involved, I’m being … codependent.) I’ll leave the reconciliation vs. doormat thing for another time, but get my drift.

Honestly, it’s a little irritating to me that I can’t have this whole conversation with myself. However, on the other hand, God made us to need each other, right? So, maybe I’m ok needing the “Old Man” to help me think. He, on the other hand, does most of this kind of thinking inside his head. That’s why he’s the mft, and I’m not. He has other stuff he needs to hear out loud, like whether we’ll populate Mars, or if he ought to make a pinhole camera to watch the solar eclipse with. I just smile and nod, and encourage.

I’m beginning to suspect there may be more people like me than I thought. Otherwise, the Old Man would be out of a job, right?