In today’s prompt at The Daily Post they asked how our lives would be different if we were incapable of feeling fear. Wow – what an incredible thought!
In his first inaugural address, Franklin Roosevelt uttered those immortal words, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. He had no idea how those words would impact me more than 80 years later.
I’ve been afraid for as long as I can remember of one thing or another.
When I was very young I didn’t know to be afraid but my grandfather changed that when he “played games” with me while my mother went to work. Once she learned about the games Mom made other arrangements but the die was cast, so to speak.
A few years later Mom was in between husbands and left us with a friend for some reason I don’t recall. In fact, I’m not sure I ever knew the reason, just that she disappeared and we were left to fend for ourselves in this strange woman’s house. She took our toys for her children and made us wait on her – or me anyway. My brother would have been too young to be very helpful. I can’t remember her face but I remember her attitude and the stink, and how afraid I was of her. Afraid and resentful at the same time.
I don’t recall how long we were there, but eventually my grandparents discovered where we were and took us to live with them. Dear old Grandpa got to “play” more games with me whenever I couldn’t figure out how to escape his attentions. Again, I have no idea how long we lived there, but it felt like forever.
Mom arrived back in the picture with a new husband and another baby on the way. She fought with the county and won the right to be our mom again. This interval started out well enough until the baby came and the step-father couldn’t deal with the noise. I have a memory of hearing that he hit the baby once but I couldn’t tell you whether that really happened. I do remember him yelling a lot before he left for good. Very little is more fear-inducing for a child than being woken in the middle of the night by a man you barely know screaming at your mother.
Not long after that Mom found yet another husband (anyone keeping count?) and we were moved again. This husband had a womanizing brother-in-law who scared the living daylights out of me! I was barely in junior high but I’d started to develop early and he repeatedly found ways to let me know he noticed. Being a fat, frumpy teenager with the self-esteem of a slug, of course I soaked up the attention. But I was scared because I knew I shouldn’t like the attention he was giving me. And I didn’t know where it was going to lead.
Surprisingly, this marriage, unlike all the others, produced TWO children and lasted until the guy passed away several years later. Unfortunately, the first child was killed in a house fire before his first birthday. Talk about scary.
After high school – and I’m talking the very next day after graduation – I moved back to my grandparents’ home to go to the local community college. I know, I know – like throwing myself back into the lion’s den. But teenagers know everything right? I knew I could handle dear old Gramps. And as it turns out I was right. Oh he did try his shenanigans but I stopped him in his tracks! Score one for me.
The fear didn’t really go away though, it just hid.
Years later I finally realized what I’d been through was abuse and I went for counseling. Group therapy was very helpful, and even though Grandpa was long gone by then it gave me a type of closure. I wasn’t alone in my experience – that went a long way to helping me manage the fear.
I managed it so well I started dating again (I’d been divorced for a couple of years by then I think). It wasn’t online dating (this was the 1990’s after all) but it was still scary because I was calling men who put personal ads in the paper!
Eventually I remarried and have found some true happiness — most of the time. JD can be loving and gentle and supportive. He can also be dark, paranoid and frightening when he’s angry. Not that he’s ever acted out of anger toward me – truthfully he hasn’t. But I saw him break the handle off of a two-tier rolling tool chest once when he was angry.
After more than 16 years together I have decided that his anger stems from his fear. Sometimes I think JD is afraid of more than I ever was. He was building a nice little retirement from his job at an office furniture manufacturing company, but he had to pay his ex-wife her share when she divorced him. Then he didn’t reinvest the remaining part and eventually it was gone. We bought five acres and he took a leave of absence and began remodeling the house. After we lost the property when we had issues with the IRS he was deeply depressed for a very long time. JD still goes on and on about losing the house. He is always going on about losing something, or as he puts it – having it stolen from him. JD’s become so afraid of losing something else that after our near break-in awhile back he rented a storage locker and moved some of our valuables there. We’ll likely be starting up with a local cable company’s security program. Like we have an extra $80 a month to spend on that. But if it will make him feel better (I doubt it) I’ll go along.
On the one hand his constant negativity often wears me down and can keep me from enjoying what we do have as well as our time together. But on the other? I see his fears and I realize my own are gone, or very nearly so.
I used to be afraid of just about everything. But I’ve come to understand that I’m most afraid of being afraid. I want to look past the apprehension and occasional spurt of fear and grab what life offers. I’m only on the planet once as far as I can tell, and I’m fairly certain I’m more than half way through my allotted time. I don’t want to waste any more of it!