Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who do I think I am?

So I've been talking about fear and how I've let it hold me back.  What I'm slowly beginning to realize is just how much of who I think I am has been shaped, in some way, by fear.  The way I dress, the decisions I make for myself and my girls, the ways I spend my time.  The people I spend my time with.  All of those things are determined by my fear of not fitting in or living up to expectations or disappointing people I love.  Or being thought strange by people who's opinion I couldn't care less about.

I have an image of myself.  That image represents who I think I am.  And when I want to do something, I consider that image and try to figure out whether someone like "her" would do something like "that."  Would she wear colorful clothes that show some cleavage?  Would she wear clothes that show off her curves?  That might attract attention?  Or would she wear loose fitting clothes that hide the figure she doesn't think is good enough to show off?  Would she go out with the smart, cute, funny, interesting guy who gives her butterflies but happens to be quite a bit younger than her?  Or would she stick with the safe guy who looks good on paper, who would please her family, but bores her to tears?  Would she get the tattoo she's wanted for years or does she decide not to because her teenage daughter thinks it's weird for a mom to get a tattoo?

Like a lot of people, as I was growing up, I conformed to other people's expectations of me. It was like someone built a box of expectations and I jumped right in and stayed there too long.  So long, in fact, that I forgot who I really am.  Living an unauthentic life is painful.  And exhausting.  It's easier to just accept it and adapt.  And somewhere along the way I started thinking that the life other people wanted for me was the life I wanted for myself.  It was easier that way.

Lately I've been thinking about The Matrix when Neo first meets with Morpheus.  And Morpheus offers him a choice:  "You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."  Or, in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy sees that the Wizard is just a man hiding behind a curtain.  I took the red pill.  I see Wonderland.  I know that there's no big, scary Wizard of Oz that we have to obey.  I'm out of the box and there's no going back.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Be afraid. Be very afraid. But do it anyway.

So, I guess that my last post wasn't the catalyst to regular writing that I had hoped it would be.  I sit down to write.  I write a few sentences.  I decide that they suck.  I delete the sentences.  I go do something else.  And nothing ever gets written.

I want to write. I truly believe that I have something to share and that writing is the way I need to share it. I've written things that people like.  On occasion.  I have ideas sometimes.  I can tell a good story now and then and if I try, I can get it to sound as good on paper as it does when I tell it out loud.  When I'm not writing, I feel like something is missing in my life.  And since I haven't been writing for months, there's a big gaping hole that's only getting bigger.

There's only one thing that's stopping me.  It's as common as hay fever in August.  Which makes it a cliche.  I hate being a cliche.  I hate being in the same zip code as a cliche.

My albatross is fear.  Fear of not being good enough.  Fear that even if I happen to write something half way decent, everyone will eventually figure out that I'm a fraud and any good writing is just a fluke.  Fear that if people do like what I write, I'll have a reputation to uphold which will require me to keep writing stuff people like. Regularly.  And what if I can't?  What if I run out of things to say?  (Well, anyone who knows me in real life will know that one's not likely.)

I was talking to my teenage daughter about making fear-based decisions last night.  Actually we've been talking about it a lot lately.  Or, more accurately, yelling at each other about it a lot.  She's in the process of making a fear-based decision.  There's something I'm pretty sure she wants to do but she's convinced herself that she's not ready. That she can't do it right now.  That she needs to do something else first and get herself ready and THEN she'll do this thing.  Next time.  After much "discussion" about it she admitted that she's afraid - people expect big things from her and she's afraid she won't measure up. She's been a big fish in a little pond in some ways and now she's swimming in the ocean.  She can't bring herself to try because fear of failure has overwhelmed her.  Fear has led her to question whether she even wants to do this thing at all.  That's where fear is the most dangerous.  It makes us hesitate to work towards our dream and then convinces us we never wanted that dream anyway.

I'm in a pickle with this situation.  On the one hand, if I push her to do this thing she'll likely resent me and it will hurt our relationship.  And maybe not doing it is the right thing for her anyway.  On the other hand, if I don't push her to move past her fear, her comfort zone may get smaller (and smaller and smaller) until she's afraid to take any risks.  And isn't it my job as a parent to help her make good decisions?  Decisions that will help her get where she wants to be, wherever that is?  To help her evaluate her options, work through her fears and make the best decision for herself (even if it's not the decision I would have made)?

But, really, who am I to be counseling her on dealing with fear anyway?  Fear has my number.  Fear has had me in a choke hold for years.  And I'm trying to teach someone how to deal with it?  It's kind of sad, if you think about it.

So this morning I decided that the best thing I can do for my daughter is to wrestle down my own fear.  To work on my own issues and, maybe, be able to show her by example how to do it.  I'm still afraid.  But I'm going to do what I need to do anyway.