It was so surreal to read in L.M. Montgomery’s journals that she had a nagging, exaggerated fear of cancer. I had the same thing as a child and teen. Then, much to my chagrin, I got to face the stupid thing head-on in the last year of my twenties. You all know how that turned out – I’m still alive, and I am – dare I say it – stronger. In fact, by the end of L.M.’s journals, I felt grateful that I had to face that larger-than-life, misappropriated fear, because it made me a better person against the the other dark things life can throw at us and against which L.M. Montgomery did not seem to have enough vim. (Vim: n. Ebullient vitality and energy.) (Ebullient: adj. Zestfully enthusiastic.)
Having had a few irrational fears in my lifetime, these days I like to think about the things of which I have no fear.
I am not afraid of cancer
I’m not saying I don’t get nervous at check-up time. I just know that can’t-sleep, near-panic, I’m-pretty-sure-just-the-fear-will-kill-me feeling gets absolutely no time with my otherwise fragile soul anymore.
I am not afraid of totally screwing up as a parent
Before my first pregnancy, I saw an episode of Maury Povich that set John’s conception back by several months. For a while afterwards, there was no way I was EVER going to bring a being into the world who could become one of the teenagers I witnessed on that show. Now I have one fourteen-year-old, one twelve-year-old, and a Jake. I have a healthy respect for the journey, but I just believe the best is possible and less than that can be graceful, too. (As in, full of grace, merciful, and totally worth it.)
I am not afraid to try
Again and again. All the things. Anything I want, if I really want it. I’m not afraid to fail. I am unwilling to be insignificant.
I am not afraid to be sad
I love the Louis CK video that has circled lately. It is ostensibly about why he won’t let his children have cell phones. But it’s really about why we should not be afraid of the waves of sadness and loneliness and what-the-heck-is-life-all-about-ness that comes to us when we are quiet and alone. I’m not afraid to grieve or worry (for a moment) or cry, because the antidote (as Louis CK puts it) is on the other side of our embracing the sad.
I am not afraid of want
It’s okay that I don’t have everything I want. It’s okay that I want more. Any writing teacher or editor will tell you, the characters in a story have to want something. That’s what makes the story possible. If I am afraid of anything, it is excess. A movie producer once sold his giant home for a more economical one. He did a lot of other downsizing-type things, too, and he made a documentary about it. And in the documentary he said,
An ocean, a rainforest, the human body, are all co-operatives. The redwood tree doesn’t take all the soil and nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn’t kill every gazelle, just one. We have a term for something in the body when it takes more than its share: We call it cancer.
I wish I could stop all the fear – yours, mine…the fear our children face in the middle of the night after a scary dream, thunder, or that realization that maybe they are alone. I can’t stop it. But there are some fears I have faced. Now, I am taller than these. I can look them in the eye, and I can say, No.
Today, I shall.