2. Describe three legitimate fears you have, and explain how they became fears.
Fear is a tricky concept. It can be something that induces heart-freezing, pulse-racing, blood pressure-skyrocketing anxiety, but it can also just nag the recesses of your brain and make you apprehensive. By definition, fear doesn’t even have to be real to be felt:
Fear [feer], noun: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feel or condition of being afraid.
As a child, I was afraid of many things, but I did a fairly good job of covering it. Despite the fears I had, I always seemed to have the reputation for being outspoken and for being someone who sought to be a leader. On the outside, I must’ve exuded confidence and knowledge. On the inside, all I felt was fear and embarassing ignorance. Regardless of whether that ignorance was real or the fear was justified, it was how I felt, and perception is reality.
My fears weren’t specific to any particular thing and were often contrary to each other. I feared being in the spotlight but also feared not getting enough attention for the things I did. I feared not knowing an answer when the teacher called on me in class but also feared looking like the teacher’s pet who always had the answers. I preferred to be one of the first ones in class or at an event – it was much easier to be the first one there than to have to walk into an already established group. I was shy about approaching people but somehow always ended up being among the group’s leaders.
As you girls are growing up and discovering what type of person you will be in this world, I see you going through so many of the same things Daddy and I went through as kids. I can only hope you will find your way to a comfortable place in Life and get past some of these things as you mature.
Sarah, you have always been my fear-laden child. There were things that happened in your first year of Life that might have helped create a few of your fears (repeatedly loud sounds, sleeping alone, etc.), and there were things that happened when you were around the age of three that helped cement some of those fears very unnecessarily. Those are things which you and I will talk about in greater detail when you get older, and they are topics for face-to-face realism rather than cyber-platformed blogs available for public consumption. I am proud of you for growing beyond some of your fears and finding a strength you didn’t know you had from time to time. As you get older, you are beginning to discover the difference between cautious hesitation and paralyzing fear, and I hope you will continue to hold onto a wee bit of that caution. It may serve you well as you grow up and make lifelong impacting decisions.
Aubrey, the only thing you have truly ever feared is dogs, and you seem to have gotten past that thanks to our shortlived adoption of Piper. You are my child who jumps off the couch with nothing soft on which to land, 100% trusts Daddy won’t drop you when he swings you around and runs into the parking lot with the assumption that traffic will magically stop. After you went down the big slide at school at barely 18 months old, your three-and-a-half-year-old sister finally found her courage to do the same. You aren’t afraid to fall, laugh and barrel on to the next thing. You have always had a Life-tackling enthusiasm about you, and I hope you hold onto that and learn to balance it with a little of the caution that your sister carries aplenty. You two should work well together – she can occasionally bring you down from the clouds, and you can remind her not to hold onto her fears like a lifejacket.
Zoey, we aren’t yet sure what scares you. At nearly four months old, the only thing you seem to fear is not getting fed on time and the feel of someone zerberting the back of your neck. Since neither of those things are likely to be real problems in your Life, we will have to patiently wait to see what type of person you become before we can help you face your fears. Whatever it is that you decide to be scared by, just know that Daddy, Sarah, Aubrey and I will be there to help you through it.
Unlike you girls, my fears are fairly hard to pin down. I fear things like drowning and falling. My mom has told me several times that what I truly fear is things I cannot control.
Maybe she is right.
I fear walking on the grass with no shoes on because I might step on a bug, worm or something equally disgusting. It’s not the feel of the grass that’s the problem – it’s the uncertainty of what lies in it.
I fear drowning even though I could swim well enough to save myself if required to do so. When you girls are in the water, I am a panicked mess from the minute your big toe touches the first step to the minute you get out and dry off. Last summer when we were in Conway, Sarah was in the middle of the pool in the three-foot part. The water was up to her shoulders or maybe even a little higher, but she was hanging in there pretty well until someone jumped in. A small wave pushed her back into slightly deeper water, and she went under and couldn’t come back up. Fully clothed, I had to get to the middle of the pool as quickly as I could and pull her out. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to let her go once I got her in my arms. Recently, we went to a pool party, and some older kids weren’t paying attention and were very close to pushing Aubrey into deeper water. Daddy and I were one step away from jumping across the rail, and, yes, we yelled at someone else’s kids. If I had that moment to do over again, I probably would’ve yanked that kid from the pool and gotten eye-to-eye with both him and his mama.
None of this answers what my three greatest fears are, though, so I guess I should get to the point. In no certain order, they are:
Yes, I believe in God, and I hope to go to Heaven some day. The creative believer in me has faith. But there is an analytical side of me that questions and what-ifs things to pieces. I can’t help that. Nothing I have ever done in my Life has been able to silence that fear, and it has paralyzed me in the past. I still remember the moment my own mortality occurred to me for the first time. I was lying in bed one night, and the reality of it hit me out of the blue. I wept, agonized and panicked. Many times in the years since, the reality of my own impending demise has struck me without warning. When that happens, it’s not pretty. My emotional landscape is a little overrun at that moment with doubts, fears and screaming panic. But then I pull myself together and go on. Until the next moment hits.
2. SOMETHING BAD HAPPENING TO ONE OF MY KIDS
If only the world could be a fair, perfect place! Unfortunately, it’s not. I can’t save you three from Life and all its awesomely nasty parts. You are going to have your heart broken. You are going to know pain. You are going to be disappointed, angry, sad, lonely and disgusted. You are going to be hurt by people you thought were your friends. You are going to experience things neither you nor I can control. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to shelter you from the world’s often shockingly gruesome outcomes, I can’t. That’s Life. For you to grow up to be well educated adults with a firm grasp on reality, you need to see, do, hear and experience things. I can’t protect you from it, but just knowing it’s part of Life doesn’t make me fear it any less. All I can do is protect you from as many things as possible, hold your hand through the things that are inevitable and help you brace for the impact of the things that take you by surprise.
3. FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY
I have never been rich, but there have certainly been times in my Life when I had more disposable income than we have now. We aren’t poor. We are middle class and maybe even middle middle class (not lower but not upper – so middle middle? Whatever. You get the point). I have known what it’s like to not have enough. There was a period of time after my first divorce when I lived in Texas when there was very little food in the house. I recall sharing a can of green beans and a piece of bologna with my cat because it was all we had at that moment. I never went hungry, and I had electricity (most of the time), but there were a couple of times your Nana and Papa bailed me out. I had gotten myself into a situation where I had taken on a substantial level of debt from some mistakes I had made during my first marriage, and I was struggling to do the right thing and pay it all off, even though part of it wasn’t even my debt. My pride kept me from telling anyone how truly bad things had become. It was embarassing. I had a good job that should’ve been more than enough to sustain me, and here I was sitting in the kitchen floor in the dark sharing a can of green beans and a piece of bologna with my cat. By comparison, I feel like we lead a shelteredly awesome Life right now, even though we may not always have the money for everything we want. However, knowing that we aren’t that bad off does not keep me from steadily living in fear that we will never have enough when something goes wrong. And even if we make it through unexpected rough spots, I look ahead to retirement and wonder if that will ever be a possibility for me. As much as I would like to share my final years traveling with your Daddy and being able to live Life and not work all the time, I doubt I will ever retire because I will always worry that we won’t have the things we need.
Maybe Nana is right, as she often is. I fear things I cannot control.
Most of all, I fear not being there for you or being able to be the Mama you need me to be. I can only hope that I am doing the best I can and that some day if and when you have kids of your own, you will know that you are not alone in the fears you have for them. It’s a rough road, but I have been down it already and am waiting to escort you through the rougher parts if you will let me.