Fear, I have to say, is something that ran my life, forever. I am not trying to say I currently have no fear, but I continue to work on determining the difference between rational and irrational fear, which basically boils down to those things I can control versus things I have absolutely no control over. Fear is a powerful motivator and can be found today almost everywhere you look.
As a young child, I was incredibly fearful. I know I have talked about this again and again in my blog. I think the reason I am so fascinated by my own fear is that most of it is totally irrational. I have absolutely no control over those things I fear the most. I think a part of me is also curious where exactly all of this fear came from. I know that some psychologists say we are born as a blank slate and we learn all of our hopes, dreams and fears from our family and our environment. I personally find it hard to believe that this is the case. I feel like somehow I was ingrained with a huge fear of basically "something bad happening to me."
I am also very open minded to things I don't understand and the possibility of past lives, karma, etc. I often wonder if the fear I felt so strongly as a child was some leftover memories that I brought with me. I would have recurring dreams all the time when I was little and even to this day, I often wonder if these were dreams, or memories.
I can remember being a small child, laying in bed, in the hot summer months with blankets up to my chin and all of the windows closed and locked. I was sweating and uncomfortable, while at the same time afraid for my life. I would have my rosary beads and all of my religious statues on the windowsill to protect me. Looking back on it now, I think I am finally comfortable enough to say, those statues weren't just there for religious protection, I knew if someone opened the window, they would fall down, make noise and wake me up. A home-made boobie trap of sorts.
To go along with my blankets pulled up to my chin and my locked windows, there was often a good while where I had an entire bag packed of my favorite items. I was so certain our house could catch on fire, I wanted to be able to grab what I cared about most and go.
I sit here today and it makes me sad to think about and remember. It makes me sad and want nothing more than to hug little Patty. I had so much fear inside me and I don't think anyone could ease it. From sleeping with the lights on every night, to constantly waking up in the middle of the night because I was certain I heard someone downstairs, childhood was truly a challenge for me, at night time at least.
I was so certain someone would kill me that I used to sleep with my stuffed animals on my stomach. The thought being that if someone tried to stab me or shoot me, they would hopefully only get through my stuffed animals and not kill me. You mean you didn't have thoughts like this when you were little? I was so certain something bad would happen to me, I can remember crying on the bathroom floor so afraid of death and more than anything afraid of "going to hell." How awful. Where did all of this come from. I am so glad that the hell fear was swept away so many years ago, but this is no way a child should live.
While I no longer have these troubles at night, I still hate the dark. I find it so funny that I feel more comfortable in my tiny apartment in NYC than I ever felt in teeny tiny Uxbridge, MA. I always tell Greg that I am hopeful we get a house one day, but it needs to be a teeny tiny house. I really have no need for extra room. I feel so content in our tiny compartment. If I wake-up in the middle of the night, I can pretty much see everything from the bathroom. There isn't anywhere to hide, we are 4 flights up, so no one can really break in and I just feel so nice and safe. I am hopeful wherever we end up, I can find a place I feel just as safe.
Even to this day, when I go home to my parents, I don't necessary feel "safe" at night. I love going to see them and I love spending time with them, but once night comes, forget about it. I continue to have to sleep downstairs with the T.V. on if Greg isn't with me and I continue to get scared when I hear people outside or cars driving by. Most often, the slow driving car is my parents' morning paper getting delivered. Who knew?
Today, my fear continues to manifest itself in new ways. Today, my fear resides mostly around my health. So, not someone else hurting me or killing me, but something "being wrong" with me and suddenly dropping dead, basically. Part of the reason I posted my blog the other day about "dying tomorrow" was to try and take some of my power back in my relationship with fear and death, trying to acknowledge the huge fear I have about death and hoping that I will eventually be able to move beyond this fear and get back to doing some things I love to do.
One area where I have really been struggling lately is my fear of being physically active. I know this may sound crazy. Let me see if I can try and explain. Growing up I was always extremely active. Often a three sport athlete and before then an expert at the game of tag. I played field hockey my freshman and sophomore year of college and after that continued to run. Running has always been my exercise of choice, in addition to aerobics classes. I even ran a marathon in 2006, which obviously consisted of many long distance runs.
At some point over the past few years, I decided a quicker heartbeat makes me nervous. At some point over the past few years I also started having trouble with anxiety. I ran a marathon in 2006 with absolutely no problems and then my Gram passed away in 2007 from congestive heart failure. In 2010 I went in for a normal physical and was told to come back in for blood work because there was a heart marker that looked weird. I was told it was probably just a mistake, but ever since then I haven't been able to get over my heart fixation. I went back to that doctor, they ran a bunch more tests and I was told everything is fine, yet I continue to fixate on it.
Sometimes I run, exercise, walk or dance and I am fine and don't think about it at all. Then sometimes I worry about it. Greg keeps telling me, duh Patty, you are exercising, of course your heart is beating fast. But, sometimes I start to worry about it and then I start to panic. Panic that something is wrong with me and I am going to pass out. I have to try and remind myself that I am totally out of shape and getting up and running 2.5 after not running for years should make my heart beat pretty fast.
It is so frustrating that this fear that came out of a false positive test and some stressful events in 2007 and 2010 basically confined me to walking, dancing with an occasional run. I tried to sign-up for some personal training sessions. I made it through 3 of them and then had a slight panic attack during my 4th, got embarrassed and never went back. I sometimes feel like I just have to find a way to push through and fight through. Why am I so worried about my heart. What triggered all of this?
I think part of it came in 2007 with some stressful life events, including the passing of my grandmother, and part of it came in 2010 when I had to go in for that heart marker test and additional stressful events. Going on 3 years later and I still find myself focusing on it. I have to admit, I have been much better in regards to general anxiety this past year+, but anxiety seems to have shifted to exercise. I need to find a way to comfortably exercise and continue proving to myself that I am fine after exercising. It isn't like I feel like something is wrong, it is just that my heart starts beating faster and then I pay attention to it and then I think, wow, that is way too fast--even though it isn't really, just feels so fast. It makes me sad, once again, that fear has such control over my life.
In general there are so many things to be fearful of. People are afraid of failure, making the wrong decision, comitment, having regrets, being a bad parent, losing their jobs, not having enough money to buy what they need, of war, of being different, of those that may have different race, religion, sexual orientation, country of origin, political party or belief system than us, of someone being mad at you, of someone not loving you for who you are, of being bullied, of the unknown and of saying "no" . Fear is all around us. We just need to continue to find ways to fight against fear and not let is stiffle our potential and not allow it to turn us against each other.
There are so many ways I see fear moving the masses. You see it every day in the media, in politics and even in your career. I think we all, in general, need to find more ways to make love and excitement and inspiration more of a motivator than fear. I think I need to start working on my own personal re framing of exercise and how I feel about it. Perhaps if I start with a new narrative in my heart, my heart and mind will follow. I wish people voted out of love and inspiration rather than fear, I wish that more people made a difference out of love than fear. I wish that people looked to spirituality for love rather than out of fear. I think our world would be a completely different place if we were all, as a human race, able to ignore fear as a motivator and focus on love and inspiration.
I feel like if we stopped responding to fear, perhaps, we would no longer encourage it to be utilized in such detrimental ways. Of course, learning about possibly viruses, attacks, can all be necessary for survival, however, I think in general, as we go through our daily lives we should try and do love vs. fear checks. Why are you doing what you are doing. How can you talk about it and think about to shift any fear you have to the universe to take care of and take back love in return.
For me, as most of my fears are irrational, when I am good and present it the moment I try and really assess if I am experiencing a rational fear. If it is rational, I need to try and find ways to be strong and face my fear. There is nothing worse, for me, than building something up to be so much bigger in my head than it really is. I feel like even with my rational fears, I make them so big and mean and scary, they often make me sick with worry. As someone who has stomach issues triggered by stress, I need to continue to work on handling my fears and stress and being more rational about my rational fears.
When I am in that same moment and I realize my fear is irrational, I need to try and find ways to lift it up off my shoulders and put it out to the universe to handle. Most often, there is nothing I can do about this fear. I am my own best cheerleader and I have the power and resources to handle my fear, but I am also my own worst enemy. I just need to remember that. I often put things out to Mother Nature, God, Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Mohammad, Native American Chiefs and Scientists. I ask the wise for the guidance and energy I need to try and handle the fear I am dealing with. I try and listen to anyone who may move me one way or another.
I still wonder where my own fears come, I have no doubt, some are learned. There are those that are ingrained in me that I continue to wonder about. Why am I so fearful, still, about some things. How can I continue to work on my fears so they never stop me from being the person I am meant to be or accomplishing what I am meant to accomplish. The world can be a scary place and if you really stop and think about every potential issue, I think we should all be proud of leaving our houses in the morning. Fear, whether rational or not can really get a grip on you.
Life is truly a gift and while living in a first world country, I wonder if many of my evolutionary fears have no real purpose. I often wonder if our crazy fears are just our evolutionary ancestors trying to look out for us. We still have these triggers and stressors lying dormant in us that feel like they need to help us out from time to time even though, often times, there is no reason to be afraid and we really should just relax.
Before I end this blog, I do need to also reflect on the fear I had about writing and being judged by others. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write. I have wanted to write a Children's book, more specifically. As someone who knows and admits they are not a good writer, it has been really difficult for me to practice this profession in the public. Not only are the topics I write about personal and emotional and raw, but I am also putting my writing out there. It is really scary and I was extremely fearful of it for some time. I am still fearful of spelling and grammatical mistakes. I am still fearful of things not being written as eloquently as they could. I am still scared of hurting someone's feelings or saying something that may offend someone. I can only hope that as I continue to get used to writing and continue to find myself in a place where I can write (even though it is most often stream of consciousness and not very organized) I will continue to get better and hopefully eventually get to a place where I am comfortable trying to write a book. I am proud of myself for finally getting over this fear and as I continue to work on it and many others things, I only ask for you to be a little gentle.
I think in general, we all need to be proud of our own work as humans, every day. Be proud of what we accomplish and be a bit kinder and gentler to ourselves. People keep reminding me of this, so I want to put this back out to all of you, as well. We are our own biggest cheerleaders. If we aren't going to do it, we cannot count on others to. We need to empower ourselves and not be afraid to work on ourselves and question ourselves.
Here's to hoping I can continue to find ways to face my rational fears, release my irrational fears, stay open to wisdom and guidance and be easier on myself as I continue to be a work and many lifetimes in progress....
and that's all she wrote...