Last year I drowned in fear – fear of my voice, of other people’s voices, fear of finishing my novel, of not finishing my novel, fear that I am a burden on my husband financially and emotionally. So much freaking fear that it won, it crippled me, and I became depressed. I put on weight. I didn’t finish my novel. I quickly collapsed under the pressure to be successful and incredible and perfect. And you know what Fear did? She laughed.
What a bitch. A crafty, manipulative bitch. She snuck up on me and took over and soon her voice became louder than my own, so loud, in fact, that my voice teacher took one look at me, heard one note of my voice, and said, “Don’t be afraid,” and I was stunned. Had she really just read my mind? Looked inside my soul? Was I that transparent? That fearful? And what did she think of me – of this simpering, sniveling mess of a woman standing in front of her?
She told me to shake it off, to grasp my pointer finger (a pressure point of fear) and squeeze each time I felt fearful. And so when she began to play the piano, when I opened my mouth to sing, I squeezed my finger and in my mind I said, “Fuck you, Fear.” Because I was afraid. Afraid that I wouldn’t hit the correct notes, or that my voice wouldn’t be perfect because I haven’t worked it in ten years; afraid that she would hear the gift that I have, that I’ve let dwindle in remission and judge me, pity me.
Shut. Up. Fear. Just shut up.
Fear has clung to my body in the form of fifteen heavy pounds. I look in the mirror and cringe, pinch my excess skin, close my eyes so that I don’t have to see this body that I’ve begun to despise glaring back at me.
This body is a result of a year of being Fear’s bitch. A year where getting out of bed in the morning was a personal feat, where leaving the apartment seemed just too much, where sitting in front of the computer to write was nearly impossible and, gripped with self-loathing, I turned my eyes to the television instead.
My body looks and feels foreign, just as my mind does because Fear crept in and took root. But you know what my voice teacher said? She said, “Fear is false evidence presenting itself as truth.”
Take that, Fear. You are a lie. False evidence. And you know what we do with lies? We refute them. We expose them for what they are: fabrications of truth. Because the truth is that I am responsible for my own fate. I am responsible for my mind, my body, and it is within my power to change, so change I will.
I’m running again, and biking, and each mile I log is a mile further away from Fear. I am giving Fear the middle finger. I am imagining Fear falling off of me the way water glides off of a swan’s feathers, swift and effortless. I am a crab being lightly lifted out of a net. Weightless. Fearless. And each time I feel Fear snaking her way into my brain (because she will, I know she will, she’s a tenacious one), I will clutch my pointer finger and squeeze it tight and say, “Shut up, Fear. Just shut up.” And I will force myself to look in the mirror, to stifle the self-loathing and turn it into love because the pounds will fall away as Fear falls away. In time. One day at a time. One win at a time. Until my voice is louder than Fear’s.
And I’m feeling pretty loud.
Because I think there is strength in admitting your weaknesses. 2014 was a struggle. A mess. The lowest I’ve ever been. And to write that, to throw it into cyber space for anyone to see – my failure staring back at me – is scary, but I’m doing it. Because I see my “friends” on Facebook paint their lives to be perfect: happy smiling faces; promotions; pictures of sunsets and margaritas; photo-shopped pictures of themselves in bikinis because they can’t stand for anyone to see a picture of them that isn’t absolute perfection. And is this real? Is this what we’ve become? Fearful of being human?
No one is perfect. I’m not. And to admit that is a challenge, but I’m admitting it because it is a truth. And if you are out there and you are fearful or sad or lonely please know that you are not alone. I’ve been there. Am there. And if you want to, you can tell fear to shut up, too. We can even say it together. In fact, with our voices combined, we are sure to be much louder than Fear.