March 19th, 2012


Fear and Risk

My day got off to a great start. I went out to get the newspaper and instead of it being on the porch or sidewalk, it was on the ground in the middle of the hedges, in a spot where I had to go around into the lawn to reach it. And, of course, that was right when a neighbor came by with her dog, while I'm there in my fuzzy pink bathrobe. The only thing keeping me from looking like the stereotypical sloppy housewife was the fact that my hair was not in curlers. And it was pretty late because I'd had a restless night from too much thinking and had already made breakfast before I went out to get the paper, so goodness knows what my neighbor thought about me digging my newspaper out of the bushes while still in my fuzzy pink bathrobe after 9 in the morning.

Then again, that's part of what I'd been thinking about, that default position to fear and worry. Who cares what my neighbor thinks about me? Most of my neighbors know I'm a writer, so are they really judging me for having an unusual schedule, and even if they do, how does that really affect me? I had one of those big epiphanies on Saturday in which I realized while pondering a decision that most of the major decisions in my life have been made (or not made) on the basis of fear of risk, and most of the early decisions weren't even made based on my own fears but rather someone else's fears for me that I allowed to affect me. They were well-meaning fears, but they were also terribly misinformed, and acting in a way to minimize perceived risk only kept me from even trying to do the things I wanted to do with my life -- while actually having every one of those fears happen to me on the supposed safe path. The only dream I allowed myself to pursue was the low-risk one, writing novels, since trying and failing there doesn't have the risk of leaving you in a worse position, and you don't really have to give up anything but your free time to try. What could I have accomplished with my life if I'd been brave enough to stand up for myself and say that this is what I want to do, I believe I have a chance, and I'm going to do what it takes to go for it?

So, after spending Saturday angry with myself about letting fear infect my life, on Sunday morning the prelude was performed by the mom of one of my former choir kids, who was a music major specializing in flute. While we were listening from out in the foyer (where the choir lines up for the processional), I commented to one of my choir friends that this was why I don't play my flute in church, that there's someone that good, so why should I bother? And she scolded me about being so afraid that I hold myself back. Then the sermon was on being paralyzed by fear, and how letting fear dictate your life is actually a lack of faith. And then I was watching some war documentaries from the Military Channel OnDemand on Sunday afternoon where they talked about how you can't go into battle being afraid you'll die, even if that's a likely outcome, because that pretty much guarantees you'll die. Then later I was watching that History Channel jousting show OnDemand (they'd doing it like it's a sport, complete with the names on the back of their armor!) and they were talking about how this is one sport where there's no defense. You can't do anything to stop yourself from being hit, and you're guaranteed to lose if you get too focused on avoiding the risk of being hit. You have to focus on your attack. That was when I said, "Okay, I get the message!"

Because I haven't developed time travel (yet), I can't go back and fix the past, and some possible avenues are probably closed to me by now because I'd have to start from scratch to get the training, experience and contacts I'd need to even try, and I'm already past what would be considered "prime" in those fields. But I can move forward without letting fear rule my life. I can go for the things I want without being afraid of what might happen, and I can have faith that I wouldn't have been given the desire and the talent without there also being a path for me. I just have to be willing to step out on a limb and try, especially when the worst-case scenario looks no worse than the worst-case scenario from not trying.

Which means updating the Plan for World Domination (again). I finished the latest draft of the current project over the weekend, so now it gets to rest before I proofread later this week, and then I'm going to make another pass on another project I may now be brave enough to bring to fruition.