I was driving home today and contemplating the nature of fear. As I got in the car and turned on the radio, the dulcet tones of a clarinet washed over me like warm honey. My day was finished, and all I had to do was to go home and finish a little light homework before the night. It had been a rough day, and the cap to a difficult week. But the music made it better for a few minutes, and left me free to think.
As I sat at an intersection waiting for cars to be clear and allow me to safely make my turn, I was faintly aware of the gibbering creature in my backbrain. You know the one, he’s convinced that you’ll start that turn, and a car will come out of nowhere and BOOM! it will get ugly. In the five-and-a-bit years I’ve been driving that hasn’t happened, and odds are it won’t if I’m careful. But the fear is there, jumping up and down in the shadows, shrieking.
Life is like that. You know, just know, you’re going to fail that class, fail at life, and wind up homeless in the snow with no one to love you. And you can let that keep you from making the turn, from making forward progress, or you can push it deeper into the shadows and ignore it. There are times to take it out, of course, so you can see just how small and pathetic the fear is. Not easy to do at the stop sign, though. That’s the time to just do the best you can to see it’s clear, and then go.
When I’m in class, I answer questions a lot. I’m not always right. Sometimes I know I’m going to be wrong, but I stop listening to that fear and just speak. My classmates sit there like bumps on a log, because they are afraid to speak and be wrong. They might know the answer, but they are afraid. I’m willing to be a fool in front of them, and hopefully they learn from that. Because it’s about putting the gibbering out of hearing and just attempting the problem. I did that, too, on this day. I stood in front of a chalkboard with another classmate, the rest of the class watching us, and together we wrote stuff (ok, I wrote. She says my handwriting is better), erased it, and tried again until we had a logical answer. Then the professor looked at it and gave us his approval… and then he pulled up the website with the automatic calculator and we all had a mutual facepalm. But my point is, we were willing to fail. We didn’t let the fear rule us.
I’ve dealt with depression in the past. During my first marriage I dealt with situational depression that was bad enough to leave me needing medication. I was able to get off that stuff, and completely out of depression, for five years, two months, and four days, now. Not that I’m counting. It’s been interesting in some ways to look back and see the differences. I know people, some very close to me, that will never be able to get out of that slough of despond, that they will spend their lives needing the chemicals to get their brain working properly. It’s not that they don’t want to. It’s not as easy as pushing the black dog into the shadows. He’ll just jump out and bite you when you aren’t looking. Now, I can manage without that control, and it’s good. I worried for years after my divorce that I’d wind up back in the hole with the black dog gnawing on me. I worried that I had been broken beyond repair. Now?
Now, I can have a bad day and understand that it will pass. I don’t feel like there’s an elephant standing on my chest. If I cry, I know I can stop, wipe my eyes, and finish what needs to be done. There’s no shame in having to use medication to make this happen, but I’m blessed that I was able to walk out of the night and into the day on my own two feet. I have faced my fears, and they are small. The gibbering creature is a pathetic thing.
I can put my foot to the accelerator and move on with life, listening to the beautiful music and noting the hawk soaring over the field I’m passing. Life is good.