Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Not a scaredy-cat – a worrywart

Recently, the subject of bravery came up, as in “Barbara, you’re so brave to head off to another city for a month alone.” So I started writing about fear, but realized I kept mixing it up with worry. I wrote that “fear and worry riddle my life,” but by the time I finished, I knew that was wrong: fear compels decisions, worry riddles my life.

Sometimes I make choices based on my personal hierarchy of fear: is this less scary than that? So, for example, I’m not going down the Grand Canyon. When I wrote here about Becoming a Wimp in my Third Third, it was a full year-and-a-half out from the planned raft trip. I canceled. Heights and cliffs and rapids – nope. I’m going to London instead. Compared to the Grand Canyon, London didn’t even register on the trauma charts. (Not even today.)

Some things simply don’t scare me. While surveys show that most people fear public speaking more than anything else – more than death – it doesn’t give me pause. Just give me a little preparation, and I’m good to go. I even enjoy it.

People who don’t live in Alaska think much of our normal, daily living is fearful. Moose in backyards, bears in parks, mountains, wilderness, earthquakes – those may send a tiny speck of shiver down Alaskans, but mostly they just arouse caution.

The big list of American fears includes heights, bugs and snakes, claustrophobia – I am all about being scared of those things – but there are SO MANY other things that fuel fear. This is my current big fear: Tim will drown in the Grand Canyon, I will crash on the plane to London, and Sophie will be all alone.

I cannot believe I even wrote that sentence down, as if voicing it unleashes some horrible karma in the universe. Right now, my superstitious self is crawling with anxiety.

And then I worry that all the resultant cortisol pumping through my system is wreaking its own havoc.
Fear cascading upon fear. What ifs generating more and more calamities. Imagination run amok. Is this the process that turns fear into worry?

Gasp. Do other people do this???

In my Third Third, as I reflect, I don’t think I really discovered fear until I had a child. The responsibility for someone so essentially vulnerable is the biggest, scariest thing I’ve ever encountered. Even so, I didn’t want that child to be limited by my fear so I kept our lives open to travel and outdoor adventure. Ziplines, climbing, skiing. Trusting strangers, being independent. Caution, but not fear. Now that she’s older, some of the things she tells me scare the willies out of me, but I keep my mouth shut.
My siblings used to joke about two kinds of people in the world: “emotional cripples” and “kamikazes.” I was the kamikaze of the family because, when faced with decisions, I often leaped. That must have looked like bravery, but it’s really fear of sluggish indecision, of dawdling about in some hesitant limbo land. The reason I do is not because I have no fear of doing but because I have a HUGE fear of stagnation. Of letting my world become small.

I realize it’s not all about fear. It’s about interest, curiosity, and preference and how they can offset fear. Something in me dreams about London but worries about the Grand Canyon. So while I might be worried about a long airplane flight, it’s required if I’m going to get to London. (It’s required to live in Alaska, period….) In the hierarchy of fears, it had to get displaced. Maybe the secret is displacing the fears that don’t serve us.

The opposite of fearful might be brave, but the opposite of worried would be … calm? My interior worries – the imagined what ifs, the squirrelly feelings, the worst-case scenarios – are things that scare me from the inside out and have nothing to do with heights or river rapids or cliffs. I’m not a scaredy-cat; I’m a worrywart. You would think by my Third Third I would have dealt with this.

But right now, I’m worried that while I’m writing, sitting is the new smoking, and how many hours a day do I spend sitting?
Next I’m trying meditation. Do we do that sitting down?

1 comment:

  1. Get a Fitbit Charge 2. It beeps at you every hour to remind you to get up and walk at least 250 steps. Now I never sit for more than an hour.


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