A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Turns out, Fear found his way back into my life. Honestly, he never really left. He just pushed over. Like a bratty sibling who eventually squirms her way back into the window seat. I thought I was exempt from his powers so long as I was soaking up every moment and grateful for each day. But a few months ago, I started noticing him. He’s been hanging onto the end of A LOT of my sentences, ruining happy occasions and heckling me from backstage while he watches my daily interactions. And when it is just me, he reminds me that it is actually just “us,” and dictates a negative narrative that trashes all of my positive, present and well meaning thoughts.I’ve been living my life- not WAITING- but rather, ANTICIPATING the other shoe to drop. Anticipating the cancer to come back, anticipating a phone call that starts off with, “there’s been an accident…”, anticipating my son to be diagnosed with some rare disease, or who am I kidding- pediatric cancer. Two months ago, as we sang, “Happy Birthday" to Sam, I started to get choked up mid stanza. I thought, “I’m so lucky to be here BECAUSE I don’t know if I’ll be here next year.” I couldn’t just let it be a simple: “I. am. so. lucky. to. be. here.” Nope! Fear tacked on the BECAUSE and then I fell for it, and finished it strong with “Idon’tknowifI’llbeherenextyear.” His mind games are brutal.In the past three days, I’ve had three unintentional conversations with three separate friends about Fear. I’ve found that Fear doesn’t discriminate. If you’re a living and breathing being, he’s got your number. He is a narcissist who is happy to have himself labeled as “the root of all hate.” He loves it. In fact, he’s reading this right now hoping someone sends me an email about how terrible my writing is and that none of my opinions matter and my stories are irrelevant. And further than that, he’s the reason it’s taken me so long to write again. He dressed up as perfectionism. He's sneaky.Meet my people:Carolyn is 30 something and wants to travel the world. She’s not tied down to a career (anymore), has no responsibilities except for her beloved dog who will happily spend the time at her mother’s house eating donuts for breakfast. She has the money. Not a lot, but enough. There are a million things about this woman that are interesting and make for a good story. I could write a whole book about her past year facing death after a work related injury. But that’s just “the story.” That’s where Fear likes to become the Illustrator of her novel. He is a brilliant artist. He draws all of these pictures and uses bright colors so that she is stuck staring at the same pages over and over again. And not all of it is bad; she’s found some past chapters that she didn’t even know needed to be rewritten. But the fact remains the same: she’s still here. And she doesn’t WANT to be. She wants to go. But Fear has her locked up in the art room and she’s second guessing the timing of a trip, the validity, the logistics.David is a former yoga student of mine. He left the Northshore two years ago. Despite living 60 years as a heterosexual, he has recently come out as being gay. 60 years. SIXTY FUCKING YEARS. Yesterday we talked about it during a visit while we sat on my couch and drank coffee. He made some beautiful points: Had he come out when he was in Catholic Elementary School or High School to his Catholic family, it could have been very detrimental (his words, not mine, although I agree with him). Remember, it was 50 years ago. So, Fear actually PROTECTED him. But because Fear likes to be in control and is always strategically one step ahead, he pulled a fast one on my friend. He was a cozy sweater that gave David that "protection" and made him feel comfortable. And for decades the sweater kept him warm and complacent. But Fear had more games to play. While David procrastinated his truth, Fear just kept adding layers and layers to his sweater to eventually weigh him down. Of course booze was at the bottom (more Fear), so David drank the Fear Sacrament to stay numb. And then he decided to wake up and face all of it. Like a champion. He had his first relationship with a man last year. He’s been sober for 2. And he’s happy.Finally, this afternoon, I was texting with my friend Kerri who just gave birth to her first baby boy. I don’t even think he’s a week old yet. One of her texts read, “Soaking it all up before I have to go back to work- 12 weeks seems so insignificant.” Want to know what that is? FEAR. I can just SEE him crawling around the co sleeper, holding onto the end of the binkie and getting in the way of her most precious moments. I wrote her back and said, “Don’t even think about it. For now, act as though work doesn’t exist, because to you (right now), it actually doesn’t. You have 3 full months of just you and him. So let it be exactly that. The anxiety stripped down to its bare bones is Fear. Tell Fear to go fuck himself because he’s not part of this equation right now. In 3 months, you can have a battle with him. But for now, don’t even show up to the fight.” Let him stand there alone like an idiot.Two months ago, I got sick. Like scary cancer sick. I experienced this rare phenomenon in the medical world called “Radiation Recall.” My body got so overheated when I was working out that it reacted the same way it did when I was getting cancer treatment. Basically I had a PTSD-like reaction to the heat. I had sky high fevers, uncontrollable chills, the sweats- 4 sets of pajamas completely soaked through to my mattress, nausea, a headache and then I was left feeling as though I had a full body sunburn. And my lungs. I couldn’t take a full breath for almost 2 weeks. I went to Dana Farber. I was convinced I was dying. I’m not. They did a full work up. It’s not common, but since they are who they are- they DO see this from time to time. I’m ok.It was scary. When I got home from the hospital, Gretchen came over. She said, “Something’s got to give. You can’t keep letting Fear control you. You can’t live your life this way. It’s getting bad.” I cried (of course). She asked why I was so afraid of dying and I said (as I've said before), "I don’t want to leave Mike and Sam," and cried more. Somehow I let Fear slip on a white Dana Farber lab coat. He heard the 80% chance of survival at my original diagnosis and settled into the other 20%. And since that day, he’s been trying to increase his own percentage so that my anxiety hears and sees a Doctor with a fatal prognosis. But it’s not the truth. I’m not dying. No one has said the words, “You will die from this.” It’s all Fear’s lies.So what do I do? I take really big breaths. It sounds simple and completely anticlimactic but it works for me. It reminds me that I’m alive. I expand my HEALTHY LUNGS as much as I can and slowly (sometimes audibly) exhale. I say my forever mantra, “I am ok, right where I am.” And I try to keep my head out of the sand. If I feel something that doesn’t sit well in my soul, I go soul spelunking to see where Fear could be hiding out trying to make his own Recall disaster. But he doesn’t have to take up my space so long as I’m aware of my reality. So long as I’m speaking my truth. So long as I'm moving forward. So long as I’m breathing. So long as I’m finishing my own sentences and putting them down on paper.