I am doing a new thing for Sunday Scribblings this week. I am trying a timed piece of writing with absolutely no editing (though I must admit that I don't really edit the majority of my posts). Here goes!
I am not fearless. There is a list of situations that I dread, and that unfortunately I think about often. Obsessively sometimes. I think of snakes, and imagine their fat bodies in every shadow and curve of the path in front of me. I visualize thin green vines suddenly coming to life, slithering down to confront me, a bright blue mouth with nearly transparent fangs making me freeze in my tracks, or perhaps scream and run desperately in the opposite direction. Each step of a hike, of a bush walk, of a picnic in the woods is an opportunity for my fear of snakes to manifest itself. Thankfully the actual run-ins have been relatively infrequent, but still, I remain afraid.
I am not fearless when it comes time for dentists, or doctors, or any sort of procedure that involves prodding my body. One of the most terrifying days of my life was when I had to get my wisdom teeth extracted, all four at once. My oral surgeon was our next-door neighbor, an incredibly qualified and kind man. It didn't help one bit. I remember sheer terror, my body shaking uncontrollably, hot tears gushing out of my eyes. The nurse suggested that perhaps I should take a Valium and come back the next day if I wasn't able to control myself and sit still so that they could put an iv in my arm. Never mind the thought of someone cutting open my gums and snapping my teeth away from my jaw-bone; the idea of a needle entering my vein that would make me go unconscious was terrifying enough for me to lose control.
I made it through the surgery, though I woke up scared and unhappy. The last thing I remember is Dr. Crago asking me to tell him what I was reading in Spanish Literature class at the university. My voice trembled and I could barely stutter out Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz before going into darkness.
I am not fearless when it comes to travel (I am almost certain the plane will crash each time I fly), violence (I often imagine myself the victim of a kidnapping, or torture, or a gunshot wound) or illness (God only knows what years of worrying about the wrong things have done to my mind-body connection). I am afraid of all of these outcomes, yet I go forward, act through the motions, pretend I am on a reality tv show; whatever the trick is to get me on the plane, or across the dark parking lot, or to the gynecologist's for my annual check-up.
I wonder if it is possible to be fearless, truly, in our frail human state. Isn't fear what keeps us safe in many instances? Isn't fear - be it of a consequence or of an unrealized outcome - what moves us to act and talk and change in so many situations? What would my life be like without fear? What would I do differently?
Nothing, perhaps. Despite all of my fears - some of them obsessive and crippling - I still somehow manage to do the things I want in life, and make myself do the things I don't want to but know I must anyhow. I connect to something greater than myself, I move out of my body if necessary. I make the presentation in front of 500 people, I ask for a $20,000 loan, I read books that make me cringe because they dredge up the painful parts of my past that I seem unable to remember but 100% capable of feeling, I move halfway across the world, I write the blog post...all the while feeling my stomach in my throat, my heart thumping with adrenaline as if I were about to collapse. I don't let fear stop me, but it would be misleading to say I am a fearless woman.