Beating Fear with a Stick, Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: I’m Tired Of Being Afraid.

February 28, 2014

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column. Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer. Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. Today’s question is answered by author Gayle Brandeis.  Have a question for us? Need some guidance? Send an email to dearlife at jenniferpastiloff.com or use the tab at the top of the site to post. Please address it as if you are speaking to a person rather than life or the universe. Need help navigating through life’s messiness? Write to us!

bryant-mcgill-fear-love-choice

Dear Life, I’m tired of being afraid. 

And I mean afraid in every sense of the word.  I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of being robbed.  I’m afraid of being raped.  I’m afraid of being murdered.  I’m afraid to walk to my car alone at night.

I’m afraid of being alone.  I’m afraid of dying.  I’m afraid that when I die I’ll be all alone in that moment.  I’m afraid of history erasing me and no one will know that I lived or who I was.

I’m afraid that Heaven might not exist.  Or that God might not exist.  Or at least in the way that I think He does.  I’m afraid I won’t be good enough to be with Him.  I’m afraid I won’t make it into Heaven if it is there.  I’m afraid there’s nothing after this life.

Oh, how I want to cling to this life just like I’ve wanted to cling onto anyone who has ever loved me.  I want to hold it firmly in my hands and never sleep because it might leave me.

I’m afraid to take a chance.  I’m afraid.  Do you hear me?

I AM SO AFRAID!

I am afraid that I am wasting my life and I don’t know how to change it.

I work two retail jobs.  I’m a full-time assistant manager at an electronics store and a part-time sales consultant at a jewelry store.  I have one day off a week where I’m either cleaning house and running errands or I sleep in and then watch Netflix all day.  Either way I don’t feel rested.  I don’t feel happy.  The sucky thing is I barely make enough to pay my bills.  I don’t know how people can live alone.  Or travel or live unconventional lives.  I am draining away.  I am stuck in this hamster wheel of a meaningless life.  And I see other people on their hamster wheels next to mine.  We never touch or talk or get off of it.  I JUST WANT OFF!

In small moments I feel magic.  When I sit in my kitchen in the quiet sunshine or when I lie down next to my dog on the floor.  When I look up at the stars or see my breath in the winter air.  When I hear a really good song on the radio or cry really hard that snot runs down my face.  I sigh and think this is life.  But those moments are so fleeting.  I don’t feel real except in those moments.

I want to feel real all the time.  I want to LIVE life and not merely exist.  Why do I have to work 2 jobs?  Why can’t I travel?  Why can’t I do lunch with my girlfriends whenever I want?  Why can’t I go to Italy and eat pizza and gelato like Elizabeth Gilbert?  Just… Why can’t I!?

I hate that an unconventional life is unconventional.  I hate that my dad said quitting my job to go on a month long road trip with my best friend was irresponsible.  I hate that he says I have to wait until I retire to do things like that.  I hate that after I did it and it took me 9 months to find another full-time job and went into quick spiraling debt that he thinks he was right.  I hate that I need money.

I hate that I’m afraid to quit again.  That I’m afraid to not pay my bills on time.  That I want to be an entrepreneur but I don’t know what I’d do and I’m afraid.

I am so afraid.

I don’t know what to do.  But I’m sick of being afraid.  How do I stop?  How do I start?  What do I do?

Sincerely,

I just don’t want to be afraid anymore.

***

Dear I just don’t want to be afraid anymore,

I hear you.

I’m afraid, too. As I write this to you, I am in a lull between pain. The pain comes and goes like labor, like something’s squeezing me with sharp, hot talons. This is a chronic issue–it flares up every few months; I am lucky that it’s not more frequent, that it’s not something I have to live with daily. When the pain does come, my first response tends to be fear. I am scared I am going to feel the pain forever. I am scared I am not going to survive it. I am scared of the vomiting that usually accompanies it. I am scared the pain will thwart any attempt to function in the world. But sometimes I am able to get beyond this fear, to get to a calmer, clearer place inside myself, where I can ride the pain with detachment, where I know it will pass and I will be okay. This time, I have been calling upon a handy tip I learned in childbirth class: to stop labeling pain pain. To think of it, instead, as an “interesting sensation.” This helps quite a bit. When the pain comes, I don’t clench my body in fear (which, of course, only makes the pain worse.) I try to breathe–breathing is important, in pain, in labor, in life–and chant “Interesting sensation; interesting sensation” inside myself. This allows me to reframe the pain, to look at it with some measure of curiosity, even with a sense of wonder. It keeps me from getting too attached to it. It helps me remember that the pain is not me, that I don’t need to give it so much power.

I suggest you do something similar when you are beset by fear. As the fear starts to clutch your ribs, take a deep breath and try to label it an interesting sensation. Gaze upon your fear with the eyes of a researcher and a bodhisattva all at once; dissect it with curiosity, but also with compassion. What is this fear–does it have a color, a texture, a scent? Why have you given it so much currency in your life? When you start to look at it in a more detached way, you will start to gain power over it rather than let it hold power over you. You will be able to let it go more easily. Fear creates a buzz in the brain, a clatter in the heart; when you find a way past that, you can reach the deep, quiet well inside yourself, the place that knows what you need, what you need to do. The place that’s beyond convention. The place that’s simply true.

Today, I was thinking about what I could share with you that might be of help and three perfect Facebook status updates appeared in my feed, all in a row. These updates felt like getting a cherry cherry cherry in a slot machine, like I had hit the jackpot just for you. The first was from our own Jennifer Pastiloff–it was a sign, white with plain red letters and a red border, like a street sign (or, in this case, like a sign you’d see at a campsite); it said “PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE FEARS”. Remember this; heed it–think of your fears as bears; if you keep feeding them, they’ll keep hanging around, growing bigger and more vicious with each scrap you throw their way. If you stop feeding those fears, they’ll eventually slink off into the woods and leave you alone. You are giving these fears so much of yourself right now; you are feeding them with the energy and time you could be using to build a life more in line with your deepest desires (and it really feels as if one of your deepest desires is to be free–free from convention, from expectation, from the daily grind. Freeing yourself from fear is the first step toward all of that.)

The next update was a quote from Jack Canfield, shared by Elizabeth Gilbert. Canfield said “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Over the image, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote “Forza, forza, forza!”, which in Italian means “Power” but can also mean “Go! You can do it!” Even if you can’t eat gelato and pizza in Italy like her (and–who knows?–maybe you’ll find a way someday!) you can take this from her right now. Forza. When you break through your fear, everything you want will be waiting for on the other side.

The third was this wonderful quote from Anais Nin, on what would have been her 111th birthday: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” You are letting fear shrink your life–remember that you have the power to make your world expand again. You’ve done it before. You did a brave thing, quitting your job and taking your road trip. I hope you have some fabulous memories from that trip that can help cancel out your father’s voice, at least some of the time; cherish those memories, and the courage it took to take that journey. Try not to let your father’s disapproval blunt you or make you cower from your own sense of adventure–instead of worrying about your parents’ expectations and being beholden to the generation before you, think about being beholden to the generation that comes after you. Even if you never have children yourself, ask yourself how you want to be remembered by future generations. Do you want girls growing up today to see a woman governed by fear, or do you want to show those girls that it is possible to live a fearless life even when one is inside the hamster wheel? And it *is* possible, you know. There are ways to be unconventional even within a conventional life. You can bring more meaning and fun and wildness into your day even if you keep your current jobs. It’s all about paying attention and finding moments of hilarity and connection and grace. It’s all about cultivating more of those moments of magic you already own, even if fleetingly, when you look up at the stars. Letting go of fear will help you tap into more of those moments. Fear contracts you, makes it hard for you to see the world around you with open eyes and an open heart; when you get beyond the fear, beauty rushes in. Be a beauty seeker. Take Jennifer Pastiloff’s advice and write down five things you find beautiful every day. This in itself can save you. The more moments of beauty and humor you find, the more fear will loosen its grip on your heart.

And it wouldn’t hurt to take some practical steps toward making real changes in your life: you say you want to be an entrepreneur, but you don’t know what you’d do. Do what you can to figure that out. Write lists of things you love, things that get your heart pumping, and imagine what sorts of jobs could spring from them. Do research. Take classes. Spend time in nature. Make things with your hands. See what speaks to you most clearly, what calls you most deeply. See what you can do to make it work. And take a self-defense class–it may help alleviate your fears of being attacked if you know how to attack back.

As for your grappling with your faith, I can only begin to imagine the deep fear that comes from questioning one’s long-held beliefs. I’ve never believed in God or Heaven, myself, at least not in the traditional Judeo-Christian conception, and I feel for you as you struggle with this profound dilemma. But I also ask you to ask yourself that if this is all there is, is that really so bad? In a way, doesn’t it make this time that we have here on this beautiful, complicated planet all the more precious? History may erase us, but at least we have this moment, and if this is all we have, why not put everything into making the very best of the time we are given? Sure, we have to face pain and fear and crappy jobs and the scourge of money, but we also get to face the sunrise and the feel of the dog’s fur under our fingers, and great music and art and life’s glorious absurdities. Let’s relish those things, those moments. Start with this very moment. Take a deep breath. Take a few more–let yourself settle into your own skin. Let fear evaporate; let it rise from your shoulders like steam. What do you notice? What is around and inside you right now that is gorgeous and surprising? If you take time to notice these things, you’ll feel your innate sense of wonder grow instead of your fear. You’ll find yourself smiling more. You won’t worry so much about being alone because you’ll find that you’re great company, yourself. You’ll find yourself ready to take more chances, to step into a more expansive and courageous life. Fear is just an interesting sensation. You don’t need to give it more power than that. I am taking my own advice right now as another pain comes on–breathing, breathing, breathing through it, seeing it with detachment, knowing it will pass. Knowing beauty surrounds me even in the grip of the attack.

You have the power to change, and your desire for change–desire I can feel thrumming right off the page–will help fuel that transformation. To start, all you need to do is take a deep breath, find that clear, quiet well inside yourself and move from that place, not the skittish, frantic place of fear. I have all faith in you. You wouldn’t have written to “Dear Life” if somewhere inside of you, you didn’t have faith in your own ability to change. You can reach beyond your own fear, and when you do, a more spacious, joyful life awaits, even if none of the external realities of your life change. You can do it. I know you can. Forza!

With love and solidarity, Gayle Brandeis

Gayle Brandeis grew up in the Chicago area and has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old. She is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House Publications), the novels The Book of Dead Birds(HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change, Self Storage (Ballantine) and Delta Girls (Ballantine), and her first novel for young readers, My Life with the Lincolns (Holt). She released The Book of Live Wires, the sequel to The Book of Dead Birds, as an e-book in 2011.

Gayle’s poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies (such as Salon.com, The Nation, and The Mississippi Review) and have received several awards, including the QPB/Story Magazine Short Story Award, a Barbara Mandigo Kelley Peace Poetry Award, and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her essay on the meaning of liberty was one of three included in the Statue of Liberty’s Centennial time capsule in 1986, when she was 18. In 2004, the Writer Magazine honored Gayle with a Writer Who Makes a Difference Award.

Gayle teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Antioch University and lives in Riverside, CA, where she is mom to two adult kids and a toddler.

gayle-brandeis-author-photo

Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

Mother's Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book. "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Mothers Day Weekend 2016, May 6-8! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this New Years  for a life-changing 3 day retreat.  No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

 

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The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse in May. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

 

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21 Comments

  • Reply barbarapotter February 28, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Wow Gayle, your words come from the heart and are so powerful and to the writer asking for help I am sending you much love. You are very much cared about.

  • Reply Dear Life: I’m Tired Of Being Afraid. | Bright, shiny objects… February 28, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    […] via Dear Life: I’m Tired Of Being Afraid.. […]

  • Reply michaelbrandeis March 1, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Reblogged this on michaelbrandeis and commented:
    Gayle shares her insight on an advice column

    • Reply Jack March 2, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Sigh.

  • Reply Jack March 2, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Very warming and inspirational even tho dividing if into two categories such as “love” and “fear” isn’t that simple. It isn’t that easy. And letting go of your fears isn’t either. They’ll always be there in some form or another. Gale is a splendid writer and the woman who wrote about her fears I feel a genuine deep connection with for I feel crippled by mine. I feel I’m a waste of life. Why am I even here when there are so many others deserving who wouldn’t waste a moment. I feel as if I’m decomposing and I’ve nothing to show for it because I’m too afraid to go out and get what I want. Where had my motivation & determination retreated to? And was it ever there to begin with? I’ve felt uncertain about my life for as long as I can remember and I don’t know what my purpose is. I’m also dealing with a severe mental illness so it doesn’t help me to have that burden as well. However, is no excuse, Is it? Other people are productive in society and deal with mental disabilities right? How come I’m not one of them. I fantasize about an electro shock therapy that will jolt me into action with lust, desire, passion and a drive for success. Lust for life and appreciation for all the great things in my life I have to be thankful for in staff of wastefully wallowing in my misery feeling hopeless and lost. Why can’t I be happy just being me or bring alone with myself? Why am I so codependent on other people. And especially on my significant other who is comfortable enough in his own skin to be alone and not feel the impending Solitude I feel. How do I get that way? I’m so full of envy. I’ve never wanted a extravagant life, all I want is to be happy and be loved and appreciated. Comfortable. It’s a reality that only exists in a dream I have. And when I wake, so does the sadness and emptiness. And it floods my mind and makes me wonder if it’s only a fairytale for me and I don’t deserve to feel otherwise because of the poor decisions I’ve made and the people I’ve hurt along life’s path. It’s karma coming to haunt me. But is there a point where it ends? I’m so much more thoughtful than I used to be. I’d like to think I’m a fairly good person now who’d done bag things but grew and learned from it. But I still feel all this pressure. Line I’m being squeezed in a vice grip and it tightens. Releases just a little some times and then tightens again, teasing me. I can’t wriggle free. I’m simply drowning deeper into sadness’s dark abyss with shackles in my ankles and there’s no way I can get them off. What do I do? I want help. How? Do I deserve it? I feel so evil. My mind retreats to darkness so often. I’ve become a addicted to misery and now can’t seem to get rid of it. Somebody help save me? Am I worthy of it? Why can’t I buck up and save myself? I’m no survivor. I’m weak. If I were one in a litter of pups, I’d be the runt. The one the mother snubbed and refused to feed because it’s a weakling and wouldn’t be able to survive on its own. Oh “woe is me” right? But I just can’t seem to shake it, no matter how many times I try. Thanks for listening to anyone who actually reads this. -buetopolis@AOL.com

    • Reply barbarapotter March 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

      I read it and many do. Sometimes those feelings come from chemical imbalances in the body and as you said you have an illness regarding your mental health. Maybe
      a change in medication may help. I suffered from that in the early 80’s and there was nothing that helped me (I could not take the meds). I later found out I had SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder and during the winter months was not producing the chemicals to trigger my moods to lift. I used to wake and think I am dead but they forgot to close the coffin lid…I really did. It was like torture not being able to have my moods ever lift. Later by accident, I found that moving to California alleviated that and realized I could no longer live in the east coast. Mine started on Thanksgiving and lasted until Easter like clockwork every year. After that I was fine until late November again when the sun did not trigger when I needed. Just a thought. Maybe see your doctor again and see if there is anything than can help you. I know feeling like you do is the worst in the world as I experienced it. Love to you.

  • Reply Betsy March 2, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Gayle,
    I read the “question” with a broken-open heart….I have lived with so much fear my whole life.
    and then I braced myself for your response. only because of how many “you can’t live in fear” responses I’ve gotten over the years.
    and your loving, spacious witnessing was unbelievably real and true, but also soothing-and encouraging. The inspiration you offered floats through the air like dandelion seeds. Deepest gratitude.

  • Reply annarosemeeds March 10, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Thank you so very much for this! I live in so much fear. It will not be easy to start opening up and trusting myself and others. However, I need to take those steps each day. Your advice is beautiful and important!

  • Reply John Doe May 7, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Gosh, it feels nice to read others feelings about being scared. I am too. I’m 39, unemployed, I have no friends and I live with my parents. I suffer from depression, anxiety, and alcoholism (I don’t drink, but I’ve slipped occasionally.) I try to cope with the emotional, and verbal abuse I’ve suffered, and I have high blood pressure. I’ve gotten to where I hardly leave the house anymore. I’m scared also. I worry about the future, I don’t feel like I can make it as I always fail, and also still suffer weakness for alcohol. I’m just so damn tired of being a loser, I’ve worked so damn hard and still I’m nowhere. I’m so exhausted from carrying all these issues. I can’t help feeling justified blaming my dad and alcohol and my terrible brother and my terrible ex-girlfriend. God why is everything so damn hard? I just don’t have the energy or what it takes. I feel like I’m trapped in this terrible life and it really scares me. God what’s going to become of me? I feel like I really need to rest and be taken care of.

    • Reply John Doe May 7, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      I need to feel safe and protected, and I’ve never had that security. I just feel like my body is worn out. All the stress, abuse, fear,bad eating and drinking and smoking, and I’m getting old. It helps a little to just write how I feel without a bunch of disclaimers to keep people from judging me and thinking I’m lazy or weak. I’m really not. I’ve had some of the very hardest jobs ever, and I really do care about wrong and right. God I just want to feel safe and free from all my troubles. I wish I could just peacefully pass away and become free from all this scary stuff. But I’m still here trying to be a winner and I haven’t given up. I really know what you’re going through and I hope you all can feel better. I wish there was something I could say but I guess all we can do is keep trying and be good to ourselves. Love and good luck everybody. try to hang in there.

  • Reply The Converse-Station: Gayle Brandeis Interviews Alma Luz Villanueva. | The Manifest-Station June 2, 2014 at 7:50 am

    […] two of my friends, two women I look up to tremendously. Both have appeared on the site already. Gayle Brandeis (her two pieces on the site went viral) and Alma Luz Villanueva. Both of these women are fierce. […]

  • Reply GetOrganizedAlready June 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    “You can be brave and scared at the same time.”
    -Brene Brown

  • Reply Ted faubert October 28, 2014 at 2:02 am

    I’m scared almost all the time. Im 48 years old and so far iam a survivor of this life. I have survived the death of my 6 year old son, a bitter divorce, many job losses due to nepotism and evil spiritual wickedness of others. I have survived cancer, I have survived being abandoned and rejected by my family, I have survived being robbed, I have survived betrayal,gossiping,backstabbing and the brainwashing of my 20 year old daughter whom I haven’t spoken too in 9 years. I have survived and survived and survived and Iam continuing too survive.
    Iam determined to defeat the world, and the only way to do that is too fight the good fight and fight till my dying breath to be the best human being I can everyday to all the people that I come into contact with. Most importantly love God first then family and never give up, if you give up then hope is lost and the world will have won.
    We are all here for a reason even if we are unaware of it, we all matter and have our part’s too play. Choose light over evil in a dark sick dying world. Greater is he who is within you than he who is within the world, fear not he who can destroy the body but he who can destroy both the body and soul.

  • Reply Spoken Notes January 6, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    This might help you as well
    http://www.vinovenitas.com/2014/06/24/poem-are-you-scared/

  • Reply tugboat February 28, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Mind,body,soul. Let me politely add these words, Body , Soul , Spirit. You are incorrectly separating Mind from Soul, the Soul is the center of our lives here on earth, the Soul contains the Mind and the spiritual Heart. As you can see,most people are confused about the mind, as so much of their living takes place there. Now about the Human spirit, why do we need one ? What do we know about it and its workings. First the human spirit was conceived to house or give home to the Spirit of God. I believe this is all you can handle at this moment so I will stop for now.

  • Reply Courtney March 4, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    I am terrified of driving. And working. And getting my GED and going to GET my license. I’m TERRIFIED. Of messing up. Of being embarrassed. Everything. I used to not eat at school out of fear. I would fail tests because I was supposed to wear a dress to do a report in but I was too scared. Why?! Someone please help me. Do I need to be on meds? What can I do. I try so hard to find it in myself that I can do it but I’m scared. And I’m about to be 17 I can’t put it off anymore… someone please help.

  • Reply Suzanne Parvin June 6, 2015 at 10:26 am

    To whom it may concern. I am wishing I cared less. My childhood was strange. Feeling less than secure and with a bully for a father. Parents divorced when I was 14yrs..and my mother remarried to an alcoholic man who became a bully as well. He ended up committing suicide later. My older brother and I were never close. He died as well, at a very early age. A disabled veteran. I have never found closeness with my four husband’s. I have two children. They aren’t close to me either. This is my life. Sounds pathetic I know. I feel angry and hopeless and scared. My mom has dementia and is pretty bad. I’m feeling I’m to blame for all this. Or that I could have fixed it somehow. I’m sixty years old. What’s left to look forward to? As I said before… I wish I just didn’t CARE.
    Suzanne Parvin

  • Reply Sara June 17, 2015 at 11:28 am

    That’s very warm and inspiring…

    …and asinine. I’m not going to reframe pain as an “interesting sensation” so that I can accept it and allow people to hurt me. There are some pains that are inevitable– childbirth, injuries, getting a tooth filled, arthritis one of these days if I live long enough– and these are to be endured. Then there are the other pains of life– that friend you have a funny feeling about that turns out to rob you blind, the crazy relative who wants to run you out of the family, the in-laws who hate you and want you to see yourself that way.

    I’m not going to embrace that and call it “an interesting sensation” while those people empty my checking account, rob me of the family of my birth, and take the family of my creation from me.

    I’m not going to tell myself that I’m merely “in fear” once I’ve been verbally threatened (“put in fear,” you might say). I’m not going to deny the evidence in front of me just to feel good, any more than I’m going to deny the horrible noise my brakes are making because the mechanic intimidates me or the lump in my breast because cancer is scary.

    Fear exists to tell you something. If I’d listened to my fear instead of my “warm fuzzies” when I was younger, I’d have about $10,000 that I handed over to a “friend” because I didn’t want to be fearful or judgmental or racist. Hint: She threatened to take out a hit on me, vandalized my home, and disappeared when I finally decided to listen to fear and tell her that I wouldn’t make any more TV payments, buy her any more alcohol, find her any more pot, or pay for another abortion.

    If I’d listened to my fear instead of my “rational self,” my father would have died in his bed and I would have called 911 and attempted CPR. Instead, he died in his bed and rotted for a week while I was 1000 miles away, being “rational.” I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

    If I’d listened to my fear instead of my “potential for growth,” I’d have stayed in my home, tending to my new baby and my kitchen when my husband invited me to come hang out with him and some new friends he just knew I’d like. I would have missed out on a lot of joy. I also would have missed out on being labeled selfish, disloyal, evil, and an adulteress (despite the fact that the only parts that ever touched were shoulders and hands, and there were no thoughts involved either). I wouldn’t have had to hear my husband tell me that, if I did not do exactly as I was told, he would take me to court, accuse me of adultery, and take our child from me.

    If I’d listened to my fear, I’d have a happy marriage, money in the bank, and the respect of my parents-in-law. If I’d listened to my fear, I wouldn’t have severe depression, agoraphobia, GAD, and PTSD. If I’d listened to my fear BACK THEN, I wouldn’t be so afraid of so many things that I can hardly bear to get out of bed (wouldn’t, except for the fear of being left for being unproductive) today.

    Your advice is beautiful. In theory. In practice, you are nurturing a following of happy, blind victims. Who’s paying you?? What’s in it for you?? Will you be selling us books about embracing the gift of fear and learning that it’s OK to protect yourself in 10 years’ time?? I call fraud.

    • Reply Jennifer Pastiloff June 17, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      Huh?? Gayle is nurturing a following of happy, blind victims? Or the column is? Fraud on what?

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