What do you fear?

She stood at the front of the room. Her long, thick silver braid draped over the front of her left shoulder, stark contrast against her black turtle-necked sweater, and terminating at her waist.  Her arms were outstretched, palms cupped toward the ceiling and it seemed to me that she was holding the most fragile air in the universe.

Her grey eyes were calm. Expectation was in the room: everyone held their breath.

“We are born with two and only two fears. Every other fear is learned.”

She held up two fingers. “Those two fears? Fear of sharp, loud noises and the fear of falling. They test for them at birth, you know.”

Nods around the room. People knew that.

Her face, lovely and wise, broke deeply into a loving smile. “Two fears,” she said, looking around the room, making eye contact with each person. Silence.

She wasn’t some 70-something year-old woman with wrinkles no iron could fix. She was a vibrant, pulsing life force standing at the front of the room. Her talk was already 20 minutes over time and none of us who’d been told to corral her on the time wanted to stop her.

Her eyes met mine and I held her gaze.  I was the last one.

“Two fears,” she said. I felt she was counting mine. Not in judgement. Out of curiosity. She smiled that smile and I smiled her back.

Logical mind stepped in and said that some fears are born of chemical imbalances in the body; biologically based fears. Logical mind also said some fears are healthy. Black bears, oncoming train, stupid people, the edge of the universe, although logical mind noted that those could in fact be counted as learned fears.

I suspected it was not those fears that she was talking about. She was talking about the kind of fear that impedes living, that keep us back, hold us in, prevent us from knowing ourself, keeping us frozen in a time and place not of our choosing, but a place we have deemed safe and free of fear, fear of hurt, fear of suffering, fear of being discounted, neglected, overlooked, ridiculed, being rendered invisible, fear of loss. Fear of real or imagined things from real and imagined events from real and imagined people.

And so I am curious. What fears have you? How did you learn them? How do they help you?


About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
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6 Responses to What do you fear?

  1. letempspasse says:

    Cheeky, hey?
    OK, OK, touché. I have to admit you make a good argument.
    Sanity overrated? I guess you are right there too ! I do feel a little more alive when I allow myself to be a little crazy and slightly out of the control (emphasis on slightly)
    You know, getting on iTunes doesn’t mean much these days. You just have to be ready to pay the fees, have a song (or an album) and an image for your album cover to upload and away you go ! As far as royalties go, I’ll admit I earn enough for my needs with my regular day job ;-). So my two musician friends will split the royalties, if there are any… I’m already getting a really great deal by being a creative part of this adventure.
    On this note, i wish you a great evening my cheeky friend !

  2. letempspasse says:

    Ah…. Synchronicity again…
    I wanted to read just one of your posts this morning, my objective being to read the older posts first, once a day and gradually come back to 2011. I clicked by mistake dec 2010. Wanted 2009.
    And there it is: What do you fear?
    Why the synchronicity you ask?
    Well, not two minutes before that, I was asking myself: what ARE you afraid of?
    Must offer a bit of context first, so that you will understand my dilemma.
    I wrote a poem last year. Sent it, as I often did, to my only reader and best friend Christine. She said: wow that’s beautiful, can I send it to Antoni … please please…. (her boyfriend, who happens to be a professional jazz piano player and composer )? I’m sure he would love to put this to music. I said: “hmmm… I guess so… “. He did. It became a really nice song (at least I like it). Then, I said: well Antoni, if you really want to write music to more of my writing, could you write it for Christine’s voice? (she’s the professional singer and voice teacher). He agreed. Since then, he has written two more songs. And they recorded the three of them in a studio. And in a couple of days, they will be on iTunes. It’s kind of a test. For them. To decide if they will keep working in this direction.
    It scares the #*&!?! out of me, for my name to be out there, even if only in little bitty characters in the album notes section. It terrifies me to have them linking my name from their website to my blog (of which she is the only reader I know).
    I told her yesterday: “look, if you must put a link, please just put an email link.”
    She argued: ” but why? you’re a poet. Whether you like it or not, you ARE… Why are you writing if you don’t want people to read?”….
    I stayed silent. Didn’t have an answer.
    I still don’t.
    Maybe I’m afraid to be exposed, for my feelings to be out in the open. I’m scared that people I know will pass judgment. Found myself thinking: I won’t be able to blog anymore, I’ll end up being too self conscious. Wasn’t this suppose to be a game?
    I did say I wanted the opportunity to communicate…
    Anonymity…. or no anonymity….
    Perhaps I just need to find some courage to be me?

    • FS says:

      First, wow. Congratulations. Songwriting credit is amazing. Your friend is a good friend.

      Second, a great big hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm lots more food for thought. I read your comment after spending some time this morning with a professional I know who has some knowledge about creativity, and the conversation meandered to that neck of the woods, so how timely.

      Third, you are courageous. Courageous to tell your story. To share what you create. Aren’t you being you? Just a different aspect of you? One that is expressing different aspects of you, the one who wants to express, the one who wants to be known, the one who feels and sees and observes and wonders and is in awe of all of it? Along with your fear, do I hear a bit of wow and pride in what’s happened with one of your poems? Seriously: how cool is that???

      If I remember that post — and I haven’t re-read it — it’s that we are born with only two fears and the rest are learned. People will judge: it’s what humans do do. As a parent, what would you say to your kid? Does that make what you do any less valuable to you?

      People feel the need to write because it is a way of expression, and because they can’t not. The thing about creating? Once you’ve created and let it out into the world, it is no longer yours to control. Some people might like it and other people might not and for some reason we give people who don’t a lot more weight than those people who like what we do. That is part of the process. And each time you send a creation out into the world is a new time. It’s not as if it gets any easier.

      A curious question of your friend, the singer. Singing might be slightly different than writing. 😉 Ask her if she would sing if she did not have an audience. Have you read the little book (a good one) called Art & Fear?

      To my mind, the drive toward creative expression is not inherently reliant on any external validation, but an internal need to do and express and create. Of course it gets messy, because we wonder what people will think, how it will be judged, and that wonder and worry can damage the need to create. We look at it and wonder if it will be judged good. And what does that mean? There are writers who write not to express anything of self, but to tell stories. For them, writing is not a personal expression, save for the personal style and voice and love of words. They have critics too. There will always be critics and judges and auditors.

      Funny how we think that self is a fixed thing. Or if we don’t think it, then people around us might because that’s part of the modern myth…we are one way at all times with all people. How crazy is that. And how confining.

      So is it writing you are interested in or in a state of being: a poet, an author…? Was it (blogging) supposed to be a game? A lark? Uh oh. A dangerous thing to do with something you care about: it will ALWAYS go sideways and bite you somewhere when you aren’t looking. How does that mesh with the opportunity to communicate?

      I’m thinking…you’ve got courage. You wouldn’t be where you are if you did not. 😉

      • letempspasse says:

        Dear FS,
        First of all thank you for such an thoughtful reply.
        In answer to your question, my interest indeed lies in the act of writing, not in “being” anything other than who I am, which I suppose is just plain me. I doubt I will ever feel compelled or even tempted to call myself a writer, author, poet or even a lyricist. Sure I write. Doesn’t make me a writer. It takes a good dose of commitment and a passionate love of words to become one. Writing and me, well we’re just close friends.
        Mostly, I write for me. To keep me sane. To keep me grounded to me. To help me gain perspective. And sometimes (especially in the form of letters and such) to keep me connected to others.
        Blogging, now that’s another story. In the very beginning, it was mostly an exploration of social media, by curiosity. No one I know blogs. Neither do any of them tweet or have a facebook page. I tried out Twitter. got bored within 2 weeks, even though Paul Coelho wrote: “to tweet is to put an ocean in a glass”.
        For many months I didn’t write anything on my blog. I mostly read other people’s stuff. And then, for some reason, I was tempted to put some of my own words into the blogosphere… For fun really. Perhaps I was just reaching out to others of my kind.
        And yes it IS really cool that something I wrote turns out to be the inspiration to someone else’s creation….
        Anyway, you’re right. Playing a game with something you care about, is likely to backfire, at some point, when you least expect it.
        But the good news is, at least I found you, and despite the fact that I don’t know you, I feel I do (just a little), and THAT is really kind of neat… 🙂

        PS: I’ll put that Art and Fear Book on my “to read” list…. Thanks !

      • FS says:

        I might have to be cheeky: if you write and find some comfort in the act of writing, does that not make part of you a writer..? Are you not being a writer when you write for you? You might have a picture in your mind of what a writer is, and somehow, that’s not you. Maybe. But all it takes to be a writer is to write. It then becomes a question for some — what to do with that writing, the product of writering from there. Writing as a close friend is lovely metaphor.

        Sanity is highly overrated at times, although perspective and being grounded (eagle, deer, bear, and mouse views) can’t be emphasized enough. Just plain you..? Hmmm to that. I suppose just plain people have their poems turned into lyrics for songs that end up on Itunes every day. Does that mean royalties? 😉

        Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps the act of blogging is more than writing. Perhaps it is about finding one’s own kind, whatever that kind is. Perhaps it’s about connecting, finding resonance on some level that creates community, either by similar experience, how something is expressed, or the subject matter, so yes: it is quite neat. 🙂

  3. Maxine says:

    You’re a good writer, you.

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