Failing never really occurs to many of us. Do we assume that if we try our best, plan and take precautions, work hard and simply believe good things are coming? Eventually, they will, if you do the right things. Right?
I mean what else are you supposed to tell kids, when they are growing up? That there is a randomness in life that you cannot predict or control? That even if you make the right choices, things can still go spectacularly amuck? We don’t tell kids that. They’d never sleep at night.
And we want to train them into the most valuable personality trait or habit possible. Optimism. Because God knows, without it, you are screwed in life.
I’m really good at hiding my fear. Not my anxiety. Not the things that upset me. I am in the 93rd percentile on the WAIS-II for “Openness”. A personality trait that belies both my honesty and my expressive nature. Chronic oversharer for the win!
So, if I am upset, chances are I am going to say something about it. Being a writer doesn’t help. We blurt sometimes the honest words, before we think about whether we should. Or maybe that is just me. I’m honest, authentic, and want to be known (and liked). So much.
But I won’t talk about fear. Even if it is paralyzing, you’ll never hear me admit it.
State of a World More Than a Little Off It’s Rocker
Because I cope with moderate (and sometimes severe) clinical anxiety, I am hypervigilant. That means, I notice everything. People sometimes assume that the high-energy talk a lot girl isn’t paying attention. Test me. Not only did I hear what you said; I heard everyone else in the room. Caught their body language. Processed it too.
That’s a symptom of anxiety called “threat assessment”. I like to convince myself that I have some control. I know I don’t. About much in life. But what upsets me is having the rug pulled out from under me. And it has happened so many times, that I am in a state of surveillance. Trying somehow to control the uncontrollable aspects of luck and life.
The world right now is a little crazy. For me and my microcosm anyhow. Economics, inflation, politics, world peace (and the lack thereof). Capitalism crushing the middle class to where often I wonder… how someone who works so hard makes so little headway. Even though in saying that I know that many people have it worse than I do. And that keeps me grounded, and aware of my blessings.
I am sensitive to this new world. It feels hostile, hate-filled, racist, and impolite. Were people always this way? Or am I just noticing now more than ever, at the age of 49? I never used to be transactional in relationships. Now I am. Because the rest of the world is. And you get slaughtered if you are a kind-hearted giving person; you may as well wear a sign that says “Exploit me!”
What is different now, than when I was younger? Every generation had its own economic adversity. I remember hearing of the gasoline crisis in the seventies. Wars. The housing bubble tanked investments and home equity in the 1990s. So, shouldn’t we be used to weathering this stuff? Seasons of difficulty are not new to the planet. Regardless of where you live.
But I don’t remember so much anger. Resentment, and hostility. Or maybe I just didn’t notice it before as I do now. Or if I did notice it, I perhaps didn’t absorb it the same way. Reminder to self… my happy ending turned out to be a nightmare. And as much as I’d like to say I am over the end of my marriage, I am not there yet. Where I am hung up… is the part where I loved him so hard, I stopped loving myself. And allowed me to live in such a state of pain, I decided to hate myself for that stupidity.
For causing that pain to myself. He no longer factors. I’ll never speak to him again. But what hurts the most is knowing that every decision that caused that pain, was mine. And I thought I was smarter than that. The person I’ve been waging war on for the past three years isn’t my former spouse. It’s been me.
And I’m not good at self-forgiveness.
Things I Am Afraid Of (And Try Not to Think About)
It takes bravery to sit and make a list of the things you are afraid of. Isn’t it easier to dive into a pint of ice cream instead? Soothe the savage mind with carbohydrates, mindless television, video games or any number of other distractionary things?
Giving your brain a break isn’t something I am good at. This sucker likes to spin and spin and spin. Contingency plan. Assuming the worst always. That, according to a therapist last year, led to a diagnosis of PTSD. She wanted to put me on medication. I wanted to fix it myself instead. And I have been working on it.
Look at that… I was procrastinating. Seriously, fear is powerful AF. Okay, so here is the list of real things I am afraid of:
- Losing my job and being unemployed (again). It wasn’t pleasant. And it was the first time in my life I had to deal with no income, no family or friends nearby, and the harsh reality of not being able to pay my bills on time. It freaked me out.
- Diabetes. My body is a ticking timebomb of bad things that can happen. All of which are exacerbated by stress and working long hours. Stress management is a big problem for me. I am working on that.
- Loneliness. You are looking at a girl who would be happy to have 1-2 friends nearby that were like “hey… I’m coming over to watch a movie”. But people with kids are busy. I am neither on the singles market (gratefully, I have an amazing boyfriend), nor am I a parent with kiddos to engage me with other parents. I’m kind of in this no man’s land. Not wanting to spend all my time at bars (or waste money while I engage in a “war on the wallet” to fix my post-divorce finances. But a sushi date? Doable. Walking and hiking? Yes, please! A movie, or cooking dinner with a girlfriend? Heaven. Haven’t got there yet locally.
- The rising cost of living. I currently (knock on wood) make what most people would consider a good income. I guess it is the financial clean-up that skews my perception on this. In my mind, I should have a house, a big 401k and a big savings account, and no debt. Did I mention I went three months with almost no income? Caught up now, but so much for the savings. I used the proceeds from the home sale to get myself established, and paid off as much as I could toward the medical debt. No rainy day funds (yet) but working hard on that. But seriously how much do I have to make to be “okay” in this current economy? Clearly more. So I am freelancing again on evenings and weekends with writing projects. And trying to balance THAT with a day job that is extremely stressful and demanding.
- Vulnerability. I’ve been in crisis mode since I first got sick in November 2018. One shitstorm after another. And I am sick of it. I dispaired. I hid. I started healing. Now, I am angry. And I am going to insulate myself to protect myself from future adversities. As quickly as possible.
- Being unable to care for my dogs. Or something happening to me, where my dogs are sent to an uncertain fate. I made them a promise when I adopted them. They are my kids.
That took more than a few vapes and a glass of Coke Zero (who am I kidding… I don’t use a glass when no one is around). Nonetheless, there they are. My core fears can literally paralyze me mentally if I allow them to.
Doing a Personal Inventory of Strengths, Tools, and Personality Traits
If you are going to address a list of things that could take you down, naturally you need to look at it as a war. Not an angry war, but if life has taught you some hard lessons, then you need to fortify yourself with a list that is even more important than your fear triggers. Your arsenal of skills.
This part is a little hard for me because boy, do I have a critical inner voice. Something I am working on is reducing the volume of the narrative of my deficiencies. And increase the volume on your strengths. I don’t think we do enough reflection on our weapons of mass RECONSTRUCTION. Focusing instead, on the experiences of destruction (and hating ourselves for experiencing the hard vulnerability of it).
My skills, strengths, and talents include:
- Stubbornness. Hear me out! It is not always a bad trait. I may not always love myself, but I do not accept defeat. In any scenario. If there is a will, there is a way. And I WILL find it.
- Energy. Boy, do I have it in spades. Especially when it is focused on achieving a goal or objective.
- Intelligence. I haz smart.
- Work ethic. I am not afraid to work hard. Sometimes I work harder than I should, and that’s a self-care issue. People with ADHD can actually be HYPER-focused and almost obsessed with important things. To the point of exhaustion, I will work hard to achieve what I need to.
- Kindness. No matter what life throws at me, or how hard my path becomes, I have open arms for the people who matter to me. I try to be kind always. A little bit sarcastic sometimes, but almost always kind. Unless someone is being a complete jerk to me for no reason. Then… I’m a ghost. Bye Felicia!
- Good education and a great resume. My skills are in demand. I do love what I do vocationally. And I am really good at it. So good in fact, that I can part-time freelance from home to meet my financial goals faster. That’s a blessing. I worked hard for it and made that happen strategically, but it is definitely an asset.
- Positivity. Few people knew how badly I was struggling after the M&A and every employee in the company lost their job. I kept the positive front going. Because outward despair wasn’t going to help the situation. I start every day with a positive expectation for good things to happen.
- Few but close, and wonderful relationships. My best friend Diane. My sister. My boyfriend (happy six months babe… and it keeps getting BETTER and more profound). I may not have a large circle of local friends, but there are amazing people who love me. And I can rely on them to talk, vent, and share both bad stuff and good things. That’s a blessing.
- Employer-sponsored health insurance. I’ll just leave that right there. My health insurance cost me over $600 per month in 2015. Yep. I like working corporate for my day job. It’s worth it.
- A cheap apartment. It’s not perfect. It can be frustrating sometimes and we are adapting to a 636-square-foot downgrade from my townhouse. It’s okay though. Living below your means is a wise choice is an uncertain economy. If only they’d fix my air conditioning… sigh.
- Entrepreneurialism. I am a digital nomad. I can work anywhere. Corporate and freelance, the world is my oyster in terms of marketability AND I can (eventually) choose to live somewhere else. With cheaper rent. I’d like to be in a house again someday soon. You try going up three floors of stairs x four times per day with five chihuahuas. My legs are gorgeous right now though. And it builds in physical activity into my day that helps my health, and my weight-loss goals.
- Passion. My life may be a rollercoaster ride of unpredictability, but I am passionate about trying new things. And that includes divergent paths in life. I’ve never “played it safe” by following the conventional path in life. Did it have a cost? Yeah… see my notes about owning three houses in my lifetime and renting an apartment now. Bummed. But I PASSIONATELY believe I am going to be back there. Sooner than I think. With or without a partner.
- Honesty. I like my integrity. It matters to me. And I think it shines through.
The sum of my strengths and resilience is greater than the sum of my fears. I also feel more attractive than I have ever felt in my life. Even if it surprises me when people find me “cute”. In my head, I am not attractive, but there is a small change in that. On a warm front, I call “Self Love”. But it’s still new to me.
Exercises to Manage Fear and Increase Your Self Power
Yeah yeah, dianetics. So 1970s. But the truth is that personal change requires flexing new mental muscles. And so, I have been listening to audiobooks and watching YouTube videos to figure out how to retrain certain behaviors. And focus on mental health, physical health, lifestyle balance, quality relationships, and peace of mind.
If life has taken you down a few notches, you have to fill that space with positive mindsets. The problem is that stress, anxiety, and trauma can really tank everything. So you need to work on it. Daily. If you want to get your mojo back and become fearless AF.
This video had a big impact on me. Make mistakes with love. For yourself. Humans make mistakes. We learn through life. But every mistake (and clean-up process) shouldn’t be a whip you beat yourself with daily.
What it takes is self-love. Give yourself a break for being human. Fear is the mind-killer. We’re taught that self-love is indulgent, or fluffy. But I am (slowly) learning that anxiety and fear have less power when you start practicing self-love and a positive, self-nurturing mindset on daily basis.
This life is a gift. Every day of it wasted fearing, fretting, spinning my tires with anxiety? That’s wasting precious time on this planet. When my only job is to live in a happy, fruitful way, that brings me peace and joy. And I have the power (and the tools) to make that happen.
Smart moves. Hard work. Self-love and taking better care of myself. The sparrow doesn’t know what the day will bring, or if this day will be her last. But she opens her wings to the wing and sails the currents of Fate with a hopeful (and grateful) heart.