What are you afraid of?
Anytime that question pops up, I always answer it the same way.
1) Losing someone I love
2) Not living up to my potential
Those are my deepest fears. Sure, I'm afraid of things like snakes and spiders. I have a raging case of vertigo. I'm not necessarily looking forward to my own death. But nothing strikes the immobilizing chill of fear in my heart like those two biggies listed above.
Bettina, one of the characters in Six Feet Under (played by Kathy Bates), once told Ruth (as played by Frances Conroy) that being afraid of something is a good reason to do it. I tend to agree with her. I don't think that I need to go out and provoke a snake in an effort to face my fear of those slimy reptiles. I think there are some damn good reasons to be afraid of snakes, or at least the poisonous ones. Not to mention the ones who can squeeze the shit out of you.
It's not about being a daredevil. It's about living. Giving each day your best shot.
I hate calling my dad on the phone. I've never enjoyed it, but ever since he's been in the nursing home, I've developed an even stronger aversion to it. I appreciate hearing his voice, because it clues me in to how he's doing. I like touching base with him, because on some level it may make a difference to him (and it certainly does to me). But I don't look forward to making the weekly call. It makes me feel heavy. And sad. Because each minute-long conversation reminds me of how I've always longed to spill my guts to him and have him understand. We will never have that kind of relationship. It hurts me each time I re-realize that.
But still, I call. And I tell him I love him. I used to be so scared to say those words to him, because I never knew if he would say them back. I guess I had a good reason to be afraid, because he rarely returns the sentiment. However, he always has when I've needed him to.
But now that fear seems kind of silly to me. I can love my dad, and I can tell him so. Sure, I love hearing it from him. But it's more important that he hears it from me. I don't want him to feel alone.
So when I call, and when I say those three magical words, I'm giving our relationship its best shot. I don't want to have regrets.
My husband is my hero. He always looks embarrassed when I tell him that. He works with developmentally disabled adults as a (sort of) social worker. When he decided to get his Master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, I was very excited for him, because if anyone should be working with those less fortunate, it's Roy. He is as steadfast and patient as a rock. A very caring, loving, gentle rock.
Back in September, we went to a sports expo for people with disabilities on campus. I saw some amazing, wonderful things.
I spent the majority of that day blinking back tears, thinking of how incredible it is for people with disabilities to be able to do the things that we take for granted. (I am especially rooting for the young man below.)
And then I did cry when I realized that these are the people Roy works with everyday. It's so hard to be faced with those who are disabled in some way. They remind us of our own fragility. And yet my husband helps them every single day. I love him for that.
My main goal in life is to live. I've taken a lot of risks in my 30 years on this planet, and I don't intend on stopping now. I'm not going to max out our credit cards (that's just stupid) or parachute out of a plane (well, maybe someday). But I'm going to call my dad and tell him I love him. I'm going to admit when I'm wrong and try to make amends. I'm going to write and take photos. I'm going to continue to take huge chances, like quitting my day job. I'm going to pursue what makes me happy. I'm going to do what's best for my family.
I may not ever win a Pulitzer. I may not be Mom of the Year. But I want to leave behind a legacy of courage. When I see those people with disabilities doing the best with what they've got, it makes absolutely no sense for me to be afraid of failing. Because I will fail sometimes.
I just never want to stop trying. I never want fear to get in the way of living.
So, tell me. What are you afraid of? And what are you going to do about it?