A Thing Called Fear

Shark by Deja Photo

Shark by Deja Photo From Lens To Picture

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” – Woody Allen

Fear. At a basic level, fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat. Essential, historically, to the survival of humanity. Yet a potential catalyst to the undoing of an individual.

It should probably be noted that this is just MY take on fear. For what it’s worth.

I’m not going to get all psychoanalytical here or even very philosophical, but it seems that fear can be the spark that saves a life or that gets us headed in the right direction. It can also, in a manner of speaking, end a life when it becomes paralyzing, when the threat is viewed as a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to happiness, success, dreams.

Although fear might be an instantaneous response to a specific threat at a particular moment in time (a reaction to stimuli in a present moment), some are layered. They’re not merely a reaction to that one instant, but are often threaded deeply, intricately, inextricably to other (often sundry) past experiences.

It figures, doesn’t it, that something so influential would be so complex.

Here are My Four Biggest Childhood Fears (in order of severity, not in chronological order, from ages six to eighteen):

DEATH (as in no longer alive, as in ran out of time, as in the end, finito . . . I’m talking from the perspective of a boy who had absolutely no desire to be off pursuing evidence of an afterlife or a lack there of . . . not as a youthful resistance to the concepts of heaven or hell or purgatory, but simply as an I-just-got-here reaction to the whole idea of shuffling off this mortal coil)
STAGE FRIGHT/PUBLIC SPEAKING (being the center of attention might be a more apt name for this one)
HEIGHTS (a fear of falling, really . . . not of climbing, not of being UP, for UP was one of my favorite places to be – as Xero says, being there often allows you to see what everyone else can see, but in a totally different way . . . okay, so I guess maybe I did sort of morph into a misfit on my own)
DOGS (that’s right, man’s best friend . . . although I have a genuine affinity for dogs, I was attacked by two of them when I was in first grade so every canine interaction I’ve had since then has begun/begins with all out fear)

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A Different Point Of View

A Different Point of View

A Different Point of View by Simon Daniel Photography

“It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.” ~ Calvin and Hobbes

I guess you could say this is a post about truth, whatever that might be, which makes it about fact and reality (double ditto whatevers), which makes it a post about perception, really, a post about point of view.

And what does that even mean?

Sure, point of view is a way of considering a thing, not limited merely to our sensing the thing, but involving an attitude as well (about the thing being sensed, yes, and often about ourselves).

Cold Hard Fact: sometimes the words we least want to hear are the words we need to hear most. Sometimes they provide us (or force us to take) a different point of view.

I suppose a resistance to the words we don’t want to hear might be a form of self-preservation (of the ego, at least, and maybe of one’s dreams). I mean, giving up on our dreams seems to be more common than chasing them once we reach a certain age (that sort of cynicism seems to be taking hold in adolescence these days which is such a terrible shame).

If you’ve somehow found a way to hold onto those dreams, to chase them, your dream-preservation response is probably heightened.

Given the myriad pressures on us from so many directions to put aside the dream (you know, to let go of the “fanciful”), for the pursuit of the practical, I get the inherent need to defend our pursuit, but not at the sacrifice of reason. After all, sometimes the perceived criticism, sometimes the feedback, the insight, the advice, the idea being shared with us (wanted or not) has merit.

Sometimes it bears, at the very least, a seed of truth.
Which is often also a seed for growth.
If we recognize it, that is. If we allow ourselves to perceive it, to consider it, to weigh it, to examine it from various points of view.

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The Thing About Being Misunderstood

Bully by S. Babikovs

Bully by S. Babikovs

The first time, there were just three of them, my used-to-be-friends, with their wild hands latched onto my arms like vines imbued with dark magic, pulling me down to the earth; their fists turned into impossibly hard knots of bone, like so many dead stars crashing down from the sky against my head, shoulders, chest, gut; their feet stomping breath from my lungs, as if they were boys suddenly reduced to nothing more than steel toe, steel toe, steel toe.

It was the darkest three-foot section of the school, just outside the gym doors, where the hallway zig-zagged back into the locker room. . . .

That’s how my memoir would begin. If, you know, I started at fifth grade. Actually, I’m in the process of writing a fictionalized account of that very story.

I’m not sure if all writers have been through a “bad childhood or a good childhood interrupted by several years of badness” as Piers Anthony suggests, but there’s a good chance they write, to some degree at least, to better understand things they’ve either lived through or witnessed.

I know that’s true for me. I write to make sense of things that, at least when they occur, just don’t deem to make any sense sometimes, like bullying, but I also write to have a voice, as I’ve mentioned before, as a way of expressing myself in the hopes of being understood.

In looking back on my life, I’m pretty sure my need for understanding and, especially, for being understood started during those dark days of fifth grade or became magnified then.
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Practice Time At The Page Working on Xero Treu

Practice Time At The Page Working on Xero Treu

Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio write in the opening pages of their wonderful book, The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, that 90% of what we do as writers is “practice.”

Rather than contradict myself and spend several hours on a new blog post this week, I’m going to dedicate the next few days to practice. After all, I’m attending an important conference next weekend (Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus Conference) and my goal is to have my revision of Xero completed by then so I can share it with the editors and agents I meet.

Of course, that means I need to spend all my free time right now reworking the manuscript.

I need to practice!
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Second Chances

Auto Polo

Talk About a Moment When You Might Want a Do-Over

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.

Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ~ Scott Adams

There’s a common saying about life, how not everyone gets a second chance. Only, I wonder if maybe it should really be more like: “Not everyone takes their second chance.”

Of course, that might be because we don’t always see the chance for what it is or we might not feel we’re in a position to act on it or because we just can’t get ourselves to give up on our original plan. Seems as though, for many people who find themselves in unbearable situations, it’s not until something negative, something unwanted, something maybe even tragic happens before we decide to make a change we probably knew all along somewhere deep down inside us was a change we needed to make.

Sometimes in life, it’s a starting over, a starting from scratch.

Most of the time though, it’s really us setting off on a new path, not from the very beginning again, but from wherever we’d gotten to before the change. It’s like that with writing too.

Funny how much life and art have in common.
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