Tag Archives: anxiety

Fear Isn’t a Reason to Quit

In “Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared,” Caroline Paul writes about being one of the first women in the San Francisco Fire Department.

“I expected people to question whether I had the physical ability to do the job (even though I was a 5-foot-10, 150-pound ex-college athlete). What I didn’t expect was the question I heard more than any other: ‘Aren’t you scared?’”

Read the rest of Paul’s piece in The New York Times here.

As Paul points out, women are raised to be afraid, of well, many things. Things that are gross, things that could hurt us, things that are physically intimidating, etc. Some fear is healthy, of course. Fear keeps us from acting completely irrationally or taking unnecessary risks.

But what about risks that are scary because we could possibly fail? Possibly be humiliated? I mean, let’s be real. What the hell is scarier than failure? Paul writes,

“When a girl learns that the chance of skinning her knee is an acceptable reason not to attempt the fire pole, she learns to avoid activities outside her comfort zone.”

Here lies the problem. As Paul states,

“We think our daughters are more fragile, both physically and emotionally, than our sons.”

When we treat young girls as more fragile, they come to think of themselves that way. They are less likely to take risks because they might bruise their knees or their egos. Paul writes,

“When girls become women, this fear manifests as deference and timid decision making.”

I fear failure, probably a little too much. It has made me timid in my decision making, opting to stay the course, and wait for better things to come along.

It’s not like parents raised me to be this timid girl. My mother raised me to a feminist. To have opinions. To try new things. I mean, my parents let me travel to another continent (without them) when I was in junior high.

Did they treat me different than my brothers? Yes. Some different treatment is necessary. Girls have to learn how to navigate the world we live in, after all. And that’s the point really.

Girls need to learn to look fear in the eye and try it anyway, knowing they might tumble, bloody their knees, and fail. Failure builds character. It makes us stronger. It makes us brave. Paul writes,

“When I worked as a firefighter, I was often scared. Of course I was. So were the men. But fear wasn’t a reason to quit. I put my fear where it belonged, behind my feelings of focus, confidence and courage. Then I headed, with my crew, into the burning building.”

I was talking to a friend of mine about this piece. My friend has two daughters. Her take was she doesn’t want to raise her girls to be fearless, she wants to raise them to be smart and brave.

Sounds good to me. We could use more smart and BRAVE women out there in the world.

So this week, I thought I would try something different. I created a Spotify Playlist. It is my Fearless Mix. You may recognize a lot of these songs from earlier posts. 🙂

 

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8 Goals for 2016 (Because I Don’t Believe in Resolutions)

I don’t do resolutions. To me, resolutions are failed attempts to get in shape, eat better, and swear less. I could probably set all those goals. I could become a gym queen with killer biceps.

Ehh.

I own a treadmill. I use it. I eat ok. Salads for lunch a lot, probably too many nachos for dinner. Swearing, well, I like swearing, and I know when swearing is not appropriate.

I do, however, set goals. I know it is basically the same thing, but I like the sound of goals better.

So in order to fully commit myself, I am sharing my 2016 goals here for ALL THE WORLD to see. I assume everyone on the planet reads this blog, but you know, somehow in secret so I don’t know about it.

  1. Keep writing a blog a week until May 29th. On May 29th, I will have written a post every week for one year. Continuing this seems attainable. I have this one in the bag.
  1. Complete seven stories this year, and submit these stories. Starting a story is not hard. Finishing and editing a story until I am satisfied is a much longer process. I submitted one so far.
  1. Stop apologizing for things that don’t require an apology. I say sorry for things I have no reason to be sorry about. Not sure if it is a Midwest thing or a woman thing or more likely both. I worry too much about hurting people’s feelings, especially people that don’t seem to hold my feelings in such high regard.
  1. Spend time with people that value you and make an effort. I am picky about the people I spend time with, but I tend to give people too many chances. If someone makes no effort, then I need to learn to let it go.
  1. Get my finances locked down. I pay all my bills on time, and I have a 401K. But I was having a conversation with a friend about how good she is at saving money, and I thought, damn girl, you could do that too. You should be doing that too. Why aren’t you doing that too?! Call it my emergency furnace fund which even typing that makes me TERRIFIED the furnace is going to blow. (Send good vibes to my furnace.)
  1. Do some home improvements that improve resale, not just make it look kick ass. I have a tendency to buy things like furniture, rugs, and trilobites. You know, the essentials. These things look kick ass, but don’t really add value to your house. So I’m making more permanent changes. I had an over-the-range microwave installed this week, and another guy came over to talk dishwasher installation. I have a few more kitchen tweaks in mind. I would also like my laundry room to appear to be a place other than where you might find someone’s severed torso. So that’s maybe next on the list.
  1. Get a new job. This one has been on my to-do list for quite some time. I have taken steps toward this. Working on a master’s degree, writing this blog, internships, and various other writing projects. I want this to be the year, guys.
  1. Continue destroying the fear. This goes along with many of those goals, like quit apologizing for who you are. Submit more writing. Use more power tools. Change, change, change. Basically, be a better version of yourself. This is a perpetual goal. I think whenever you can let go of your fears, you find yourself a happier person. And that, my friends, is always the goal, be happier.

This week’s video is “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac.

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How to Destroy the Fear That Forms You

I wouldn’t say I suffer from anxiety, not like a lot of people suffer from anxiety. But I have had three full-fledged panic attacks.

One of attacks occurred while I was driving, which was a terrifying experience.

I have never been particularly fond of driving. While I lived in New York, I didn’t have a car. I never drove.

A few years ago, I was going through a stressful time in my life, and I was rear-ended driving back from Des Moines, IA. In my brother’s car. Which was totaled.

I shook most of the way home.

Physically, I was fine, but my fear of driving really took root then.

A few months later, I was driving down the same stretch of road. I was following a semi, and something blew out of the window.

It was just a small thing really, probably not anything that would’ve caused an accident. But I was already on edge.

I started breathing heavily and sweating. I heard a rushing sound in my ears.

I managed to drive to the next exit and pull over. I was shaking. I tried to take deep breaths. I sat there until I calmed down.

I found out later the sound was blood rushing to my head because I was having a fight-or-flight response. My body was gearing up for a confrontation.

My driving nervousness has improved, though I still am not fond of making that drive down 35W. I much prefer driving in stop-and-go traffic around the cities. Strange, I know.

My fear manifests itself in other ways. I am afraid of rejection. I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of disappointing my family. I am afraid of disappointing myself, of wasting my life away.

The thing about fear or anxiety is that if you let it, it controls you. It stops you from doing things you want to do.

My fear of failure and rejection prevented me from submitting stories for publication.

My fear of disappointing my family prevented me from writing about certain things.

And these fears did control me. These doubts prevented me from working toward becoming a writer.

I can’t point to one clear moment when I decided to let go. And let’s be honest, I still have these fears, but these fears no longer control me.

There is no way my mom is going to love everything I write. I can live with that.

Part of being a writer is facing rejection. Not everything I write is going to be good or worthy of being published.

I have just decided that not trying to get my work published is far worse than trying and failing. I know if I never submit my work, it will never be published. And that is the one kind of failure I am no longer willing to accept.

This week’s video is “Rather Be Here” from my friend James’ former musical incarnation, Frightened Cellar. It is off the album Destroy The Fear That Forms You, which inspired my headline. I have included the lyrics below because maybe his words will resonate with you, like his words did for me.

“Rather Be Here”

It’s not time you’ve wasted
I’m sure you’ve come fairly far
From complaining about the past and spending all day in the bar
You might have been a punch card
It’s something they’d have been proud of
Don’t let your doubts stain everything you stand for

When the past is the past and the song comes undone
I’ll still be here waiting for you to grow up
When you start looking forward and seeing your worth
I’ll be right here waiting for you to come back to earth

So get out of that painting and don’t be so sad
Sure you took things for granted and often looked back
Just keep moving forward you might be a star
Or love yourself someday, that’d be the best fate by far

When the past is the past and the song comes undone
I’ll still be here waiting for you to grow up
When you start looking forward and seeing your worth
I’ll be right here waiting for you to come back to earth

When the days are growing tired and nothing seems right
When hope’s a distant memory and you can’t leave the night
Just keep moving forward it’s the only way you can go
You’ll have your time yet, this life is your show

When the past is the past and the song comes undone
I’ll still be here waiting for you to grow up
When you start looking forward and seeing your worth
I’ll be right here waiting for you to come back to earth
I’ll be right here waiting for you to come back to earth

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How to De-stress and Live a Perfectly, Imperfect Life

“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”

-John Bender from The Breakfast Club

I flicked on the light in the dining room and caught a glimpse of something on the table.

“Oh shit.”

There was a small puddle forming on the dining room table. I looked up and saw the ceiling around the chandelier was dripping.

My stomach dropped. I grabbed a towel to mop the table and headed up to the attic.

A steady downpour started maybe an hour before, and that rain was now coming through roof. The rain had soaked the attic floor, and then leaked through the dining room ceiling to puddle on my table.

I ran downstairs and grabbed a soup pot, two large buckets, and more towels. I wiped up as much water as I could, and then placed the containers under the leaks.

A few phone calls, texts, and Google searches later, two roofing companies were supposed to call me back.

The first company, rated highly through the Better Business Bureau, still hasn’t called me back. The other company, a friend of a friend, called me back quickly and showed up about a half hour later.

The rain stopped, and the ceiling was no longer leaking, but the attic was still wet. The contractor friend inspected the attic, and then we looked at the roof from the outside.

“I can patch the holes, but you need a new roof.”

My stomach finished its plummet to my feet. He talked about numbers and structural integrity. The $$$ were adding up quick. The curse words were filling my head.

He left, promising to come back the next day and patch the roof when it dried out.

***

When I was house hunting, I loved checking out all the houses for sale. It was so interesting to see how people decorated, and what clever ideas they used to make their homes beautiful. Or sometimes, seeing the corners they cut and the ugly little secrets hidden behind the next door. That part was fascinating too.

And I judged these people and their homes. How could they live with leaving a paint smudge on the ceiling? What about that door with the huge scratches on it? Why hadn’t they fixed it?

When you’re house hunting, it’s good to keep your eye out for poorly executed renovations or a house where basic upkeep is neglected. These things tell you the house wasn’t well maintained, or that the remodeler did a bad job. And you don’t want to buy those houses.

But when I bought my house, I wanted it to look PERFECT. Or at least as perfect as I could afford. We painted almost every room in the house. We painted the kitchen cabinets. We bought a new couch. I created a gallery wall. I would say we replaced all the light fixtures, but all but two were stripped from the house. I didn’t even need an excuse to buy new light fixtures. (Because I would have wanted new lighting, no doubt.)

When we were done, the house looked pretty darn good. Visitors seemed impressed. I was satisfied, momentarily.

But the list of things to replace was ever growing in my head. I hated the kitchen tile. I requested a catalogue for beautiful, black and white tile made in California. Wouldn’t it be great if the kitchen was open to the dining room? I found a Groupon from an architecture company that drew up floor plans for a dream kitchen.

And then, I was getting divorced. My focus was making it to the next day and keeping the house. It had become MY HOUSE. All other plans were on hold.

The divorce was finalized. I refinanced the house and placed it in my name. I was relieved.

Suddenly those important remodeling plans seemed unimportant and frankly, unaffordable.

***

I stared at the door for a minute after he left. A new roof?

I was trying not to panic. I’ve been a serious worrier for most of my life. The what ifs and universe questions have kept me up more nights than I’d like to admit. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned worrying endlessly about something doesn’t resolve anything. It just makes you feel worse.

There are some things that are worth getting worried and stressed about. But the best thing to do is just give yourself a minute (or twenty) to panic. Let that, “Oh-shit-I’m-never-going-to-solve-this-problem” feeling wash over you. Get it out of your system. Then take a deep breath and start making plans. Call a friend or a family member. Google how to fix your unfixable problem. Try to take that first step. I also make a lot of lists. There is an amazing sense of accomplishment when you cross something off a list.

“Control” by Poe is a song I listen to whenever I need to a confidence boost. It is my “It’s time to kick ass” song.

You better believe I had Wini and Keith (my parents) on the horn pretty quickly after I discovered my leaky roof. And just talking to them and knowing I am not alone made me feel infinitely calmer. Good folks, my parents.

Worrying about having a perfect house is ridiculous. I see that now.

I will never have a perfect life. Or say the perfect thing. Or date the perfect guy. Or wear the perfect jeans. (J Brand is close though.)

Owning a house has taught me there is no perfect over and over and over again. The blue tape will sometimes leak, and your paint line will bleed white onto black. The weeds will threaten to overtake your beautifully, landscaped yard. Your almost, brand new water heater will form puddles on the floor.

And sometimes the sky above you will burst all over your dining room table. Stop. Breathe. That’s just life. The world is filled with imperfection. Then mop it up, try to smile, and realize, well, at least you have a good reason to be late to work.

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