Tag Archives: Poe

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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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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