Sometimes fear is an uninvited guest.
He is a familiar stranger who lacks social graces and has no problem making himself comfortable without leave or invitation.
A man of ill repute who sometimes manages to stave off my best efforts to give him the bum’s rush and throw him bodily through the wall, door or window.
Whenever my children or someone has asked me to help them overcome a particular fear I have told them to shine a light on whatever dark corner their fear hides in so that it can be identified, explored and investigated.
I try to do the same but what frustrates me the most are the fears that don’t evaporate or shrivel in daylight.
Because those are the few that seem to have found my number, that know how to rattle my cage and ring my bell.
The ones that dare me to look them in the eye because they know I am uncertain of my ability to make them back down and go away.
It Is How Men Are Socialized
Many years ago at my father’s retirement party one of the men who worked with and for my father walked up to me to share some stories.
“Your father isn’t afraid of anyone or anything. I have never seen him back down or walk away from a challenge.
They tried to fire me and he saved my job. He told them to go fuck themselves and I will never forget that.
You have a great father. I shouldn’t tell you this, but he always tells us how smart you and your sisters are.”
I wasn’t surprised to hear about dad being fearless or that he had stood up for this man. It is and was who my father has always been.
My siblings and I never worried about whether the folks had our backs, it was never a question.
I wasn’t entirely surprised either to hear dad had said nice things about us, but I never expected this guy to describe dad as being effusive in his praise because even though he would say things, it was never as over-the-top as this man made it sound.
I didn’t think he was lying or trying to exaggerate either.
But something else stuck with me at that moment, the comment about dad being fearless.
Don’t know why, I just know a voice in my head said it is how men are socialized. Wasn’t a value judgment, didn’t think of it as being good or bad.
Just an observation.
Sometimes Fear Is An Uninvited Guest
Remember that post about The Stupidity Of A Smartphone?
Y0u know the one where I wrote about how I bought a new iPhone 6 Plus this week.
Well the wheels are turning inside the front and back of my head because I am uncertain about whether I made a mistake in buying the 16GB model instead of one with more memory.
I went into this purchase with my eyes wide open, knowing why I was doing what I did and feeling like I was making the best choice I could based upon the circumstances I was dealing with.
But there is this voice inside my head that won’t quite shut up, whispering about how good intentions don’t always lead to good outcomes.
And that little fucker has managed to barricade himself inside the came cabinet our minister of fear sometimes hangs out in.
The two of them are kicking back, drinking beer and engaging in general carousing. They are high-fiving each other and exchanging notes about how to pull my strings and make me dance like their little puppet.
What they don’t realize is I can see the collar around my neck and the chain they are using to pull.
I am working on getting my hands wrapped around it so that I can pull it out of their hands, just need to stretch a little farther.
Reality- Where Rubber Meets The Road
My doppleganger wrote a short story where he talked about cars outracing a train across the tracks.
He shared, “Only by grace does luck beat death” and we both smiled because when you look back at the stupidity of your youth that is what you do.
You smile because you recognize that sometimes luck plays as big a role in saving your ass as skill.
That is not the sort of fearlessness that the man described about my father because it was dumb and reckless and that is not how I see my father.
There might be moments in his personal history where the description would be accurate, but I am unaware of them.
His fearlessness has always been tempered by a tremendous responsibility and that is why I tend to doubt that he ever did anything quite so dumb.
But I, well, I don’t have that sort of record.
There a record of having done things that others wouldn’t do because I was young and dumb and convinced I could make it happen.
And there is a record of successful risk taking that I won’t label as being done as young and dumb because it happened when I was older.
They were measured risks. I didn’t walk blindly into them.
I surveyed the landscape, conducted as much research as I could do and then made the best decision and choices I could based upon limited information.
And that is precisely how my father taught me to do things, raised and socialized.
You see when I talk about the rubber meeting the road I’m referring to what we think and what is. Dad and I have talked about fear as both father and son and men.
What I know now is different from what I once knew and that is because of those discussions.
But what I really haven’t dug into with dad, what I haven’t delved into is a different sort of talk.
Probably because it takes time for people to really recognize and understand some things, or at least it did for me.
I have very few regrets, but those I do are…large.
The lesson I learned is to do my best to be proactive and not reactive. I am doing my best to be the captain of my destiny and to steer my ship as best I can.
That is the best lesson I can give to my children.