I’m a parent so I get the significance of fear to keep people safe. I know that hearing me scream “Don’t touch that” or spanking a child when they do something dangerous serves a purpose. As a teacher, I know I can control a child’s behavior with the threat of a phone call home. Fear has a function in childhood and adolescence to keep us safe, to let us know where the boundaries are, to remind us of limitations that are acceptable for appropriate behaviors. While it is a necessary component of our early years, it tends to mutate into a force (like gravity) that keeps us chained and grounded in adulthood. Losing weight challenged the role that fear played in my life and forced me to use fear as fuel for change instead of a stopping point.
We got a puppy about a year ago and our neighbors got a dog around the same time and they almost immediately installed an electric fence for their dog. And while I know this keeps their dog safe, it also limits his experience. We have a creek behind our house and our dog loves to play in it. Romeo likes to woof at the teenagers who cut through our property to get to the Carvel. Our dog likes to greet our neighbors with a good crotch sniff on their property and while I’m sure they don’t enjoy it, I can’t bring myself to limit him because of the way I feel so deeply about how the fear of the zap has kept me from fully experiencing life.
I was talking to a new friend the other night…someone I never would have talked to ever before I lost the weight and she was laughing about how we have become fast friends in a short amount of time despite knowing and interacting with each other for several years. When I was fat, I didn’t feel like she would want to be my friend but now that I was thin, I texted her one night and we became friends almost instantly. Now undoubtedly, we would have been friends even when I was fat because she’s just a cool chick and we have such great conversations despite not really having parallel lives or experiences but I let the fear of rejection hold me back from experiencing this great friendship. I was afraid of the zap of rejection and it kept me from a new friendship with someone who has already broadened my thinking and experiences.
I never got to say what I wanted to, what I needed to, to my dad because I was always reminded of the wooden spoon my mom used to teach me to respect my elders and now he’s dead and I’m emotionally stuck because I let fear stop me from telling him what a piece of shit I thought he was. My husband had always been riding me to tell people who were walking all over me to stop but I always let the fear of losing them in my life keep me penned in like a dog with the shock collar. Now, my husband may have preferred not to push me in that direction because I no longer have any fear about telling people in general (and that poor man specifically) exactly how I feel about the way I’m being treated. I’m not going to lie, it feels fantastic, almost orgasmic to release those words that I would have swallowed and buried deep. The fear is gone…if I lose you as a friend or a colleague or an acquaintance oh well….I can’t live swallowing these poisonous words and feelings anymore and I won’t live with the fear of disapproval either.
I recently went skiing with my kids and my husband. I had only been once before in college with a friend who was a great skier but not a great teacher. I remember being paralyzed with fear going down the mountain for the first time (the mother fucking mountain not the damn bunny slope). While I didn’t die, I knew that the feeling of being out of control was not a sensation that felt good for me. So there I was a decade later on the bunny slope, in tears, as my kids had to drag me down the 10 degree incline. I literally cried, shaking, snot dripping down my nose because I was so afraid. Fear had paralyzed me and I couldn’t enjoy this beautiful moment with my family because I was literally frozen. I started thinking about the hundred other fears I had and how irrational and ridiculous they were. I’m not a great swimmer (probably due to those 30 years or so when I desperately tried to avoid being in a bathing suit in public) so I actually keep a life vest under the front seat of my car in case I go off of a bridge and into the water with my kids in the car so I can save them. As I science teacher, I know that we would be dead from the impact so why do I clench my whole body when I’m going across a bridge?
Fear has no place in adulthood. It’s irrational. It holds us back from living a life that quite honestly is worth living. So what if people think you’re weird or a bitch? So what if you don’t think you can do it and you end up looking like an asshole trying? So what if you disappoint people…life is disappointing and living a life in fear isn’t really living at all. As you start to shed the extra weight, imagine each pound lost has a little of whatever fears trap or zap you from living a life that sets you on fire then run the yard and take in all the sniffs it has to offer.p