Agitation, alarm, angst, apprehension, despair, foreboding, panic, phobia, unease, trepidation and on and on and on. According to my Canadian Thesaurus there are twenty seven formal synonyms to denote fear. In contrast, there are only three antonyms with which to battle fear; aplomb, confidence, courage.
This little bit of research is a result of a question asked of me a few years ago; what is my greatest fear? I must admit the query conjured up easy answers, at first. Fear of illness, losing love, life, mind, body soul…you get the idea. Upon further introspection however, I discovered the answer became less clear.
Things I feared as a child generally no longer hold power over me. Scary movies and snakes are the exceptions. Where night-time phobias ruled my childish life, I came to welcome the velvet comforter of the night, particularly after a trying day. My childhood nightmares gave way to the more fanciful dreams of adulthood, dreams that took me to far off places and fed my need for adventure.
There are many events that colour a child’s life. My early existence was full of such happenings; moments of violent words and actions that produced gut destroying anxiety. As I grew in to teen years, the silent treatment was de rigueur between mother and me. While there were no hurtful words, the result was still the same, I suffered. I lived in a most confusing world. I didn’t know how to take ownership of all the fears I had growing up. I was afraid my dad would leave and never come back (he was the sane adult in my world). Would I be able to protect my younger brother? I was scared of failing in school, never “amounting to anything”, terrified, to the point of throwing up prior to going on stage for public speaking, singing or playing the piano. The last three activities, not the throwing up part, were mandated by school and mother. Like Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, my fears were well fed. I have been asked many times how I survived. My stock answer is an honest one, “I don’t know, I just did.”
Through some miracle or other I was blessed with the most wonderful of friends. The girls and their families kept me sane and offered sanctuary when needed. These girls, women now, are still friends decades later and I treasure all three.
Occasionally I’ve harboured a fear of being alone to the end of my life. However, the fear of being in a really terrible and debilitating relationship outweighs being alone. Besides, I’m not a solitary soul. I have wonderful people in my world; all of whom I love with a deep and full heart. They stand side by side with me against all the fears that bite at my heels. They keep me standing.
I do, in some strange, convoluted way, give credit to my mother for my inner strength. Her life was not without pain and challenges. She survived and did the best job she could with the tools she had in her life’s repertoire, and I survived her. It took a fair amount of therapy during my more adult years to come to that understanding. I outgrew the fears, sewed up the scars and still love the person who gave me life. Because, in truth, without my parents, I wouldn’t have had the best adventure of my life, my daughter. That’s when the fears of my childhood were left behind; and new ones took root.