Posts Tagged ‘fear’

Last week on twitter, when hearing the news of Roger Eberts death, I tweeted this:

If cancer has blown your world apart, every time you hear of another death, a piece of you is cut out and trampled on.

It must have struck a chord with many others, it was “retweeted” and “favorited” and passed around many times.
It was what I was feeling, I didn’t know Roger Ebert. I used to watch Siskel and Ebert on Saturday mornings to see what movies they were bashing and sometimes praising and often I’d argue with the TV screen. But hearing of his death, like hearing of the death of Nora Ephron, or that girl I went to high school with, or the grocery checker who was always so nice… it affected me, they all affected me.

Cancer has blown my world apart, so often that I’m not sure if it was all one big explosion or several smaller ones linked together, like a mega roll of firecrackers rolled out and lit… the bangs go on forever — I hate firecrackers.

The aftermath of cancer, the picking up of the pieces, the stringing reality back together, the return to a normal existence… those are the things that take longer than it did for the cancer to take over a body and destroy it — cancer lingers. When someone dies of cancer, it doesn’t end there, because cancer has invaded you, your life, your world is now a world that contains cancer. It has you in its grips forever, you are never free of it — death does not destroy cancer.

It is the constant background noise to your life, the ceaseless ringing in your ears. I am not brave before it, I cower, I lower my head, I try not to be seen by it. But, it makes sure I know it sees me, there is no corner dark enough to conceal me from it.

I forget, briefly, in those periods in between hearing how its taken over another persons body. I forget. But, never for long. The periods of forgetfulness become shorter each day. Each day I hear of a friend who has been diagnosed, a spouse of a co-worker, a favorite professor, a screenwriter who made me laugh. When cancer has blown your world apart, every time you hear of another death, a piece of you is cut out and trampled on.

Pieces of me are scattered around — pieces from my father, pieces from my mother, pieces from my brother-in-law, pieces from my dog, pieces from friends and co-workers and friends of friends and complete strangers… I have been trampled on by cancer.

I wish I could tie these thoughts up like a beautiful package under the tree on Christmas morning — when you open it, out pops bravery and triumph and fearlessness. But, that’s not the case. There are no ornate pink bows big enough to cover up cancer… it’s ugly and ruthless and cunning.

Often now, my fear and cowering is accompanied by an over-bearing hatred. Maybe that’s what we should hope for, that we become so pissed off at this monster that we are moved to action, not just reaction.
After all, if you believe they put a man on the moon, the ability to stop this creature shouldn’t be far off.

Please visit the following sites:
Lisa Bonchek Adams Giving Page
Lisa Adams
Lisa Bonchek Adams Blog
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

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dare to see past the range of your eyes
a moment waiting to be learned
just beyond our vision
pieces and bits and fragments

something inside me died
but I don’t feel the loss
the space left room for more
pieces and bits and fragments

that chain was so heavy
so unmovable
holding your courage captive
you forget how to stand
you forget to shift your balance with the changing sand below
you forget all the
pieces and bits and fragments
the unfinished you
an unfinished conversation
there was more to be said
more to be heard
more words
more silences

a churning of thoughts
as unsettled as the ocean floor
trying to see how it all fits together
stand back
let it rest
a tether isn’t needed
cut yourself loose
you won’t float away or be lost
feel how steady you are on the uneven sand

dive into the wave
swim through the mire
dart to the surface
break it open with a scream
silence crashes in all around you
and holds you
and binds you
and forbids you
so cut the tether
let it go
be strong
be brave
be unafraid

the fragments
the pieces
the unfinished bits of me

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I had this comment on a post not too long ago. I love getting comments here, all kinds of comments. Those of you who say, “yes, me too”, and those of you who reveal your souls. This comment has stuck with me. The commenter used the name “Confused”, which worried me about the message I was sending here (assuming there’s a message). It made me take pause before I replied. It made me wonder about the words I was leaving here. It made me wonder about my life.

The comment was wonderful, I replied the best I could. He replied… I replied again, and then — we were done. Here anyway. I wasn’t done with the thoughts swimming in my head — the feeling that I might have been stuck in a rut… that I might have been perpetually swimming under water. He hasn’t been back, that I know of (also, I don’t know if he’s a he). Shortly after that, I wrote this post and felt a sense of righteous indignation as I typed away on my keyboard that night and could literally feel my head bobbing out of the water… taking a deep breath and finally ready to move forward. I was hoping “Confused” might come back to see it.

Around the same time, I saw this picture on Kind Over Matter,

I thought to myself, “What would I do if I had no fear? Well, I’d write a post about setting myself on fire for starters.”

But, for a while, I’ve been thinking about this picture, about that post I wrote, and about “Confused”. It’s been a challenging few weeks. I thought this might be a good time to do a gut check to see if I was moving forward or if I was perpetually swimming under water. I started thinking about what I would do if I had no fear.

I know I would start a blog, if I had no fear. I would go to the edge of losing control and then turn around and come back… I would invite conversation with those who have a certain disdain for me — if I had no fear. I would open up my heart when I should keep it closed and I would open up my mouth and let the words flow freely instead of pausing and walking away and I would invite new people into my sometimes uncertain world — if I had no fear.

I would wrap myself in doubt and walk out the door anyway, I would beg for understanding when I know all you’ll remember is the begging, I would continue to show up at the party hosted by agitated strangers and enjoy the company — all, if I had no fear. I would put myself and a sleeping bag and a cell phone in my car and head out to my favorite camping spot… I would seek clarity even when it proved my actions were muddied with spite — if I had no fear.

I would raise my children to question those who speak contemptuously about others who don’t act or speak or live the same as them and I would take my kids to the fair when I should have paid that bill and I would accept the brutal honesty you offer and I would set myself on fire… daily, if I had no fear.

I would do the things I’m doing now. That’s how I know I’m moving forward, that’s how I know I’m not perpetually swimming under water — that’s how I know. How do you know?

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I’ve been remembering an image that brings me to my knees with sorrow and pain and worry and longing and dread. The picture of his face has been prevalent in my mind for the last several days — I don’t know why. Perhaps a story I read, a video I watched, a memory that won’t go away.

When my father was in the hospital for the last time, a few days had passed since he had been flown by life-flight — he was stable and coherent and… alive, he was alive. The doctor made arrangements to meet with the whole family to discuss his case — in a waiting room down the hall from my father’s room. I thought this was odd that the doctor wouldn’t include my father in this discussion… I didn’t think it should be a mystery to my dad. The waiting room was filled when the doctor arrived and we all watched him and waited. He explained that my father was alive but it was only temporary, he would die. In a few days, in a week, at some point in the near future, he would die.

I can remember when I was about 7 or 8 years old, there had been a couple of significant deaths in my family at that point — death was a mystery and it was scary and it was unknown. But… it made the people who were alive so sad, so alone, so lost. I would lay in my bed at night and cry thinking about my own death, cry silently and think about death and how scared I was of it. It was the unknown. It was the sadness. It was the finality. I would lay there thinking… I wanted out of that particular journey.

It’s occurred to me recently… my fear is not of death. My fear is not about the unknown. My fear is not about leaving people behind… they will carry on when my time comes (hopefully when I’m 103), just like I’ve carried on when I’ve watched someone I love take their last breath. But, I think, I’m more afraid of what will be left. Who will comfort the people I love when I can’t anymore? Who will take away their sadness? Who will make them red velvet cake and buy new tires for their car and give them financial advice and talk about books and call on their birthday and hug them… who will hug them?

After the doctor was through talking to us about how my father was going to die, my mother and I went into his room and sat down. He never looked at me. His gaze remained on my mother the whole time. His lip quivered in that way it does when we are just about to cry and the thought of crying is taking over our face and our body and we can’t control it. His eyes were red and bloodshot with tears that he was trying so desperately to not let fall down his cheeks. His hand reached out for hers. And there we all sat, in silence — pondering an imminent death.

I remember that look and his quivering lip. I remember thinking he was afraid and there was nothing I could do. I remember thinking I just wanted to opt out of that particular journey. But… that option didn’t exist, so I was there…until the end, in every moment. And I sometimes fear my children will one day be standing over me, seeing my quivering lip, wishing they could comfort me — not knowing what to say, pondering an imminent death. I wonder if they’ll wish they could opt out of that particular journey. I’ll want to tell them to stay there, in the moment… every step of their journey, because sometimes the journey seems too hard and sometimes I scream at the top of my thoughts, “I want out!” — but the mystery of this journey looks better when I stay connected to it, unveiling it myself — a little at a time.

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When I’m having a sucky day, I stomp my foot on the floor in a dramatic fashion. ~~~ quote from an 11 year-old with autism

I think my world is often confusing and mixed up. I think I struggle to find the time to do what I want and what I need. I think I struggle to say the right words to the right people at the right time. I think I, too often, want to be the “best friend” that says everything perfect and can cook a great dinner while I’m doing it. I know what it means to dream of trips and conversations and walks and talks — I know what it is to say, “I’m just dreaming” and stomp my foot in a dramatic fashion. I think that makes me just about average.

I think I’ve discovered something in an attempt to discover myself… I’m a mystery (and I kind of like that). Not in an undercover-spy-like-seductress way. More like a why-the-heck-are-you-feeling-that-way way. I often think I need to figure things out, to take control, to know what steps to take to lead to the desired outcome. I plan, I think, I evaluate, I re-plan, I proceed… and often, too often, I find the path I’ve taken leads me to a place of aloneness and isolation. I become weary and tired and loathsome and I perseverate on things that I need to let go of… I need to let things actualize in that ever elusive natural flow — uncontrolling, me… just floating along with it. It scares me. To float along, to not know the outcome of this journey we are all on — it scares me. I think, possibly, we become stronger by looking at our fears — becoming unafraid of them. So… I’ll bob and weave and when I need to, I’ll float along the steady current.

I was visiting one of my favorite places, Zebra Sounds, and watched this amazing video that was featured recently. To be honest, I haven’t been able to watch the whole thing. Maybe tonight — when I finish this post… maybe then I’ll have the strength to watch it. It hurt to watch it. The pain of losing a loved one, the pain of letting go, the pain of moving on — and perhaps… the pain of not knowing love. So many things went through my head — my grandparents, my parents… me. I think to feel love as completely and honestly and openly and wholly and painfully as it is felt in the video… as it was in the lives of my grand-parents and my parents — I think that must be a wonderful thing. Love is not elusive — it is within our reach… waiting.

Back to that wonderful quote that my new favorite 11 year-old boy with autism said to me… how full of wisdom is he that he can recognize a need to stomp and hiss and be dramatic when he’s having a sucky day? I was having a sucky day when I sat down to chat with him. I asked him to show me how he did it, how he stomped his foot in a dramatic fashion. Then I asked him to watch me and help me do it the right way (apparently I was very good at it — go figure). Soon we were both stomping dramatically and we were both laughing and our sucky days disappeared — just like that.

When I’m having a sucky day, I want to stomp my foot and scream and curse and mostly… I want to laugh with a friend. Love is all around us. In our partners, in our sisters, in our brothers, in our friends, in the people we make eye contact with for a brief moment on the street — it’s there. It’s ours to take. It’s mine to have — the dream of love.

I love everything about this video!

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My hand has hovered over the “deactivate account” button many times in the last two weeks — but, I can’t seem to drop it down and sever my ties… my connection to the people on the other end. The reasons why I have thought so often about pressing that button are so juvenile that to tell you here would only give you way too much insight into the 12-year-old mind that often overtakes my psyche — so, I won’t. But the reasons why I can’t follow through — why I didn’t and am convinced I won’t follow through might be worth sharing… so, I will.

I can already see the puzzled, “what the hell is she talking about”, look on many faces as you read this. I can also see the smiles beginning to curl around the ends of the lips as the recognition makes it’s self known to you others. In this instance, I’m speaking of Twitter. But, before I lose those of you who don’t use twitter, let me say… it’s about life and connection and friendship and encouragement and anger and intrigue and crushes and flirting.

A few years ago, my 10th high school reunion was scheduled. I very much wanted to be a part of this celebration — to see and to talk and to hug the people who I hadn’t seen for 10 years — the same people who just 10 years earlier I couldn’t make it through a day without connecting with on some level. As fate and timing would have it, it didn’t seem too possible for me to attend. My grandmother had just died and I drove home from Missouri (8 hours) on the day of the reunion as my daughter, then six months old, screamed the entire journey (8 hours). I reached home crying, frazzled, in need to run away and with no intention on making it to the reunion that would begin in less than an hour. My parents practically threw me in the shower and shoved me out the door — so, I went. I had a great time that I can still see vividly in my thoughts, 14 years later. The connection and the flirting and the anger and the friendship were all there — waiting for me to drink it (and a few margaritas) in. Even though I hadn’t spoken to many of these friends in 10 years.

This scenario repeated itself during my 20th high school reunion. My father was scheduled for surgery to remove his cancer infested lung the day after my reunion and I was in no mood to attend. But my best friend, my soul sister, had flown in from Montana (at my constant prodding) to attend. So, there I was — being thrown into the shower, being forced to dress-up, being tossed out the door and into one of the single most wonderful nights of my life (hint: there were margaritas). Even though I hadn’t spoken to many of these people in the 10 years since the last reunion.

So… back to Twitter. I stumbled upon Twitter when I was bored and hanging out in the Alive Hospice house during my mother’s final days. I dabbled here and there until I figured it out and began chatting with some funny interesting people. One of whom, (most likely unknown to her), encouraged me to start this blog. Twitter has broken me often (again, to explain this would be to give you far too much insight into my 12-year-old mind), but it has saved me more times than I can count. I started exercising and eating healthy and losing weight and writing and expressing and sharing and connecting and laughing and joking and thinking and breathing… I started breathing. Everyday, I take a breath and locate my friends and chat. Everyday… not every 10 years.

My hand hovers, as of late. It wants to disconnect my mind from the world at my fingertips. It wants to separate me from the thing that has, at times, left me emotionally naked. But I know what the friends I’ve met have given me. I know what this blog has given me. I know what breathing and thinking and connecting and caring have given me. So, my hand may hover on occasion over that “deactivate account” button, but it won’t follow through — I won’t let it. Already this week I’ve talked to three people who I have a strong emotional connection with, I’ve chatted with three New York Times best-selling authors about dogs and treadmills and vacations, I’ve chatted with friends about their health and their jobs and their love life. I’ve connected with real people, who like me, have real lives and real feelings and real emotions. Who have you connected with?

Picture from Kind Over Matter

And… a bonus song!

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It was fitting that the night I wrote about dreams and how we all need dreams in our lives, that I dreamt. Not one of those dreams that whisk you away to a quiet walk on a beach with a friend but one of those dreams that wakes you in a panic and it takes you several minutes to convince yourself that you’re okay and it was just a dream — but it stays with you… all day. In your thoughts. In your fears. In your heart. This dream has stayed with me. It was bloody and gruesome and disturbing and alarming and made me feel helpless and lost and scared…

The lion was on the prowl.

Lurking around, out of sight,

Hidden from me.

Hidden from the others.

It pounced all at once and you were gone — ripped apart, shattered.

I looked away so I wouldn’t see.

I tried to calm the others and told them to look away as well.

Escape was impossible.

We stayed hidden as long as we could — if we stayed hidden it couldn’t touch us.

Then you went outside the safe,

It saw you and you were gone — ripped apart and shattered.

I looked away again — I just couldn’t see.

There was screaming.

There was panic.

It prowled — slowly, pacing, watching, waiting.

Waiting for us to think it was gone — but it never was.

We knew if we could just get away, it would be over.

We would be safe.

There was an opening in the clearing — some ran.

They made it.

But I stayed there — too scared to move.

Knowing when I moved it would see me — it was me it was after.

I looked out and you were walking closer… trying to reach me.


“Don’t look!”

“It sees you!”

But you couldn’t hear — my mouth wide open but no sound came.

It slowly approached and still you walked towards me — unaware it was there,

waiting to take you too.

I ran out to stop it — but my feet were frozen to the ground under me.

I can’t move… help me I can’t move.

I waved my arms and threw a rock — it laughed at me… it laughed.

It ran towards you as I watched.

I could do nothing.

And you too, were gone.

…I awoke. It was over. It was just a dream. I listened closely to hear the roar, the roar from that horrible lion. All I heard was the faint bark of a dog from a neighboring home. The quiet left me paralyzed briefly. I stretched from under the armor of the covers to hear the roar — I just knew I would hear the roar. The fog that was wreaking havoc on my mind was lifting and giving way to the real world that surrounded me — I would not hear the roar, it didn’t exist. Perhaps tonight.

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On day four of the 21.5.800 adventure, there was a prompt to write about fear. I would suspect that many of the people taking part in the challenge wrote about a fear of writing — I don’t know for sure, just a guess. But, given the fact that I didn’t write anything on day 4 of the adventure, you can assume my fears are not of writing. I’ve learned enough about writing to know that if it happens, for me anyway, then it just happens. I’m not a writer (I just play one on this blog), so fear of writing doesn’t creep up on me. Fear of sharing. Fear of comments. Fear of people using these words however they want to… ok, maybe I do have a fear of writing. Anyway, that’s not what I thought about when I first looked at the prompt. I first thought about the fears I had as a child that I’ve learned to keep mostly hidden — I’ve written about fears here before, but I’ll share another one with you now.

When I was young, I had a profound fear of being in my house alone. To be honest, I would not be in my house alone — ever. Not at night, not during the day… ever. If I got home from school before everyone else, I would always sit outside and wait… as long as it took for someone to get home. I usually would wait at the end of the driveway, the farthest point from the house, just sitting there on the flower boxes. I would make one of those wishes that you want so desperately to come true, one of those wishes that bring you to tears with the hope that it will come true… and there I would be, at the end of the driveway, sitting on the flower box, wishing the sun to stay in the sky just a few more minutes because when the sun disappeared a very real separate set of fears would take hold of me. Fear of the dark is not one I’ve quite gotten over yet — there’s still time I’m sure.

There was never a reason for my fear of being alone in the house — I have never lived in a house that was broken in to, I never even knew of any houses that had ever been broken in to… small towns can be like that. But, the fear was there. The fear that if I entered the house alone, then there would definitely be someone waiting in a closet somewhere in the house… just waiting for me to come home alone. It stretched into my early adult life as well — I was afraid to go in to an empty house alone.

I guess I don’t really understand fears and where they come from and how they work. Sometimes they just appear out of no where. Sometimes they lurk in us waiting for the moment to pop out and surprise us with their vicious voracity. Sometimes we know they are there, hidden away, pushed far from the surface. We have choices when it comes to our fears — we have choices. We choose to stay or we choose to move — stagnant or flowing…that’s the choice.

I don’t mind going in to my house alone anymore — the quiet gives me momentary comfort. I enjoy the solitude that an empty house can bring — the noises you hear when the quiet surrounds you. And as for the fear of the dark, well, a few strategically placed night lights have helped with that one. Fears can last a lifetime if we let them or maybe they vanish on their own. We make choices — getting over fear is a choice.

I never hesitate to enter a house alone now — the fear of someone waiting in a closet just for me has subsided all on its own… or perhaps, my 132 pound puppy helped chase the bad guys away.

There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them. ~~ Andre Gide

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I have mentioned before that I work (read am obsessed) with children with autism. There’s a behavior term that we use quite often when talking about how to reduce problematic behaviors — extinction. I love this word. It my professional world, I might encourage a teacher to ignore a behavior such as throwing paper or pencil to the ground. The child might simply be wanting the teacher to talk to him or to look at him and therefore creates a reason for this to happen. Ignore it and the problem might possible resolve itself.

Behaviorally speaking, here’s what extinction means:

Extinction is defined as the withdrawal of the consequent stimulus that previously maintained the problem behavior. In other words, extinction is stopping the positive reinforcement that has been encouraging the inappropriate target behavior to continue.

In simplified terms, it means to ignore.

How many times in our lives have we told someone to “just ignore it”? How many times have we been told to “just ignore it”? It’s really one of the best behavior modification techniques around. It can be hard to “ignore” certain things though — hard to pull off the perfect extinction.

I’ve talked about the girls I work with — they’re a great group who keep me level-headed and laughing (if those two things can exist together). Our running joke to each other when someone is doing their best to infiltrate our good time is to put them on extinction. We put many people on extinction on most days. Try it — (you’ll thank me later.)

But, as with any good behavior technique, the extinction could lead to bigger problems. Sometimes the behavior you are trying to ignore will escalate and become worse than you ever thought possible. It can be scary. It can make you fearful. It can make you re-think the logic of the extinction. Somethings are hard to ignore.

There’s a tricky side to putting a behavior or a person on extinction.

Here’s something I think that if you can pull off, you possess superpowers for sure. Try putting yourself on extinction. This is difficult at best. When you recognize a flaw in your behavior and try to reconcile it yourself — a bit of reverse extinction. By putting your own behavior on extinction, you are recognizing the problematic behavior, recognizing that it affects someone other than yourself, recognizing that you need to just stop.

I have always been under the impression that the ability to recognizing your own faults was quite divine — quite empowering. But then what? Where is the resolution? Really, the resolution comes when you take action. When you consciously work to create a solution and to practice the solution — when you work to just stop.

Of course, there’s the fear involved again. Fear of recognizing a problem. Fear of pinpointing a solution. Fear of taking action to resolve your own faults. To quote a friend, “I think about how futile it is, how fearful, and odd, and fierce… how majestic it is – her rage.” Tackling our own faults can make us fearful. It is what we choose to do with the fear that leads to change, and there are many things worth facing your fear’s for — many things worth creating change for — I get that.

So, back to extinction and my quest to become a superhero — (wait, I didn’t talk about my quest to become a superhero? Ok, next time). Use it freely, but understand the risks. Understand that in change, there is always fear. But in the fear, there can also be a little rage — just enough.

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Afraid of Fear

There was a storm the other night. Typically when it storms at night, I am always awake. I have a very hard time sleeping when it’s thundering and lightning and when the wind is shaking the windows — actually, I don’t sleep at all during storms. And, unfortunately, you never can tell when a storm might be approaching. You never can tell when you should wait it out and hope it goes away or face it and take shelter. Storms are unpredictable.

My oldest dog, Scout, is afraid of storms. It’s over-whelming for her really. She can sense when they are approaching — wouldn’t that be a great ability to have, to know when turbulence is coming? Anyway, back to Scout. When the storm is coming, she immediately needs shelter. She stays close to my side. I stroke her head and talk to her and brush her. And when the fear is gone, she’s ok. She doesn’t need me to constantly comfort her — but, there are those times when she will panic if I’m not there. We all need someone like that don’t we? Someone who will just sit with you until the storm clears. You have to take shelter sometimes, even if for just a little while. But, storms don’t last forever.

I was driving my daughter and some of her friends home from school one day after it had stormed. We all noticed the most beautiful of rainbows arching its way from the damp ground to the partially concealed sky. The serene moments after the storm out number the storms — isn’t that the way it should be?

Now, back to Scout and her ability to predict those approaching storms. I think if she were able to predict the storms approach and then do something about it, like stop the storm or calm herself, then her ability would be quite the superpower. As it is, she only becomes afraid that much sooner. She becomes afraid of the fear she knows is approaching in those dark clouds and resonating thunder.

But still, she has me. And I like being available to her, I like being needed.

We all need someone to sit through the storms with us. And besides, you never know when a rainbow will appear and then you will have someone with you to enjoy the rainbow.

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