1. Fran Stekoll says

    I can let go of the fear of success. I am now able to submit my creative writing without worrying about the possibility of achieving success. I think this change in attitude has come about due to the fact that my life has finally balanced to the point of comfort. For the first time I now am enjoying my life and my family. The winter of my life is upon me and I no longer fear what it brings. I am content with my self, my body, my life, my family. I have let go of fear. I try to live each day as if it is my last, and in doing so, I have no regrets.

      • Fran Stekoll says

        In reading others comments, It brought back to mind how I feared death until I had my near death experience also. Now I live each day as if it’s my last to the fullest. And since that experience, I am looking so forward to that day when I pass away. The smells, the music, the awesome terrain. Because of that I also now am able to do death and dying counseling with those who are making their transition from life to death. It is awesome.

          • Vicki says

            Fran, I think it’s wonderful that you are able to do death and dying counseling. A very important thing, to comfort people during their final chapter.

  2. Vicki says

    It would be easiest to write about the fear I used to have of being like my mom. That one was HUGE! Most of my fears in that department have faded and been replaced with gratitude for the qualities we share. But there are other fears. I try not to think about them. I’ve gone through periods where I’ve done nothing BUT think about them. It’s easy to skim the surface of a few. Aging. Flying. Major physical pain. Financial insecurity. Losing loved ones. Loss of all kinds. I think I’m moving closer to letting go of more fears. Perhaps I’m even on the brink. All my life I’ve lived with the fear that I’m not o.k. I’m ready to give that up.

  3. Terry Gibson says

    It’s funny that suddenly, as I start writing on this topic, my hands are shaking and I’m feeling nervous, I think. Okay. Let’s explore that.

    Many years ago, I shared the main floor of a house with Lisa, who had red hair cropped in a Beatles style, a silver nose ring, and little round John Lennon glasses. She was funny, smart, and very fascinating. We were especially matched well because she lived and breathed books! I never lived with anyone who shared that passion of mine. She also worked at Co-Op Radio and even had me as a guest on the show because of my activist work.

    Anyway, though I couldn’t live there happily, we became friends. I adored her but she was far too loud for my tastes. I wanted to vocalize my issues, which also included the ‘thang’ I had developed for the college professor who lived upstairs, but couldn’t. I just became unhappy and was so lonely when she’d get birthday cards, phonecalls, and lots of support from home. Why was I denied that? Was I a legitimate reject? I wondered. It devastated me to think I deserved everything they did to me.

    My depression was all consuming until I got involved with someone. That helped in some ways but my partner put me down just enough to tip the scale for me. No. I didn’t end the relationship. However, some time later, she tucked a letter under my bedroom door; it was written on the stationery she gave me, which read at the bottom ‘The girl they called BAD.’ “I’m fearful for you Terry. How can someone who is such a passionate person, live when you are so locked inside yourself?”

    Okay, I know why I am shaking. If I ever let that feeling into my chest, throat, heart, fibers, I knew I would kill myself. It was psychologically painful to allow myself that awareness. So I blunted it with the amazing powers of my brain. I was a pro at compartmentalizing anything.

    Finally, I no longer have the fear of dying in that state. As someone who is so unable to communicate with people, that breathing is too much.

    Through the love and support of some amazing human beings, I am able to talk. I now have the facility to express the depth and layers of my feelings and awareness. I still struggle with self-esteem, the fear of people’s anger, and the inner critic which draws blood in no time at all. I accept that package of mine, my baggage, and still feel happy.

    I’m finally able to let people how much I love them! I could never do that before. And, I’ve gotta tell ya, it makes me giddy with joy.

    • says

      I just love how incredibly far you’ve come Terry…from feeling like you were taking up too much space just by breathing. You are a remarkable, amazing woman and your journey will inspire many, many, many people.

      • Terry Gibson says

        That means so much, Laura. I know I’m a lucky woman indeed. Tears are pouring down my face as I think about how much. The universe has been looking out for me for a long, long time now. It’s time I step up and catch a few stray asteroids to return the favour. I’ll be an amazon warrior Sisyphus of sorts. Woo Hoo! :)

    • Ilana says

      Terry- I love the way you gave us the physical reactions and drew me in with the story line. Then the real scary stuff came in the note that was under your door. “How can such a passionate person live when you are locked inside yourself?” I found this piece startling and then there was relief with your expression of being “giddy with joy.” Very evocative. IM

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Ilana. No need to worry. Giddy with joy stands even through tears and occasional depression. And I am extremely happy though I’ve got a lot of emotional work to do ahead. I know now that I’m not unhappy just because I can have an off-day like everybody else. Here’s to November, my sweet friends.

    • Debbie says

      Terry – I was so touched by this post. Laura really captured all that I wanted to say. You are an amazing woman and I am glad that I know you.

  4. Liz F. says

    The possibility of losing my life through a near death experience has lead me to let go of fears I have lived with, and it has lead me to really assess what it was those fears were protecting me and/or inhibiting me from. I stood looking at an X-ray of my cats mouth with the Vet telling me that she had an aggressive form of cancer that needed to come out ASAP. And even though it was not me getting this diagnosis, it got me to thinking about my own life and the things that still needed to be done in it. I also discovered that not all fears are bad to let go of, and not all fears are good to hang onto either. It is just a matter of an assessment of why it is those fears are there.

    One thing I am finding, is that I no longer am afraid of success or failure. What is, is, and I know that as long as I am doing everything I can for the moment I am doing it, it is OK whatever it is I am engaged in. Like right now, I am on a road trip in Las Vegas. A trip that I have done many times before, yet this time I am staying in some hotels where I have always wanted to stay, and it feels good. (It also feels good that the rates are lower than usual too)….. And the “I’ll stay there someday” thought has become today. With the “someday” being today—with or without the fear.

    Another thing I am finding is that today is a gift and tomorrow is not promised. And that if I don’t get to what it is I want to do, that is OK too. I’m doing what I can now, and slowly letting go of fears, and hanging on to others that are still protecting me.

    • Terry Gibson says

      I love this spirit and sense of freedom in this, Liz. Shrugging off expectations feels like skinny dipping to me. No inhibitions. No pressure. Soothing. Warming and cooling at once. I’m saying “Ahhh!” right now. Thank you and I hope you explore everything you want and deserve.

    • Ilana says

      Liz- I found this piece liberating as well. The most delicious part for me was “I am no longer afraid of failure or success. What is is.” If I can take that attitude I can try anything I want without fear of the outcome. Thank you for that. It is a gift. IM

    • Debbie says

      Hi Liz – I love the feeling of doing that “someday” thing right now!! Who cares? Memories are truly our own and available at any time to comfort. The saddest thoughts, to me, are the “what ifs” we never dared to try! Good for you!

  5. Ilana says

    I am No Longer Afraid

    I used to be afraid of being rejected by my peers, of saying something stupid and making a fool of myself. Because the self hatred I wore on the inside was so intense and constant, the punishment from others was that much more painful. Walking up to a group of people absolutely terrified me. “They don’t want you here.” A voice in my head warned. I’d ease up to the circle of kids as if I were getting into a pool of water that was way too hot. An invisible band seemed to form around my chest, making it impossible to breathe and sweat poured down between my shoulder blades. I’d stand for a few minutes, smiling at something someone said and pretending that I belonged. It was obvious I didn’t. Tears gathered in my throat and choked me. Breathing around them, I’d try to say something to make it seem like I had a right to be there. The kids would glare at me to prove I did not. Eventually, I would go back to the corner I had previously been hiding in, completely humiliated and incredibly lonely. The cruel voice in my head would begin to undo me, taking me apart piece by piece. “You are so stupid, ugly and pathetic. Why are you even here? You don’t have a right to be in the same room with these people.” This was in junior high. One drawback of living in a strong Jewish community was that I had to attend one Bat Mitzvah after another. And this is how the parties always went. I often sat alone at the table watching the others dance and trying to look like I just needed to catch my breath or get a drink.

    It was a waking nightmare that haunted me for years. It followed me all the way to my last full time job. At my own baby shower I was on the outside. I was the excuse to have a party and lucky me I walked out with the gifts but forget being on the inside of any conversation. Shortly after the baby was born we fled the Jewish community we were in for the same reason. We found one where we did belong. I have found study groups and social groups. I’m in two beautiful writing groups where I share my work honestly, without fear. I am valued. My comments are valued and if I say something stupid I am forgiven. It is the most amazing feeling in the world.

    I am no longer afraid. Of course there is the occasional party where I don’t fit in. I do sometimes say something stupid. We all do. What is different is the effect it has on me. My family was invited to a bar be cue last year. I hadn’t expected it but most of the guests were from the Jewish community I had fled after having my first baby. I did not stand in the corner struggling to breathe. I did not fight to come up with something clever to say, then beat myself up after being rejected. I stayed long enough to be polite and then we left. Walking out I said to my husband, “I am so glad we left that community. They can all stand there trying to impress each other with how much money they make, what fancy private schools their children are going to and how strictly they keep kosher. I’m not up for that anymore.”

    I don’t hate myself anymore. When I say something stupid I feel embarrassed for a minute and then move on. I don’t torment myself about it for years and years and I trust the people who heard me to forget it too. If they don’t then they need to find something better to do with their time. And they are most certainly not worth my time.

    So only one question remains. How did I accomplish this vast improvement on my outlook? Why don’t I hate myself anymore? The answer may make me sound like a broken record but it’s the truth. I credit my healing 100%. I have spent the last year crawling over broken glass to come to terms with the incest my brother inflicted upon me, what he did to me and what it turned me into. The journey’s been hellish but it’s been worth it. I’m not finished yet but I’m getting there. Who knows what fear I’m going to tackle next? Maybe one day I’ll even find the courage to try to publish my book. Wherever I’m going if you want to hurt me you won’t be allowed to join me. I am stronger. I am wiser. I am protective of myself and I am no longer afraid.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, what a testament to your courage, hard work, and continuing progress. Your descriptions are so good. I feel the joy and pain. I ache with you–about all that should’ve never been yours to bear. I do and will celebrate every step with you, whether tenuous or more certain. Together, we can be mindful of when we use the word ‘stupid’ about ourselves (a common word for me). You aren’t alone. There are so many loving people out there who understand and care.

    • Debbie says

      From your own words: “Who knows what fear I’m going to tackle next? Maybe one day I’ll even find the courage to try to publish my book. Wherever I’m going if you want to hurt me you won’t be allowed to join me. I am stronger. I am wiser. I am protective of myself and I am no longer afraid” Yahoo for you Ilana!! You can truly made huge steps on your journey. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  6. Ilana says

    I took this prompt in two different ways and decided which one was more appropriate. The other, however, has continued to niggle at the back of my mind until I cannot keep myself from writing it. It is too big, taking up too much space in my head. I’ve got to get it out, so here goes.

    I Can Still Feel the Fear in My Stomach and Taste the Wine in My Mouth

    Minutes after my son was born I came to two devastating conclusions. One, I was never going to get to do that again. And two, now that my childbearing years were over I had to face the big ugly fear I had been hiding from for seven years. Ten percent. The number loomed in my mind. Seven years ago I had been given a clean bill of health; a guarantee for ten years that I would not have another aneurysm. After ten years, though, there was a 10% chance that it would happen again. That was a 10% chance I’d have to go through another surgery, another week of being tied to the bed so I wouldn’t pull the tube from my brain and kill myself in my sleep. Another two weeks living under the shadow of a 30% chance of having a stroke and becoming a vegetable. Another three months of learning to open my mouth and move my eyebrows. And worst of all, another suicidal depression induced by the invasion into my brain. The physical and emotional pain of the whole ordeal was something I had never experienced before or since and there was a 10% chance I’d have to go through it all over again. Ten percent may not sound like a lot but to the girl who had had the first aneurysm because of a .0001% chance it felt like a distinct possibility. I managed to push the fears to the back of my mind. After all, I had three more years before anything could happen. I also had a new baby, a 2 year old and a 4 year old to take care of.

    My limited peace lasted 11 months. As February 14, the anniversary of my brain surgery, neared I became more and more obsessed with the fear of having another aneurysm. It got so I could not think about much else. We made the phone calls and held our breath that the insurance company would allow me to test two years early. I got lucky. We had an appointment with a neurosurgeon in the beginning of January. Hearing my story, reading the charts and looking at the ex-rays, he recommended an MRA. Much like an MRI, it was a noninvasive procedure that would allow them to take pictures of my brain and see if there was another aneurysm brewing. “I can’t make any promises. They may decide I’m wrong and you’ll have to wait another two years but I doubt it.”

    Two more days of holding my breath as my fear continued to intensify. We made the appointment on the assumption that they would follow the doctor’s recommendation and went to the hospital with no guarantees I would get the test. I waited two hours, at the end of which, a man said, “Wait a minute. You’ve got metal in your brain. This machine works on magnets. We can’t take the chance it would kill you.” We explained to him that no, the metal the surgeon had used to clamp the broken blood vessel and secure the reattached piece of my skull was titanium. Titanium does not react with magnets. He could see that it said titanium was used by my medical records but there was no express notice made that I would be safe to have an MRA or an MRI in the future. He needed to see that specific notice or speak with someone who had enough letters after his or her name to make that guarantee for him. Another hour of anxiety passed.

    Finally, it all worked out and I was pushed into the machine with a towel over my eyes and a panic button in my hand. If the noise got too loud or the confined space got too scary I was to hit the panic button and they would pull me out. NOTHING ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH WAS GOING TO MAKE ME HIT THAT PANIC BUTTON. I fought the urge to hold my breath and tensed my fingers in a terrified effort not to push the button even by accident. Finally, it was over.

    We were in the car on the way home when we got the call. “Your MRA came back clean. There is no chance you will have another aneurysm.” That was a Friday. We spent the weekend in high spirits, celebrating the victory. Monday afternoon the party was over. I came home to a message on my answering machine. “We looked at your ex-rays again and there is a little artifact on the film. We’ll need you to come in for a full angiogram.” I had no idea what artifact was and she didn’t explain it. I assumed it was something that made them think I did actually have an aneurysm. I immediately flew into a panic but it turns out that “artifact” just means something was blocking part of the picture. It was the titanium clips over the original aneurysm. They were blocking part of my brain so there was no guarantee that part had no new problems. The angiogram was scheduled for three weeks later.

    Over that three weeks I drank a lot of wine. At the time Moscotto was my favorite. Every night after the children were asleep I poured myself a glass and insisted my husband watch the movie “Mamma Mia” with me. Only that music and the alcohol would calm my terror. I have seen that movie hundreds of times but for the first 30 viewings I was surprised by the ending every time. Whenever I think about that move, or hear the music I can immediately feel that fear in my stomach and taste the wine that I rarely drink now.

    When the three weeks was over I spent another agonized day in the hospital. This time it was a more invasive procedure. Someone had come in with an emergency and put off the schedule by several hours. My appointment was for 10:00am. It was 3:00 in the afternoon when they finally got me on the table. Thankfully, the doctor was able to tell me right then that he saw nothing wrong with my brain. It was finally over. I was exhausted but relieved. I’ll never forget the hours I waited to be allowed to get up. When you’ve had a wire in your femoral artery you must lay perfectly still and flat for over an hour. Then you can lift only your head for a while. After that you can half way recline for some time and finally, when they know for sure that the puncture will not bleed you can sit up and eventually stand. It was a mere annoyance, a small price to pay for the peace of mind I had finally been given.

    We returned home at 7:00 that night, collected our children from the friends and neighbors who had been taking care of them and slowly put ourselves back together. Removing the bandage was painful and difficult, another mere annoyance. My muscles were sore and weak from staying still for so long, another mere annoyance. My stomach was in knots from fasting all those hours before the procedure while worrying intensely about the outcome, another mere annoyance. The nightmare was over. I would never again be scared of a bleed in my brain. But whenever I see the movie or hear the music from “Mamma Mia” I remember that fear in my stomach and taste the overly sweet Moscotto wine in my mouth.

    • Terry Gibson says

      I am so happy about how this one turned out! You had me scared and anxious with you, Ilana. An ‘artifact.’ Whew. You remind me of how exhausting it is to live in terror of anything. But an aneurysm! My body still reacts fearfully sometimes, making me a bit jumpy, and not the best waittress. :)

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Laura and Terry- I appreciate your comments on the writing as well as joining me in my fear as I described it. You gave dignity to my experience. Laura, funny you should call my posting twice “generous.” I thought it rather selfish of me, though I like your reaction better 😉 It means so much to me to have this place to share. Thank you! sIMz

  7. Debbie says

    I studied the cumulous clouds gathering in the distance. The air held the faint musty smell of rain on a hot summer afternoon. From my favorite perch high along the Blue Ridge Parkway, it was clear a storm was building in the late afternoon. Not unlike my own life, I thought.

    The sun slowly slipped closer to the mountain tops in the west. Watching as the long shadows of the hemlock trees inch closer to my leg, I realized with a gasp the powerful metaphor the late afternoon held for me. It was painfully clear that I am entering the last, few precious hours of sunlight before the long night. No longer can I delude myself into thinking it is only high noon with as much day before me as has passed behind.

    This realization is always accompanied by a sharp stab of primal fear. Not of death, I am not afraid to die. My experiences at the bedside of the dying have calmed those fears. No like most of us, it is the terrain that must be covered between vitality and death that creates the terror. That, and the possibility that it must be traversed alone.

    A low rumbling of thunder shook me free of this line of thought. While I had been considering one of man’s oldest nightmares, the impending storm had advanced much closer. I watched the sharp, jagged lightening against the dark clouds. Most of the valley and my mountain perch was still bathed in soft, golden evening light. Breathtaking beauty stretching from horizon to horizon. I sat grateful for the gift of presence in this precious moment.

    Remaining in my philosophical frame of mind, I thought of my future in terms of the landscape before me:
    • Deep in the valleys there still existed “hollers” mostly undiscovered and uninhabited due to sheer remoteness and difficult terrain – check.
    • Flowing out of these misty mountain wombs were trickles of streams that grew into large, life sustaining rivers – check
    • Some of the beautiful peaks had been conquered, raped and refashioned to serve man versus nature – check
    • The time of day cast a magical light on all that remained. The beauty of the afternoon as much from the setting sun as the knowledge that it was, in fact, setting – check.
    • The storm approaching from the distance was part of this same nature. Not good, not bad – just inevitable and cleansing – check
    • All that was here in this moment would some day be no longer, just like me – check

    The wind had picked up carrying along the first, random raindrops of the deluge to come. I unwrapped my legs and stood up. The breeze lifted the fine, gray hairs on my head into a tousled mess. I love the wind! The feeling of it rushing by and through you. The strong gusts preceding a summer thunderstorm are some of my favorites. The power of the wind shear and sudden downdrafts can tear a roof off a building or knock you off your feet.

    I thought of how I lean into a storm. How the power and energy being released invigorates me! What if I could take this lesson into my fears of a future alone? What if I could embrace the beauty, dance with the raw energy and accept the inevitable changes that were already on their way?

    My sun will still set but, oh, what a last evening it could be!

    • says

      I love that I know your voice so intimately, I could hear you reading this piece. It is so rooted in your voice–a voice I miss every Wednesday morning! I hope things are going well for you…and so happy to see you posting here.

      • Debbie says

        Thanks Laura and Ilana. The end of August was a very rough time for me as I approached my first “un-anniversary” after 26 years of relationship. I admit to withdrawing and isolating just to make it through. But along the way something amazing happened – my brother, a recent widower, came to visit over my un-anniversary weekend as planned to help us both with our grief. An unexpected bouquet of flowers arrived one day from a friend in my new life! And when my ex called to “check in” – I let it go to voice mail. So instead of being miserable and depressed – I had a fun and memorable first un-anniversary!
        It is nice to be missed, thank you. Often times I feel so invisible, it helps to think “maybe not”.

        • Ilana says

          “Un-anniversary” I like your choice of words. It sounds like you did an amazing job dealing with it. Keep on keeping on. You’ll make it through and create new anniversaries. Be well, IM

          • Debbie says

            Ilana – once this term occurred to me, I found I could deal with it all better. No more stumbling over what the day was or wasn’t anymore. Another testament to the power of words!

        • Terry Gibson says

          Thanks Debbie, I love how you write about nature–the ever-evolving skies, moment by moment, second by second, and darkness soon to rush in. Now I’m also wondering if the Debbie voice I have in my head is the one reading.. So glad I don’t have to worry about you for this moment. Sending a big smile. Wait. There it is.

    • Ilana says

      Debbie- So glad you posted. I loved how you put your experience and nature’s experience so to speak, on a parallel. Then you finished it with so much hope. “Oh what a last evening it could be!” Really beautiful. I hope things are going well for you. IM

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