Monday, October 25, 2010

My son is turning one this week and is not walking as yet. I would put him to stand and hold a toy for him to walk to me. He just laughed and flopped down, running to me on all fours. Three weeks ago he took two steps. I was encouraged, but that’s all he did. I chalked it up to fear and determined that he would walk in his own time, at his own pace, when he was ready. A few days ago, when I least expected it, he got up on his own and made five baby steps. He’s steadily increasing the number of steps as his confidence grows.

That whole affair reminded me of my own steps to overcome a big fear in my life and the baby steps I took and am still taking. I have a fear of driving, yet I drive every day. It’s the kind of fear that comes with palpitations, sweaty palms, lightheadedness and nausea.

I only discovered this fear seven years ago. Before that, I didn’t drive. I lived in the center of the capital city of a 68 sq. mile country. Everything I needed was within walking distance. When I came to the US I landed in the city with the best public transportation this side of the Atlantic. It was only when I moved to a university town with a pathetic transportation system beyond the university campus that I had the need for a car. And still I didn’t drive. I lived near the university, walked everywhere and utilized the university transit system, excellent for a one mile radius of the university. If I needed to travel outside the university, I waited until my husband, with whom I had a long distance marriage, visited.

Then I had a baby and things changed. After a winter of lifting a heavy stroller over snow heaps on the sidewalks, I decided the dust off my languishing driver’s license and get a car. That’s when I discovered, I was afraid of driving. So like my son, I took baby steps. I drove the car, on a local road with little traffic to the daycare, parked it, and walked to the university. I did that until I was comfortable enough to take the car into heavier traffic. After a while, the palpitations dissipated and I was driving as if it was second nature.

Even when I graduated and joined my husband in a suburb just outside a large city and had to drive in heavy traffic I was fine. As long as I took the local roads, I was fine. Unfortunately I can’t take local roads all the time. When I drove on the highway for the first time and the fear came back with a vengeance. My first impulse was to look for local routes anywhere I went or use my husband as a chauffeur. Instead, I decided to face my fears. I started off by taking the five minute stretch of highway between my workplace, and my daughter’s school. Eventually, the fear subsided on that stretch of highway. But if I go on the highway at any unfamiliar point, it comes back. I’m not fully over it, but I am getting there.
Just when I thought I was over my fear of driving, I got into an accident totaling my car (thank God I was not seriously hurt). I was terrified of driving again. I asked my husband to drive me to work the next day. He said no and instead made me get back behind the wheel and drive him to work, pick up the kids and then drive back to pick him up. He refused to let me give up, and it worked. Within a few days, I was back to driving with confidence, at least locally.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who have no fear of anything, this is probably not for you. But I know that there are many reading this who have some type of fear. Some are afraid of letting others read their work, or others are too afraid of rejection to submit their writing to an agent or publisher. To you I’ll say, make little baby steps.

So what steps have you made to overcome your fear?


Charles Gramlich said...

I have a lot of anxiety about new social situations. I always prepare for it by 1) making sure I know exactly where I'm going ahead of time so I don't add the stress of feeling lost, 2) leaving early to get there early so I don't have the stress of feeling late, and 3) praciting in private the opening things I'm likely to say or be involved with. It helps.

Liane Spicer said...

I'm so good at pretending fearlessness that almost everyone around me is convinced I fear nothing and that nothing worries or fazes me. The reality is so far from the truth it's ludicrous. My rationale is that if I can convince everyone I have no fears, convincing myself shouldn't be too difficult.

Fears I'll admit to: public speaking, and like Charles, new social situations. I've discovered that once I've walked myself through possible scenarios and taken special care with my appearance - always a confidence booster - the anxieties usually turn out to be quite unwarranted.

Jewel, is this your first son? Now that he's walking your life is going to become very exciting. :D

Jewel Amethyst said...

Charles, Like you I plan ahead (not the early part unfortunately). One of the things that reduced my anxiety is having a GPS so if I get lost, as I often do, I can find my way.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Liane, public speaking is one fear I don't have, though I get queasy initially.

Yes, he is my first and only son. I have two girls. Believe me, they are just as rambunctious as boys (at least the oldest). Please tell me it won't be getting any more interesting than that!!

G said...

I usually have problems with speaking to a small group of people when it's work related. And considering what I do for a living (payroll) makes it a lot more difficult to do so.

Fortunately, the one thing that helps quell that sense of panic is that the people I usually have to talk to are the ones I've known for a few years.

As for new social situations, I'm the proverbial wallflower in the room. If I don't know anyone, I fly under the radar until I feel comfortable enough to speak.

As for writing, fear of writing a synopsis so that I can move forward is where I'm stuck right now. I am horrible at summarizing things and trying to summarize my latest has been like driving down a hill with no brakes.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Well G, here is where you take those tiny baby steps, one sentence at a time.

That's one of the problems I have too, writing a synopsis. Someone once hinted to me, that I should write the synopsis before I write the story while I'm playing around with ideas, then tweak it after the story has taken a life of its own.

I did that with one of my stories (my first published one) and it worked.

Anonymous said...

Well, originally I came here for the rum cake recipe....which is not here for some reason (sadly searching for rum cake link) I have a phobia of driving the freeway. It started when I lost my 3rd baby to a condition that nearly killed me twice and left me with a hysterectomy. Sorry, its the only way to describe what happened to me in short form. This was 8 years ago. I went to therapy for it and found that I had put all that happened to me into a single phobia that was controllable so that I would in essence be able to continue to be who I needed to be for everyone around me (mom, wife) I can drive short distances now but not from exposure therapy. Exoosure therapy did not help me and neither did hypnosis. My therapist told me that time would take this away, that when I was truly over what had happened to me, my phobia would begin to dissapear. I'm not surprised that I still have this 8 years later. That incident was my dark night of the soul, my questioning God catalyst. Surprisingly I have NOT been depressed, just confused.
I can drive to the mall now (about 15 minutes on the freeway.) I know I will lose this phobia one day, I just dont know when.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Nancy, I am so sorry for your loss. You've taken that brave step of driving to the mall. Eventually you'll be driving longer distances on the freeway. I find it helps if I know the route well and know alternate routes just in case. Having a GPS with the destination encoded and the security of ON STAR in my vehicle also helps. Conquering a phobia can be quite liberating. I'm still working on that.

As for run cake, I don't think you'll find it here, but you'll find a varied group of authors blogging about writing and writer's life, and everything in between. So welcome to Novel Spaces and I hope you visit again.