09/5/11


M.V. Freeman

The Inspiration of Fear

by M.V. Freeman

I’m afraid of the dark.  If the lights go out, especially at night, my heart rate accelerates, my breathing quickens, my thoughts race. For a moment it’s all I can do not to fall to pieces. This is when I take a deep breath and force myself to focus on what to do first (usually its to find the flashlight that I forgot where I put).  No matter what I do, this is how I react when the lights go out.

Everyone has a fear. It can be situational, an object, or any number of things. Many fear heights, some fear flying. My husband discovered a fear of small tight spaces years ago when he was caving and got stuck. He hyperventilated. Eventually, he realized his fear and relaxed enough to wriggle out. He hasn’t put himself in that situation again. Fear is like that, it will show up when you least expect it.

Fear, can actually be useful. This is hard to imagine, especially if you’re crippled by this fear. I’m not talking a phobia (like agoraphobia-characterized by the avoidence of public places). Phobias are different situations and require different treatment. I’m talking daily fears and things I know I avoid. For example, I don’t like to drive in rush-hour traffic. I will stay some place later or leave earlier if I have to, just to avoid rush-hour. Sometimes, I have no choice I have to drive right in the middle of it. I have to face that fear.

I find that fear has inspired me to do things I normally wouldn’t do. I became an exchange to South Africa for a year after I graduated High School. I lived half-way around the world in a country I’ve never been in. I thought I was going to die…with fear. Obviously, I didn’t. It opened my eyes to things I never thought possible. Shaped the way I now think and view things. If I hadn’t faced that fear I know I wouldn’t be here writing.

Fear also pushed me to join the Army Reserves. Could I do it? Did I have it in me? Yes. I found out I did. Let me clarify, I wasn’t nor will I ever be the best soldier. But my joining the military taught me more about myself than even being an exchange student. I saw my weaknesses (which are never pleasant). I learned aboute esprit de corps and what makes a good soldier. Best of all, it refined in me the necessity of using my fear to face the obstacles before me. I’ve tackled many more things in my life because of what I learned facing fear.

As a writer I face so many fears: Fear of not being able to make it, finish it, write it, publish it….I could go on and on. Those fears are endless.  I could let the fear run over me, to drown me in that crippling emotion, or I could let fear inspire me.

I am not going to let fear defeat me, but I am going to use it as my tool. It inspires to me to continue, to fight to finish my stories, to query when I know I will face many rejections. It’s a battle everyone has to face.

Does fear inspire you? How?

20 Responses

  1. R. R. Smythe r r smythe says:

    Great post Mary! You’re right, we all have fears-and it’s what we do with them, if we control them or they control us, which makes all the difference. Very cool. I knew there were backstory reasons you were so interesting!!!!

    • M.V. Freeman M.V. Freeman says:

      Thanks Ronna, you make me smile. I was just thinking the same about you! Funny how fear can push us to do things we never thought possible (the tear gas chamber comes to mind…but that’s one I never, ever want to repeat). What’s the one thing you have done that you’re afraid of but, it’s propelled you forward? (I’m nosey like that).

  2. LOL, storms! And coincidentally, I’m typing this while the house is on generator power after having 12 inches of rain in a little over a day.

    Mary, you are what courage is all about. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway, as Jeffries says.

    I used to crawl across the floor during a lightning storm to close a window. Now I can actually walk around outside, bent over, but I can do it. I’m still working on all the ways fear stops me from doing the things that will put a charge into my life. Fear of success kept me from pursuing an entertainment career. I refuse to let it keep me from getting a book published. As far as my fear inspiring me, most of my books have a ‘stormy’ premise, ;)

    Welcome to the Musers!

    • M.V. Freeman M.V. Freeman says:

      Thank your for the warm welcome Marley! I am pleased and honored to be here. :) I think storms are the hardest to face. I always get the tremor deep inside that tells me to “run” when the thunder rolls across the sky and lightening strikes. I want to hide….So I totally get that fear you have. :) And bravo for working through it. I am in awe.

      Also that fear success–that’s one that is the hardest to overcome if you have it. I deal with it. Why do we have it? Sometimes I wish I could box it up like I do discarded items and throw it away. So lets here it for our battle against it! You WILL get that book published! (I like that you have books with a stormy premise!) And may your power come on shortly! :)

  3. Grace says:

    Even this line of inquiry makes me uncomfortable, though if parenting doesn’t scare the peedywaddles out a thinking adult, nothing will. I’m of the opinion that life will present us with many, many more opportunities to be scared than we need, so hunting them up in the interests of personal growth isn’t necessary.

    I was afraid of the dark too, until I named and handed back some of the rage in my own darkness. That didn’t propel me forward in a tangible way, but it made going to bed at night a much less fraught endeavor.

    • M.V. Freeman M.V. Freeman says:

      Grace, thank you for commenting. :) You made me laugh about the parenting! So very true.
      As for fear, I have to look at it every day for many reasons. I can’t ignore it, because for me it doesn’t go away. I understand that you don’t want to look at for personal growth. I do, because if I don’t I’ll quit. Now, to clarify, its usally fear that stops me doing something in my daily life–that’s the stuff I address. Somethings, I just put aside, because there is nothing I can do about it (thats a whole other kind of post).
      I must say, that I thought how you dealth with your fear of the dark was very good. Me, I just keep a small light on…hehehe.

  4. DT Krippene DT Tarkus says:

    Great article Mary. I could list the things that keep me up at night, but that would take up too much space.

    As a guy, we’re expected to utilize the natural testosterone in us and “go for the gusto”. Let’s face it, do you see any women in any of the Jackass movies (if you haven’t seen it, don’t. Coupled with senseless acts of stupidity, grossness is an avid companion). Guys aren’t supposed to talk about what scares them. Not part of the code.

    Joining the army reserves took some guts (that’s a guy term BTW). It sparked a thought in me. Of all the places I went and things I did over the years, much of it was driven by the romance of it all. You know, seeing it through the proverbial rose-colored glasses. Never seemed to fail, when I arrived, that worm of fear took solid root in the belly. I became a frequent flyer in the “what the hell was I thinking” airline. I’m curious, did you see the reserves at first through those cursed glasses, or did you know right up front?

    The part I take away is your aptly put concept, “I tackled many more things in my life because of what I learned facing fear.” I too could have sat on the sidelines in safe-haven-ville, many do. Somewhere in my untested youth, donning the glasses became routine. It must have worked. I kept going back for more. So did you it appears.

    • M.V. Freeman M.V. Freeman says:

      Thanks D.T!,

      I found myself nodding as I read your response. And to be clear, I haven’t seen Jackass movies (But I have caught clips. Yes, they make me cringe.)

      You’re right. I never hear men speak much on fear. The “Code” does befuddle me, but my husband says women totally confuse him. :)

      As for the Reserves, thank you. But, I’m also a member of the “What the hell was I thinking” airline. I joined with a bit of a fantasy mixed with the reality that it was going to be uncomfortable and hard. It didn’t help within the first two weeks of basic training they had us watch “Platoon”. *sigh* I’d like to say I took to it like a duck to water. I didn’t. My kevlar helmet listed slightly to one side. When I shot the fifty caliber it knocked me on my rear. I also survived the ruck marches carrying weight that equaled mine. I realized that I don’t like camping. No matter what. If the fate of the world rests on me digging a ditch somewhere, we’re sunk. What did I do well was shoot the M16. The great equalizer. It made me realize that no matter what size of the ‘enemy’ coming at me, I had a chance. Most of all, I came face to face with me. Now that was scary. (Ok, so I blather on…)

      So, bravo on going back for more. Those rose-colored glasses may shade the reality, but lets face it, going for it makes a good story. I’m curious to see what nifty stories you have. :)

  5. I’ve always had an iffy relationship with fear. When I was young, I think I hated it outright. I hated the sympathetic nervous system response that seemed to wrestle control away from me. (sweaty palms, tunnel vision, fight-or-flight.) As I got a little older I started to respect fear, regarding it as more of a caution sign rather than a ‘Stop’ sign.

    If I’m being honest, I’ve been afraid of a lot of things in life. I was afraid of letting myself be in love, afraid to leave everything I knew and move to the south, afraid to fail at nursing school, and afraid to become a parent. Lately I’ve been afraid of rejection, and afraid of all my writing work coming to nothing. Fortunately, somewhere along the way I had a pastor who’s counsel has continued to rattle around in the back of my mind: ‘If you wait until you’re no longer afraid of something to face it, there’s little chance you’ll ever face it at all. And if you don’t face it, you won’t grow. Sometimes you just have to do it afraid.’

    • M.V. Freeman M.V. Freeman says:

      Angela, I’m glad you stopped by and I really liked the last line. Your pastor is a wise man.

      Fear is annoying and frustrating. I wish I could be like some, where fear barely registers. I think fear is there to make you pause, but sometimes I think its there to trip you up. If we all gave into fear, real or otherwise, we’d forget to live.

      And look at all those things you listed–You’ve done them all and you’ve done well. I can hardly wait to see what else you will accomplish–because I know it will be amazing! :)

      • Ah yes, I can hardly stand the folks who seem to have been born fearless. I think it may be a result of brain damage. >.< Besides, it's not really inspiring when people do things that come easily or naturally to them. Inspiration comes from the valiant struggle against that which threatens to defeat us–be it from external forces or from within. That's what I like about the things you've chosen to do in spite of fear…because you looked them in the eye and forced them to blink first. And that's a heck of a lot more rewarding than playing it safe.

        I'm proud of you for confronting writing with the same stalwart gusto. It's not defiance for the sake of defiance, it's defiance in the name of a desire of your heart. An often lonely, brooding, misunderstood desire, but a noble one all the same. I salute you, my friend and kindred spirit.

        Do it afraid. :)

      • M.V. Freeman M.V. Freeman says:

        Angela,
        we will rattle our writing sabers together and meet that fear! Onward! :)

  6. Pam Mantovani says:

    It seems sometimes when I look back that I’ve spent way too much of my life afraid of one thing or another….of course those things change over the course of life and whatever I’m facing at the time. Sometimes I ignored those fears and simply did what had to be done, or I took a chance and ignored those fears and stepped out in faith and trust. Then there were the times when I simply turned my back and waited it out until things changed and started anew.
    I wish I could say that I faced the fear that I refused to back down from it. I will say in terms of writing I usually have a few moments, or maybe a day or two, when the fear gets me down and/or paralyzes me. Somehow whether through my own devices or someone else pushing me I manage to get over it.

    • M.V. Freeman M.V. Freeman says:

      It is good to see you here Pam! :)
      Fear will sometimes win. I should’ve stated that in my blog. I don’t always succeed. I tried to learn a language, I fought for it. I was frightened that I wouldn’t succeed. I failed and was kicked out of that school (Talk about demoralizing). I think working with and overcoming fear is a process. You win some, you lose some, and sometimes you ignore it.
      It’s a battle and the big thing is, you keep showing up to face it. That-takes incredible courage. Fear may get you, but in the end, you get up…that’s what is cool. You are far stronger than you realize! ;)

  7. Marlo Berliner Marlo Berliner says:

    Awesome post, Mary! I guess I’m a little different. I fear the things that I can’t control, like illness, accident and acts of God. However, I don’t allow myself to fear the things I can control (like parenting, writing, responsibilities, etc). When I was little I had fears (and for good reason, but that’s a story for another day) and then I realized that it was counter-productive. What I had to do was learn how to overcome and control whatever it was that was causing me to be fearful. And so I did. Now, if something even begins to make me fearful I say, “How can I control it?” And then I turn my fear into determination and I make damn sure I control the situation and squelch the fear. So when it comes right down to it, fear does inspire me and I’m not really afraid of too much – I lived in fear for far too long. Learning how to overcome fear has made me a very strong person…unless there’s a tornado bearing down on the house or a friend is handed a terminal diagnosis – then I’m a mess :)

    • MVFreeman says:

      Marlo, I agree it’s the stuff I can’t control that bothers me now- but I’ve learned to put it aside.
      I think what caught my eye is the fact that if you catch yourself being fearful and it’s something you can control- you address it. Is there a catch phrase or something that triggers it? For me, it’s the perception of or having someone tell me “I can’t do it” my immediate reaction is “watch me”. Not the most mature response, I know. But you said it best- life is too short to live in fear. I like the way you think. :-)

  8. I’m scared that people are watching me when I do something silly. But last year I said to myself, you know what? Who gives a sh*t? And I rode a mechanical bull in a room full of 200 people I didn’t know.

    I’m much better now. :)

  9. Sharon Wray Sharon Wray says:

    Like Grace, I’m afraid of the dark. But I’m also afraid of small places, heights, and spiders. Luckily, I can avoid everything except the dark and that’s the one thing I’ve battled and won.
    Great post, Mary and I’m sorry I wasn’t home to comment yesterday.



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