Fear: A Silent Killer

There is a difference between fear and a phobia.  Fear is to be afraid of something.  Phobia is to be irrationally afraid of something.  That’s pretty simple, right?

The number one fear in America is the fear of spiders. Almost 50 percent of women and 10 percent of men have a fear of spiders.   I personally love spiders.  I am awed by them and rescue them from squashation before my co-workers have a shot.

Fear holds us back from so much.  Phobias hold us back as well, but they are irrational and so, only gross amounts of therapy can help us with that.  And most times that doesn’t even work.

Fear of the unknown kills us.   And in unknown, I don’t mean ghosts or extraterrestrials.  I mean the future.  I mean change.  Change affects the future.  We’re so busy trying to maintain the humdrum present; getting the same thing for breakfast everyday, driving the same way to our thankless job everyday and putting on the same after work clothes everyday.  We don’t even recognize that we’re afraid of change until…

One day someone says, “You want to go get sushi for lunch?”  And the mere thought of this is paralyzing.   Sushi?  But, I eat turkey on whole wheat with mustard every day. I hate mustard, but it’s fat-free. This thought is immediate and uncomfortable.

You say, “Thanks, but I brought my lunch.  You know, turkey.”  You feel like a dweeb as soon as the words start falling from your lips, but it’s too late.  You can’t take them back.

Most of us are so comfortable inside the box as we gaze upon the wonders of “what if” that we do not dare disturb the monotony of our world with sushi.

Have you ever talked to someone who incessantly complained about their life?  You offer ideas and feedback and all you get back is constant rebuttals of “why it simply will not work.”

I’m too old.  It’s too hard.  I don’t have enough money.  I’ll fail.  They’ll laugh at me.  Someone already thought of it. I can’t.

All of these statements say one thing.  I am afraid.

What are you afraid of?

Have you ever done something in spite of fear?  Maybe you stood up to your boss.  Maybe you told your spouse that your marriage wasn’t working out.  Maybe you, like me, decided to say “screw it” and submit one final article to a site that turned you down three previous times.   Doesn’t it feel good when you stand up to fear?  How many times have we said, “that wasn’t so bad.”

Fear kills our spirit.  It robs of us finding out whether or not we should truly be afraid in the first place. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”.   I never really understood what in Hades ol’ FDR meant by that until I decided to leave my husband of seven years.  And it hit me.  Fear should be the only thing I fear.  Fear held me back.  Fear kept  me isolated.  Fear does these same things to you.

Fear kills us for as long as we let it.


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Twenties

When i was in my twenties, I was an idiot.  I’m not sure why some people in their twenties (like my upstairs neighbors) lose capacity for rational thinking.  It could be the surge of hormones and the raging desire to do things that, at the time, seem cool.  Things like, renting out your apartment as a party spot.  This is not only stupid, but dangerous.

Thankfully, I made it to thirty-seven.  I can now look back at the ridiculous acts I committed and stunts I pulled, and shake my head in sheer embarrassment much like anyone else after their moment of clarity.

I have a bright, beautiful, compassionate twenty year old daughter.  On the flip side, she is also lazy, spontaneous to a fault, and lacks common sense at times.  This makes her guilty of nothing a million other twenty somethings, past, present and future, are not equally guilty of.

While I’d like to paint a picture of myself as that standout, mature composed twenty something, I was much more stupid than my daughter (thankfully) and can pass on valuable information to her and anyone else that will listen.

I know we all need to go through our share of turmoil and frustration.  After all, it is not the successes we learn from, but the failures.  There is, however, a fine line between stupid, and really freaking stupid.

This brings me to my upstairs neighbors.  Who, in thirty days, will no longer be my upstairs neighbors.  This sits bitter-sweetly with me.  I wish greatly that there were no others involved in the eviction that the family upstairs received this morning.  I hope for their sake the mother/wife gets her act together.

It was Saturday night and my boyfriend was at his second job.  I had off from my second job this weekend because it was my Saturday night to have dinner with my daughter.  I got home from seeing my daughter around 7:30 to the sounds of loud music and voices.  No biggie.  It was only 7:30 pm.  I dashed out the door to meet some old friends I hadn’t seen in years. We ate, laughed and parted ways about 9:30.  I came back home to louder music and banging.  It was getting late, and I was slightly annoyed.  But it was before 10 pm.

My boyfriend came through the door at 10:15 pm.  The noise was still unbearable and we just gave each other a “this is ridiculous” look and discussed who would go up and knock to tell them to please keep it down if it continued.  We even dug out the copy of the lease to make sure we were not overreacting.  Right there in the lease it stated: “No loud music, noise or banging that infringes on the comfort of neighboring tenants”.

I was elected.  My boyfriend said it’d be good for me since I am terrible at confrontation. After rolling my eyes along with various reasons why I disagreed, I went to go chat with the upstairs neighbors.

As I climbed the steps, I could see the overhead light on in the parlor.  The blinds were cracked and hanging lopsided and there were empty beer cans on the small landing outside the door.  The music was annoyingly loud and I realized at that moment I had crossed my internal threshold of age.  When I got to the landing and was able to look in the door, I saw five people sitting in various types of chairs that I had never before seen.  I knocked on the door careful to keep my face expressionless.

The twenty something kid closest to the door answered.  I stepped into the doorway slightly, but never into the apartment.  I was able to look to the left and see two more people sitting along the wall, also on mismatched chairs.  I asked where the couple was that lived there.  The kid at the door said the girl would be back.  I then asked them if they could please keep it down.  The ceilings are paper-thin, I said.  The kid said sure, I said thank you and retreated down the steps.

As I walked down the steps, the first thing that popped in my head was, who the hell are all of those people.  I had never seem any of them at the apartment.  Secondly, where the hell was the living room furniture?  I went back into my apartment, explained what I said and what I saw to my boyfriend and contemplated calling the cops.

I did not call the cops.  I didn’t feel it was police worthy.  Calling the cops would have brought flashing red and blue lights and a bunch of drama.

At about 12:30 am, the girl came home and my boyfriend lunged off the couch.  He flung the door open and yelled something like, “Yo, can you keep it down? It’s after midnight and it’s freaking loud.”
She apologized, went up the steps and several minutes later, it was quiet.  She came stomping down the stairs a while later and my boyfriend looked out the door to see her get back in her car with an open beer can.

The noise started again, and went on until 2:30 am, intermittently.

My boyfriend and I decided that we needed to tell the landlord in the morning.  We went to the convenience store he owns, and sure enough he was standing at the end of the deli counter where he often times is every morning.  We told him everything that transpired and he said, “That’s it.  They’re getting an eviction notice.”

The boyfriend knocked on our door this morning and asked what happened.  Apparently, they were served the eviction shortly after we went to talk to the landlord.  It turns out that he and she were living together but separated.  She doesn’t work and he can’t afford to get his own place.  This explained to me why there were numerous men over the apartment at odd times and why he was never around.

My boyfriend went outside on the step to talk to the boyfriend and came back in.  I felt bad for the boyfriend and the little girl, who I found out was upstairs with the seven strangers while the girlfriend was off getting more pot and beer.  For the daughter’s sake, I hope to hell the mother gets help.

As we sat on the couch and reminisced about our twenty something years we heard the boyfriend yelling at the girlfriend about his daughter being in a house full of strangers.  Then it clicked.  Addiction makes people do stupid things.

Ways To Give Back

In today’s world it seems like more take and take than give and take.  When did everyone become so selfish?  I’ve experienced over the years that the more we give, the more we get.

Here are some ways to give back.  This helps out our neighbors, our community and our military.  Giving back makes us feel like thrusting out our chest feathers and shouting, “I’m awesome!  Look what selfless act I just did.”

1) Give Coffee To A Solider

www.greenbeanscoffee.com/coj

Our troops are overseas and not feeling many of the warm elements of home.  Warm them up with a cup of coffee.  On the site, you can choose the amount of the donation you’d like to give.  You can even add a personal message.  The coffee goes to random U.S. Troops that are extremely grateful for your generosity.  I have sent coffee to troops and the thank you messages I received were very heart warming.

2) Give Blood

www.americanredcross.org

What better way to give than actually giving part of yourself.  On the Redcross website, there is information on the types of blood that are in high demand, what not to do before you decide to donate blood and locations to donate.  If you are a first time donor, there is a link to click on that tells you about what to do prior to, during and after giving blood.  Diet is important in blood donations, so cut out the fat and drink a lot of water before you head out to give blood.

3) Help A Furry Friend

www.aspca.org

As an animal lover, this is my go to site when I have a little extra cash and am feeling generous.  Since the ASPCA is a non-profit organization, they need all the help and money they can get.  Another great way to help out the ASPCA is to spread the word.  With social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, it is easy to share a link and ask others to help out.

4) Donate Your Time

www.volunteermatch.org

Since time seems like something that we can really ever afford to give away these days why not give some to those who could really use your help.  At this site, all you do enter your location and a keyword of the kind of volunteer work you’d like to participate.  A detailed list will pop up with various links of charities or organizations that need your help.  Even better, you can register on the site for free to receive email updates and sign up for the newsletter.

5)  Help Out The Less Fortunate

www.justgive.org

This is a great website.  You can browse by category and go through the different charities.  You may even stumble on a charity you didn’t even know existed like Crime Prevention or Arts & Culture.  The site has links on getting started and tips on giving every day like 50 ways to save animals, most of which involve a lot of common sense and very little money.  Also, it has some useful information on ways to give time without overexerting yourself.  This is wonderful because a lot of us do not volunteer our time because we have so little of it.

Hopefully this has helped you figure out a few ways to help some fellow neighbors, strangers or furry friends out.  Donating time, money and belongings is a wonderful way to give back.  Not to mention, it really amps up our self-esteem when we do selfless acts of random kindness.

In what ways do you like to help others out?

How To Say No.

Every day there seems to be some sort of something that rears its ugly head and demands our attention.  This ugly little monster is sometimes a person asking us for time which we simply do not have.  Someone might need a ride somewhere, a project done sooner than anticipated, or just an ear to listen.

At times, we can do this.  We can be that wonderful person that has the time to drive out of our way, put in some overtime at the office or sit down for coffee.  But often there simply are not enough hours in the day.

Here is a hypothetical.  You are on your way out the door to go to a yoga meet you’ve had on your mind for two weeks.  You’re feeling energized and pumped.  A brand new yoga mat is peeking out of your brand new yoga bag and oh, wait… what’s that?  Your phone is ringing.  It is your friend Shelly.  She just broke up with her third boyfriend in six months and she wants to talk about what she could be doing wrong.  Maybe it is Mike from the shop.  He once again forgot how to do a proper brake inspection and he needs help.

Now, that little voice in your head says, I don’t have time.  But there is that other voice, the bigger one that tells you that you will be a rotten friend if you decide to go ahead to your yoga class.  It  tells you that you are a bad person and that you should blow off something you’ve been looking forward to all week for something that, honestly, can wait.  Shelly will be fine (three boyfriends in six months… really?).  Mike, well, he’ll probably remember if he learns the hard way.

It is okay to tell that bigger voice to stuff it!  Sometimes we need to be selfish.  If we do not take care of ourselves we dwindle to nerves and resentment which leads to being unhealthy.  Who wants that?

Here are some ways to tactfully say no without feeling guilty.

1) I would love to help you out, but I have a previous engagement. This engagement could be a legitimate meeting or it could simply be a date with a cup of tea and your favorite television program.  If t.v. and tea is what you have been looking forward to after a busy day, you deserve to keep your date with yourself.

2) It is really out of my way and I’ll be cutting it close. Driving people places can, at times, be grueling.  If you have somewhere you need to be, whether it is the gym or home, and you are going over in your head where to shave time so that your friend can make it to their destination, then you don’t have time.  Instead of feeling guilty about saying no, be honest with yourself about the time you have.

3) I wish I could, but I have plans. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.  Maybe your idea of plans is at the other end of the spectrum compared to most.  Maybe you actually do have to wash your hair.  Clean hair is important after all.  Telling someone you have plans is perfectly fine.

4) Unfortunately, I have to be somewhere. I use this one at work.  It doesn’t happen often, but there are times I am asked to stay to finish a project.  Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t.  When I can’t, I just say to my boss, “I would love to stay and finish, but I have somewhere I need to be.  I’ll finish it first thing in the morning”.  He always tells me that that’s fine.  What is he going to say?  I mean, I have to be somewhere a little more important than where I am now.  Yes, work is important.  However, at times there are things that are more pressing in my life than work.

5) I’m sorry, I just can’t. This is probably the most direct way to tell someone who you really cannot help out.  A girl I work with at my second job says this to me when I ask her to cover and I so admire her honesty rather than giving me some long reason.  If I ask her why she can’t then I am out of line.  It is none of my business, just like it is no one’s business why you cannot help them out.  It is our guilt for being selfish that leads us down the path of excuses.  Stop it!  You don’t need an excuse.

I hope some of these have helped you out.  These are the most honest reasons I have heard over the last few years when I asked someone to help me out and they couldn’t.  There was no arguing.  How audacious I would be to question someone wanting to have some time of their own.

Regretting Obsessive Rejection

I’m sitting in my car at Tyler State Park.  It is about twenty-two degrees outside.  I come here almost every day on my one hour lunch break.  Usually I walk for a while as I collect my thoughts.  But today I am a wimp.  The car is safer.  While I cannot hear the frigid wind smacking the leafless trees, I can hear about seventy geese honking in the field behind me.  The chirping birds and foraging squirrels that would grace me with their innocent presence throughout the summer and fall are nowhere to be found.  That is about the only notion I can understand today.

I come here almost every day in the hopes that one of these afternoons I will find peace.  And in finding peace that will free my mind, if only for a moment.

But I am obsessive.  I would like to tell you that I obsess over happy things like a good day at work or winning three dollars on a lottery ticket.  However, that would not propel my insanity forward.  So, I obsess about unpleasantries such as a bad day at work, whether or not I am good enough and the dumb things that spill out of my mouth like cherry Kool-Aid onto a bright carpet.  Sure, it can be cleaned up, but the stain always remains.

A small engine airplane just flew overhead.  As I hone in on that, still with honking geese in the background I start to wonder where that plane might be going. I have a good idea that it is probably going to the airport in Mercer County, NJ but that thought doesn’t give me warm fuzzy feelings.

I’m tired and have been for years.  This game called life is not fun anymore and I look every day for the reset button but it never surfaces.  All of the dreams and aspirations I have had in my life have dwindled to dust as I decided somewhere along this path that the right thing to do would be to put myself last.  How crippling that thought has become.

Now my days are filled with despondent sighs and dreams of “someday”, “if only” and, the most damaging one of them all, “I should have.”

“I should have” are three words seeped in regret like a bitter tea bag in hot water.  Regret is a tough teacher albeit a good one.

I regret not listening to my grandmother all those years ago on our car rides up River Road into New Hope, PA when I was a little girl.  My Gram gave me such good advice about how to act like a lady and how you should never be easy.  Her words rang in my ears until I became a teenager and the pressure of being cool and fitting in greatly outweighed good advice.

I regret listening to my father.  While my grandmother gave me words of wisdom, my father gave me lectures of negativity.  My dad, it seems to me now, wasn’t very comfortable outside the box.  He told me why I shouldn’t be an auto mechanic, why I shouldn’t be a race car driver and went right down my list of dreams smashing them all one by one with the hammer of doubt.  As a little girl, the one thing that I wanted to do very badly was please my father.  If forgetting my dreams could help me do that, then that was what I would do.

It became clear to me a couple years ago why my father never pushed me.  If I went after a dream and it didn’t work out then he would be devastated.  If I stayed inside my little sheltered coven he would feel no pain because I never tried.

Since I need my dreams and aspirations intact, I don’t tell my father what is on my mind anymore.  If I happen to be talking to him it is usually small talk.  Even if I have something burning my brain that needs a hasty exit through my lips, I hold back.  My father can never know who I really am or what I really want anymore.  Obsession over that rejection will destroy me.