Monday, October 03, 2011

The topic is fear.

I do wish this was a post on right-wing extremism. Heaven knows, the title would fit.

But no; today the fear is of the personal, non-political variety. Fear, in dribs and drabs and occasional dollops, has returned to my life.

When I was drinking, fear enveloped me like a thick fog, or sometimes -- when nothing else seemed familiar -- like a warm, comfortable old blanket. I wrapped my days, my nights, my existence in it. At the end of my drinking fear became a straitjacket, and I was in solitary confinement.

Nothing in my life was exempt: Fear of driving. Fear of tornadoes. Fear of disease. Of nightmares, and of intruders. Fear of ghosts and nuclear war. Fear of fetal alcohol syndrome. Fear of dying. Fear of being frightened to death. Fear that I was insane. Fear of god and of satan, even though I didn't really believe in either one. And most of all, fear of being alone if any of these horrors came to pass.

When I heard thunder in the distance, I'd wonder if this was the storm that would finally bury me in rubble.  When I tried to drive, I knew any car on the road might be aiming for me. When I heard a jet engine overhead, I'd hold my breath until I was sure it wasn't a Soviet fighter plane. Sometimes I slept with lights or music on. Anything, anything to subdue all the terrifying thoughts that came with the darkness.

Just a few months before I quit drinking, my mother came to visit us in Schoolcraft, Michigan and she gave me a driving lesson on the surrounding rural roads. There was almost no traffic, but I was pretty sure that each car we encountered was a threat. Slightly exasperated, my mom finally said to me, "Lynne, honey, you've got to have a little faith!"

Back then it never occurred to me that my fear was connected to drinking, but when I began to work the steps, the fear began to dissipate. Somewhere along the way, I stopped being afraid of the things that used to immobilize me. Not only can I drive, I can drive on the expressway, during rush hour, in Atlanta. That really, truly is a miracle.

Lately, though, fear has returned with surprising strength. This time, it's fear of the consequences of my actions, of the wreckage of my past and what that wreckage might do to my daughter.

I've just been sued for twelve grand.

The details are still fuzzy, but it appears to be from an old debt. I've got an attorney and I'm gathering information. Whether or not it's legitimate,I don't know, but it escalated to a lawsuit because I didn't do some pretty damn simple things. Added to that are some soft rumblings that my new and perfect apartment may not be as permanent as I'd hoped. When blended with a healthy shot of self-loathing for every mistake I've ever made, the brew packs quite a punch.

At a conscious level, I know it'll all be fine, but that hasn't kept my mind from meandering down the path of disaster. The consequences are serious: Inability to pay my kid's tuition. Homelessness. Unemployment. Starvation. Whichever route the fear takes, its destination is the same: I'm never going to be a competent adult, not ever. I am failing Life.

Except now there's a difference: I've got a little of that faith my mother wanted for me. Whatever disasters befall me, I'll be all right, and so will my kid.. And as long as I do the next right thing now, that's true even if I did everything wrong yesterday. 

Today, I can sleep with the lights and the radio off. When life gets scary, like now, I don't have to run or hide from reality. I can pause and listen long enough to uncover the next right thing, and then take action. I have learned there is great power even in the tiniest of steps. And for that, I am very grateful.

But still kinda scared.

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