Typically, when we think of fears, we think of those that frighten us as children. For example, the boogeyman, or something that scared the bejesus out of us after watching a scary movie. I can attest that those still happen as adults. Now before you go all postal on me, I do know we are supposedly more rational and it’s made with makeup, special effects, and CGI. But, dear reader, what if it wasn’t?
No, I am not going to go on a tirade about how Frankenstein was real or how Paranormal Activity was more than a movie. To the contrary, they are both just books or Hollywood magic, respectively. I am going to write more to the effect of real fears, and how they relate to us as adults. So, think about it. What are you afraid of now that you are an adult?
Fear is applicable in many ways. It keeps us from doing things that we ordinarily would do and likely get injured, or worse. Why would one jump off the roof when there is a ladder right there? Fear of getting hurt, breaking a bone? Death? Certainly, not! Actually, that is the only reason. When we have a genuine fear of the unknown, we have a reason to tread lightly.
A long time ago, I was told that the only difference between fearless and fearful was conscience. Yeah, that little voice in your head that says, and sometimes screams, “Hey stupid… Listen up. You will die if you do this.” Or, “if you try this, you will be hobbling around with a broken femur.” You’d likely be surprised of how many times I ignored that device in my head and did it anyway to regret it later. It is usually right and we should all take heed of that advice.
But is fear really necessary? How would our lives be if we had no fear? No small voice telling us that we may get hurt or something if we do something? Well, I can tell you that I have jumped out of airplanes, repelled out of perfectly good helicopters, been bungie-jumping from very high places, and even surfed with sharks. I have also been in cars that I drove over 200 mph and on motorcycles that exceeded that speed as well. Was I fearful? You bet. But I did it anyway because, as my wife will attest, I am an adrenaline junkie and do not back down from a challenge. I do not really have a flight reflex which makes me one of the lower number of individuals on this planet. Most will back down, rationalize what can happen if they get involved, and logically say it’s not worth the possible outcome. I do not always do that and it has gotten me into my fair share—and yours to add to it—of trouble. I pride myself with being rational, logical, intelligent but when it comes to fear, I simply ignore it more often than not. I’ve always been one to try it and see what my limitations are. Until recently that is. But I will get to that in a moment.
I want to go back in time for a moment. Let’s go back to those childish fears we had again. Here’s one that is all too familiar: something is in the closet/under the bed/in the wall/staring at me through the window. Are they really there? We only know from our own minds if they are or not, as the monsters that live in our closets are only visible to us while we make tents out of blankets with flashlights beaming at the closet door opening on its own around three in the morning. We grasp our Teddy Bears tighter and tighter, praying to whatever God will listen that we make it through the night without having to call Mom or Dad in to show us that the cat opened the door not the Wolfman or Dracula or Pennywise. Is it irrational that we feel the fears as kids that we can no longer manifest as adults? No. And the reason we cannot is because we supposedly grew up and those things are no longer real to us. Ah, maturity. Please. I made a living out of scaring the hell out of people with my publishing company. Producing some of the creepiest adult written nightmares in the literary world, so telling me that we are more rational as adults is far from the truth. If anything, the boogeyman just became real.
Let’s look at that for a moment. Reality. That is one scary mofo. No lie. You go to bed one night and the world is yours and the next day, you find out that you lost your job. You go to the doctors on Monday only to find out that since you got hurt, you are no longer able to work. Now, your new house will possibly be foreclosed on; leaving your wife and kids wondering what they will do for a home, food, clothes. You think that everything is okay in your marriage only to find out that you are not exactly the man of her dreams any longer and she’s taking your kids to another location and you will have to fight her in court for visitation rights. That you are less of a man than you thought you were.
Yeah, let’s talk about reality and how fearful it is to realize that the thing you have fought for suddenly is no longer viable and you have to do something that you do not want to. How many people will it affect? How many outside people will it effectively destroy if you were to close the business that you built from nothing simply because sales are no longer high enough to keep the doors open? Or due to something far more sinister, like cancer? Let’s talk about how that injury you sustained at the job did not pay you enough to sustain you for the rest of your life and you deal with pain every single day, fearful that it will never end unless you do something very drastic to make it end.
Fear can be practical and impractical all at the same time. In the practical sense, if you listen to your fears, you are usually safe from harm, safe from the boogeyman, the heartaches, the pains. But if you don’t listen, you get hurt. You get your heart broken and that is where fear can be impractical. If you listen to the fear, you never gain the courage to ask the girl out, work up the nerve to steal a first kiss, hold her hand, ask her to marry you. Of course, you can always be rejected but if you never find out, you never know and that is where living in fear of something is impractical. You cannot fear the unknown. Fearing well, fear… is practical and impractical all at the same time. Being afraid of things will keep you living but won’t it also keep you from living? To some, that is perfectly fine but at the end of their lives, did they ever really live? My guess would be no. I have. I am ready to live more but first I have to address my own resolute fears.
As a writer, a (former)publisher, a human, a father, a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend… hell as a man, I have unyielding fears that are more than most can attest to. Sure, as a business owner I worry that my company will go under from day to day and that we are not doing enough. I know we are not doing enough. I look at the books too often to not realize that I am not doing enough to make it into the next decade with enough fortitude to make it through unscathed. That is a resolute fear. As a husband, and father I feel I am doing something very wrong in my relationships with my kid(s), not to mention my wife, who for some unknown reason loves me unconditionally even though I do have that overactive adrenal gland pumping most of the time. As a son, I wonder and am fearful that I have never made my mother proud of the person I became, through everything I have done I fear that she will never be truly satisfied and that will forever bother me. As a son, I wonder if I made my father upset with the choices I made as a man. I know in my heart that it is irrational as he would tell me that the choices we make in the face of adversity are ours and they are the best ones to make at the time in our lives when we have to make them. But what if there were better options that I did not explore or was unaware of? Fear of the unknown.
I also have a fear of death but am not afraid to die in the process as long as it is on my own terms. How many of you can honestly say that? Soldiers, cops, perhaps. What about those who have dealt with enough in their lives and are no longer afraid to pull the trigger on a gun pointed at their temple because they made their choices long ago and can no longer deal with the outcome of what is to come if they keep going? Call it selfish if you wish but how many of you can honestly say, with all resilience, that the thought has not crossed your mind? That the fear is what kept you from doing it? Whether that fear is that there is a God and you will go to Hell instead of Heaven, or that there is nothing after this life. Or, something more, something less? As someone who has died, a couple of times in fact, I do not know what is on the other side and I really do not care… it is just another adventure to me. One that may take me to someplace where pain is finally over or one that if full of more than I can possibly bear. It is not fear that keeps me from doing it. It is actually the promises that I made a long time ago. You see, I told my wife that I would give her the rest of my life, as much of it that she desired and for however long that may be… with my medical issues, that is not long enough for her but it is far long enough for me. I have been through a lot. I deal with a lot. I have a lot of pain, from not only injuries from not listening to that voice in my head, heeding the advice from the depths of my mind telling me this will hurt, but also from the medical issues. It is what it is. Can I change it? No. Can I live with it? Sure, if not for a day but as long as I can go on.
So, selfish? No, not really. It is just the realization that my fears may be very well come true in the way that a nightmare becomes your waking reality all wrapped up in a horror novel we all write in our own ways, titled “Life.