Ah, fear. It’s a concept most of us hate to face, let alone talk about. There are many who talk about overcoming fear, about how to become fearless. But in my perspective, fear is a relative force. It’s not necessarily ideal to live without it, and I don’t even know if such a thing is possible.
There is, however, a way to live without letting Fear remain in the driver’s seat. Instead of sitting behind the wheel, Fear can sit in the back (or even in the way back, if you’re driving a ’92 Ford station wagon). Anyway, my point is, fear can actually be a guide of sorts, a teacher, and — gulp, dare I say it — a friend. A teacher even?
But what if we actually spoke to our own inner source of fear? Turned around, looked at it head-on, asked it some questions — what would this be like? Well, I decided to give that a try.
Before I continue, let me clarify that I know how terrifying and difficult fear and anxiety can be, especially in the face of change. I’ve dealt with this all of my life, in many forms, as many others have, and I want to emphasize that while I have the utmost respect for Fear and its presence in my life, I’m constantly battling it just as much as anyone else. Indeed, this “conversation” below is, by all accounts, tongue-in-cheek, but it’s reflective of what I’m trying to face as I move forward.
And while I discuss fear and anxiety as they relate to my own creative pursuits, please note that I am no way shape or form a mental health professional, and none of what I express here or elsewhere on this site is meant to substitute actual, professional mental health advice. I’m simply finding my way along my own creative path, but my hope is that as I share such stories and tales from my journey, they can provide some shards of light for others who face similar struggles and roadblocks. I’ve been fortunate to receive such guiding light from others, so I trust that through my work I can pay that effort forward.
Now, enough rambling from me. Here’s that fun little discussion I had recently with my friend, Fear.
Matt B. Perkins: Hey, thanks for taking a minute. Usually we don’t get a chance to speak.
Fear: That’s your call, not mine.
MBP: Can we just not start off this way?
Fear: Fine, whatever.
MBP: Okay, great, so thanks again. This is actually a good thing because we need to clear up a few things.
Fear: [Sips glass of water, exhales.] Like what?
MBP: Like why you’re always in my goddamn way.
Fear: I’m not in your way.
MBP: Yes, you are. Literally all the time. I try to make time for writing, you’re there. I try to get up before dawn, try to make time for a solid routine, try to get more done each day, you convince me to get back into bed. These are just a few examples, but what’s the deal?
Fear: I just tell you what’s up and what’s possible. You’re the one who makes the calls on this stuff.
MBP: Okay, moving on. So you’re fine if I ask you some questions? Toss some hypotheticals your way?
Fear: [Sighs, throws glass.] Yup. Let’s get it over with.
MBP: Okay, let me start. So, what if you leave me alone for a while?
Fear: What if I don’t?
MBP: What if I don’t really need you?
Fear: But what if you do? (In fact, you do.)
MBP: What if I decide to move ahead despite your constant, incessant, false warnings?
Fear: Well, that would be awesome, and I’d actually be doing my job well, but what if you don’t? What if you actually listen to what I’m yelling at you and you don’t move forward? Then what, eh? THEN WHAT?
MBP: [Stares] Fair point. So, what if–
Fear: Wait, let’s start over. I think I should be leading this. Okay? You good? Good. What if I told you to stop all of this nonsense. This blogging, this “writing,” those books you have in your head you’re about to plan out, that whole morning routine crap. This aimless effort of “calming your inner waters” or whatever it is you’re trying to do. What if it gets you nowhere?
MBP: What if it does actually get me somewhere? What if it actually results in something beyond what I can imagine?
Fear: What if you spend the next year rambling on here and no one reads this crap and you actually, you know, finish those books you’ve been sitting on but they fall into the void? What if you hire an editor and cover designer and formatter and you self publish these things and then you make almost no money off it, and then you’re stuck with that loss?
MBP: What if I don’t care?
Fear: [Pauses.] Wait, what?
MBP: I said, what if I don’t care? What if all of these efforts I’m now pushing forward with do fall into the void and I don’t care, but do it anyway?
Fear: Well, that wouldn’t make any–
MBP: No, no, hear me out. You had your say, you went on your little rant. You’re constantly ringing little fire alarms in my head, telling me it’s not worth the discomfort of internal change and that it’ll all be too risky and worth nothing and that it’ll end in disaster. What I’m asking you is, what if I’m fine with that?
Fear: Why and how could you be fine with that?
MBP: Because I know something you don’t.
Fear: Oh, I see. Mr. All-wise Perkins over here, everyone. Well then, what is it that you know that I don’t.
MBP: I know that it won’t end in disaster.
Fear: [Stares.] Wait, how the hell do you know that?
MBP: Because I know.
Fear: But that makes no sense.
MBP: [Stares, smiles.]
Fear: [Sighs, laughs while looking at table.] Well played, sir. [Pauses, coughs, scratches head.] Okay, then so, now what?
MBP: Now you continue screaming at me in the background as you’ve always done, and I’ll thank you for your warnings but let you know that they’re false.
Fear: But what’s the point of that?
MBP: The point, my dear old friend, is that I don’t intend to ignore you fully or be rid of you.
Fear: [Pauses. Looks down. Looks up, eyes glassy.] You…you don’t?
MBP: No. You’re here for a reason, I get that now, even more so from this discussion, however short it might have been. Believe it or not, I need you.
Fear: [Inevitable single tear drips from left eye.] You…you need me? Wow, I just. I mean. Are we gonna hug now?
MBP: Um, no I actually need you to leave or be quiet, I have books and blogs to write and social media channels to scream at.
Fear: [Clears throat, stands up.] Okay, fair enough. Nicely done. Well then, I’ll just be going. See you in the morning?
MBP: Yes, sounds good. Please keep it down, though.
Fear: Oh no, not a chance. [Runs away laughing.]
MBP: [Stands, smiles, sighs.] See you soon.