My First Fear of Following Through: People

When I asked myself the question of why I had never followed through on anything, I got one answer: fear. Fear of what, I asked myself. Well, three big fears came to my mind and this is the first one, one that has been let go by me but with some echoes that I can still hear from time to time.

Fear of what people would think, and worse, what they might do to me if I followed through on something I really wanted to do with my life. The root of this fear took hold of me at a time in my life when it shouldn’t have.

When I graduated from high school, I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life other than write. My parents were okay with this as long as I pulled my weight around the house, which I gladly did. Within a couple of years, I began to make a plan for my life. I wanted to get a full-time job, save up all the money I could, then head out to Hollywood and try to make it as a screenwriter and maybe even a director someday. I told no one of this back then and didn’t plan to until I was ready to put into motion. But life took a different turn instead, and I put that plan to bed with no regrets.

In August of 1995, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and on a hot August afternoon around our tiny dining room table, me, my mom and dad sat talking and I knew that my mom wasn’t going to survive the cancer. It was a moment of certainty that I wish on no one. My father said he felt the same thing that day and we talked about it years later. On that day, I made a new plan and again, told no one about it. I made a commitment to do whatever I could to help take care of my mother and to be there for her in every way I could. I have no regrets about this decision and I’m glad I did it. The problem was, I paid one hell of a price for that I shouldn’t have had to.

The price I paid was silence and guilt for pursuing my writing despite the decision I’d made to be a full-time caregiver. My parents supported my writing when I began to turn to novels, romance novels specifically. They paid my dues to my local and national writing organization chapters along with contest fees, and conference and workshop fees, too. My dad also used to take me to meetings when we were down to one car. In turn, I never talked about my writing with anyone past a certain point. I wrote after I was done with everything I had to do during the day and again, tried my dead-level best not to draw any attention to that. But I failed because my parents were getting shit from people for their decision to support me in my creative endeavors and also when I began to work full-time and also continue to write while doing that.

What happened was that this turned into an enormous fear that I’ve only given voice to inside my head just in the last year or so. I lived in fear while my parents were alive that one day they would sit me down and tell me I was the worst person in the world and that my entire life was a terrible lie and I was a terrible person. I lived in fear that they would kick me out of the house and cut me off because of that. And I wouldn’t have fought them either. I would have believed every word of that. All because I wasn’t at everyone’s beck-and-call all the time, or that I was doing something they didn’t want me to. Worst of all, I never pursued any kind of social life because I feared that would be used against me, too.

I gave people power over me that they didn’t deserve and never really knew they had. I gave people power to hurt me by telling me I had no right to talk about my thoughts and feelings about what was going on and what I was living through. I felt like it was best if I just kept my mouth shut and just took shit because if I spoke out things could truly go to Hell for me. The only way I have forgiven is to remove those razor-sharp talons out of my soul, clean and stitch up my wounds, and put bandages over them. Most of all, I’ve put up shields and defenses around myself.

This fear is largely gone now with me. In fact, I think if someone was dumb enough to try and come at me I’d give a single warning to turn tail and run before I’d barbeque their asses. I’ve got a lot of pent-up pain and anger over those decades when I was silent and living in fear, and I don’t want to unleash it. I just want to let that anger and pain subside enough to just a dull ache.

So when it comes to my follow-through it’s all mine, no one else’s. This fear is gone so now I’m moving on to the next two.

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