Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Only Thing We Have To Fear...

About three or so years ago my mom's house was robbed. She had only been gone an hour, and it was the middle of the day, and a thief (or thieves) broke in and stole some costume jewelry, her wedding ring, a camera, her pillow cases, her passport, some stationary (WTF?!), and some other various things. All in all, I think it was maybe $2,000 - $3,000 worth of stuff. The police actually think it was kids and certainly not professionals. It was surprising to me actually how much else they could have taken that was worth more money that they left remaining.

The fact that they stole these things was not a big deal (except the wedding wing, which of course had great sentimental value to my mom). After all, it was only money, and most of these things were either replaceable or not worth much to begin with. What has always upset me about the robbery is what else they stole: my mom's sense of security and her peace of mind. Three years later, my mom is a different person in some ways. She's far more paranoid, she jumps at every little sound (even sounds the house has been making for years), she locks the door even if people are home, she doesn't like being alone at all, and even though she bought an extremely efficient and well-endorsed home security system, I don't think she feels all that much safer.

That's what upsets me the most: my mom is still scared of being robbed or attacked. Her peace of mind of feeling safe in her own home is gone, and it angers me that these robbers took that as well. And now with my sister having just gotten married and me eventually on my way out, it concerns me that she will be living here all by herself because I think it will only make her fears worse.

I remember when 9-11 happened. I flew that very week because I had a wedding to go to, and I remember how many seats on the plane were empty because people had canceled their flights. I also remember various people around me seemed nervous and scared to be flying. I wasn't nor was the guy next to me. We had a small conversation about it and agreed that whatever was going to happen would happen, and that we weren't going to let it stop us from living our lives.

I remember arriving for my friend's wedding, and her mother would freak out whenever a plane flew over the area because she was convinced that more terrorists were coming to kill more people (never mind that this was podunk town in Pennsylvania).

I remember how overreactionary I thought people were about airport security, and to this day I still think it's all a facade designed to make people feel safer rather than providing any genuine security. I feel far more inconvenienced by airport security than I do more safe.

I've looked at how this administration has exploited people's fears in order to achieve its often self-serving goals and how people have bought into it because they are afraid. And often thought when I've heard them recite the mantra, "If we don't do 'such-and-such' the terrorists win," and thinking to myself, "No, if we don't continue living our lives without fear, the terrorists win."

You read the paper or turn on the news, and someone is telling you that you have to worry about this and that; there's some new disease out there; studies have shown that something is bad for you; the economy is plummeting; terrorists are after you and your family; etc., and people let their fears paralyze them and stress them out and prevent them from living their lives.

I try very hard not to allow myself to get scared by stuff. Certainly I have fears, but I find the best way to tackle fear is to just throw myself into whatever it is I'm afraid of, and I would say 99.9% of the time the reality is nowhere near as frightening as my imaginings were.

I remember as an acting student we were often given crazy exercises to do, and you would stand in front of your classmates in a very vulnerable position doing whatever it is you were asked to do. It was scary to put oneself in that position, but I always found that if I just threw myself into it, it never was as bad as my fears allowed to me think it was and quite often was very rewarding and fun.

As an actor, it's always nerve-racking to go to auditions, and there's always this fear that I might screw up and make a fool of myself. Guess what? 9 out of 10 times the audition goes fine, and the one time that I do make a fool of myself is not as big a deal as I imagine it to be. The world still keeps on turning, and I end up learning what I need to do to avoid feeling that way at the next audition. And each audition makes me better at it. Even if the audition isn't my best, I always learn something that I can do to be a better auditioner.

For years I spent my life in the closet, scared that if I came out or acted on my feelings that somehow the powers of hell would snatch me up, that my family and friends would treat me badly or somehow stop loving me; that God would think less of me; and that my world would somehow implode. Guess what? It never happened. If anything, life is better now. I'm not saying that is the right choice for everybody. Each person has to find their own path. But it was very right for me, and I spent years being paralyzed and repressed by this fear, and once I let go, life became so much easier to live.

My point is (and I really believe this) that the fears we have are almost always more terrible in our imaginations than they are in reality, and if we allow our fears to paralyze us or stop us from living our lives or doing the things we desire to do, I think we often do ourselves a great disservice.

It really is like Franklin D. Roosevelt said.

2 comments:

Chedner said...

Each person has to find their own path. But it was very right for me, and I spent years being paralyzed and repressed by this fear, and once I let go, life became so much easier to live.

I've found the exact same thing (and, as this post is discussing, not just in being gay but in every aspect of my life where I have feared before -- including auditioning for shows).

In fact, referring to auditions, now that I've been on the other side as a choreographer, I can't help but think, "Why was I so stinkin' afraid and nervous like these guys are? I'm not looking for perfection but for people I know I can teach/direct/etc."

I often wonder if that's what God is thinking about those who are so concerned with being perfect in order to get a leading role in Eternal Salvation -- "Why are they so worried... I'm not looking for perfection but those whom I can teach/direct/etc."

Gay LDS Actor said...

Chedner,

Thanks for the comment. I was especially impacted by your last paragraph.