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A Conversation with Fear [MultiFormat]
eBook by Mermer Blakeslee

eBook Category: Self Improvement
eBook Description: "We all pack different ideas and feelings into the word fear: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, of losing control, of aging, of falling down, fear of the body reacting and fear of the body not reacting, even the fear of saying the word fear. This book does not attempt to define fear or explain why a frightened person experiences certain physiological responses. It doesn't separate students into categories or classify symptoms. What this book does attempt is to offer you both audacity and comfort. Although comfort feels quiet, it arrives through a bold move: accepting the presence of fear. To do this, we must pick our way between two powerful tendencies, to control and to cure, the Scylla and Charybdis of our culture. These tendencies show themselves constantly in words like manage, handle, overcome, conquer, dispel, banish, fix? By regarding fear as a pathology to control or cure, we assume that life without its presence is possible, normal, or even desirable. But once we accept fear as a habitual acquaintance in an imaginative, meaningful life, we can begin to cultivate a conversation with it rather than engage it in a fight." From A Conversation with Fear, Formerly titled In the Yikes! Zone

eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, Published: 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2010

Chapter 1

Meeting the Moment

It is a tremendous act of violence to begin anything.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke

The time has come to jump. I must leave the slow-paced, easy busyness of the garden and walk through the door into my study and face the blank page. Suddenly, I want only to putter among my plants--pink against red, gray, shades of green, deep pine to iridescent--a sanctuary of beauty and memory and what is too deep and inchoate to articulate. But I turn away to sit at my desk. The pivotal moment has come. I recognize it. I hate and love it. My body droops with fatigue, my hands shake as I look out from the edge of a cliff. I want the words to leap down onto the page. But do I dare push off? Like J. Alfred Prufrock, I brew myself one more cup of tea.

What is this moment that comes before every small or large leap? Whether it is time to begin a performance, or walk into the boss's office and say "I quit," or sit down in protest in the town square, there is a moment of passage, a push off, after which we cannot go back. It can seem like a quick flash of time, the tiniest of rooms, but it is packed with a magnetism that attracts and repels us in seemingly equal amounts.

What is comforting and mundane starts to beckon with a happy familiarity--the clean tabletop, the dish drainer stacked with dishes, the laundry basket waiting. I could vacuum the living room, it really needs it, I say to myself, and soon a list floods my mind: food to buy, that insurance company to call, the endless number of weeds to pull. I am tricky. I pick the most valid, must-do jobs that I could even wax self-righteous about, jobs that sustain and maintain the sturdy fiber of our lives: food and shelter. But I know this dilemma. If I keep retreating from that vital moment, those mundane acts of maintenance will stack up one after the other and turn living into a chronic support system for life.

What then do we want to avoid? What huge tension vibrates inside that miniscule moment that we do not want to face? Is it all the possibility inherent in the push-off? In that moment, we decide to leave behind firm ground and surrender ourselves into air. We willingly suspend the control that comforts us, and give ourselves over to the possibility rather than the certainty of landing. The moment carries a gravity not only for the body but for the soul. We become electrified, tense, engaged along our entire lengths: we are entering a mystery, a question. To do this, we must welcome, as in sex, a tiny death. This moment is an infinitesimal microcosm of life, packed with a pulsing larger than ourselves. And our proximity to this energy--electric, magnetic, divine--infuses a beauty into the homey comforts of our lives. What else can make the dish drainer shine so?

I remember the first time this moment took on a life of its own and I became aware of its force, a puppet of its push and pull. When I was a teenager, I loved to jump off rocky ledges into small pools of water along with my older brother and his friends. Then I fell in love and following my sweetheart, I made all sorts of unprotected leaps, across a deep chasm onto another outcropping, or across rushing water to grab an overhang. Though I was aware that I could not make a mistake, I never told myself that. If I had articulated my focus, it would have been, Do this. Exactly this. Now. The first time was the only time. My awareness squeezed itself down into that one jump. There was nothing left over, no thoughts leaking out the edges, no anticipation or fear of what was farther ahead.

Then it changed. I was nineteen, still in love. Four of us went to Huntington Gorge in the northwestern part of Vermont. Rocky cliffs rose on each side of the stream. We hiked to a flat ledge that jutted high above a narrow, deep pool where the water gathered itself up for a moment. It had been a couple of years since I had jumped. Scott, my sweetheart, took off his clothes and stood at the edge, comfortable in his nakedness. I watched him look down-- for longer than a moment--before he leapt. A long silence and then a splash. We heard him surface, sputtering, hooting and hollering. The fall was long and the water was cold! He shot out of the pool and scrambled onto the rocks below, dancing the cold away. Then he crooked his neck up, waiting for us. He looked tiny down there, his skin a bright, fragile white against the shades of gray. Henry then followed his path out to the edge and jumped. My friend, Cece, also once fearless, was now scared. I told her I would go first. I took off my clothes and stood where rock and air met. The pool looked far away, black and small, the size of a puddle, of a quarter. There were rocky outcroppings everywhere, and huge upturned slabs of granite. Across from me, a small maple clung by its roots to a rock face, no more than three feet high with just a few leaves hanging. I had the thought, What if I miss? My feet got hot on the ledge. I backed up. Then I tried again. The boys yelled from below. Words of encouragement, words of instruction, words. I backed up again. Back and forth, back and forth. I stood at the edge, I even said yes! and went--or almost went, but even within that instant, I pulled myself back.

That moment of push-off had changed. It was no longer just a flash of time that I could rush through unconsciously. That day, it introduced itself to me; it revealed its nature. I was pushed, I was pulled. The moment was energized. I kept banging against a wall inside of it. Three-dimensional. I held my stomach feeling sick, both viscerally and emotionally under its power. Grips body AND soul, makes them indistinguishable. With my feet, I reached again for the edge of the rock... air. To leave the safety of the ledge meant to lose control, there was no going back. A finality. On the far side of this moment was an impenetrable darkness I could not see beyond. Shadowed in mystery. This was no ordinary moment.

A few minutes later, I jumped. I said yes! with enough intensity to make it over the wall. Shaky and elated, I crawled out of the water onto the rocks. Then Cece stood on the ledge alone. The three of us looked up knowing how small we must appear. We yelled. More words. Back and forth, back and forth till finally, she jumped.

We didn't know it at the time but the ambivalence that Cece and I experienced that day was far more valuable than the ease of jumping freely and unconsciously as we both had before. We had sparked a relationship with that enigmatic moment and had begun to glimpse its nature. How could we know what possibilities it held in store?

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