I’ve Been Absolutely Terrified Every Moment of My Life

I’ve Been Absolutely Terrified Every Moment of My Life

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

How I Go To The Woods

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.

Mary Oliver


I go to the river alone

Last year I was involved in a community health project at my local nature reserve. Every Monday morning I lead a group walk along the river and around my favourite parts of the reserve. Most of the participants were women over 65 – only a couple of men – and as we walked, we chatted.

A great deal of the conversation focused on health issues. I suppose that is inevitable, as age starts to take its toll on the body, and physical symptoms create pain and anxiety that can be hard to deal with.

But I was surprised that the subject of safety and fear often arose within our morning’s conversation. It was only brought up by the female members of the group, but they all had something to say about it.

I was distressed to learn that they would not consider walking by the river alone because they wouldn’t feel safe to do so.

This was a perspective on life after 65 that was new to me!
I don’t think I could survive if I didn’t go and walk in the woods and by the river alone, and my favourite time to do this is at dusk – a time they universally agreed they would not contemplate going to the reserve.

I tried to keep my opinion to myself. I didn’t believe that they would be at risk in any way. I have never felt threatened or in danger walking by the river alone. In fact, those have been the most magical times because in the peace and stillness I’ve watched the otters play, or caught a glimpse of the kingfisher diving back into it’s hole on the bank.

Your fears are always valid for you

Yet, I wouldn’t want to discount their feelings because if that’s how they feel, then that is real for them. It might not be my fear, but I have other fears that haunt me and hold me back.

I still believe it’s possible to live with fear and not let it hold you back. But it’s something I have to work on every day. Sometimes I’m afraid to publish my writing or my thoughts online. Sometimes I’m more afraid that I’ll never finish something that makes me feel I’ve done well enough at what I’ve set out to achieve.

Every day I’m frightened that I’m not going to turn my life around and make enough money to keep a roof over our heads, to send my son to university (if that’s what he wants), and to make sure that I’m secure in my old age.

I don’t really know how to deal with that except to keep trying. I figure writing is my best bet for making things work. If I get better at it, if I hone my skills and apply my efforts in the right way. I believe I’ll make it… ha! whatever that means.

The fears that stop us trying are the most insidious ones

What I’m most afraid of is never trying things that might have brought me joy, laughter, and a sense of wild abandon. How much more satisfied will I feel at 85, when I can look back and remember the things I tried that people thought I was crazy to do?

It’s about recovering your sense of possibility, as Julia Cameron reminds us in The Artist’s Way (see Week 5). She poses the question, “What would you try if it weren’t too crazy?”

  • Sky diving, scuba diving.
  • Belly dancing, Latin dancing.
  • Getting my poems published.
  • Buying a drum set.
  • Cycling through France.

Spend some time in your journal thinking about the things you’d like to do, and haven’t done. Make a list. Keep going and freewrite for 15 minutes. See where it takes you. What hidden desires might you uncover?

Can you give yourself permission to do one thing from your list this week? If you do, make sure you write about it in your journal.

If you want a fiction prompt, write a story about someone who tries something crazy for the first time. What happens? Does it change them? Is there humour in the situation, poignancy perhaps? Take it wherever you want to go.

Shine a light on your darkness

I don’t know if fears ever go away, but they can be diminished when we take action and when we speak about them, or face them head on. Shine a light on the darkness and the shadows. Don’t let them consume you.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — and I’ve
never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

Georgia O’Keeffe

4 Replies to “I’ve Been Absolutely Terrified Every Moment of My Life”

  1. Thank you for the idea. I’m going now to make out that list, and know what some will be, already. They’re not crazy, though…all the more reason to regret not having done them!

  2. I have to admit that I would share those ladies’ reservations re walking in woods alone, or walking alone after dark. I’ve always been that way. I’m not afraid of the dark, as such. I’ve just grown up believing it to be the wise thing to do.

  3. Well that prompt has really got me writing! I will share later. Thanks for the inspiration Sam. I just let go and left the story flow. I got courage from reading this Sam. Thanks. Great writing on your part, as usual

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