Tag Archives: fear

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Worriers

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Hola and a very merry Friday to you, you lovely thing.  I hope that your week has been productive, enjoyable and unusually amusing.

Today I would like to have a chat about worrying, and specifically worrying about someone you love.  It’s completely acceptable to worry about someone, because it means that you quite like them and want them to be alright.  Similarly, it’s usually quite touching to be told that someone else is worried about you, because it means that they’re thinking about you and wishing you the best.

So worrying comes from a good place, but what is it good for?  (“Absolutely nothin’, say it again y’all!”  Etc.)  Worrying about a loved one doesn’t actually fix their problems, and it’s not going to do you a huge amount of good, either.  Unfortunately, nobody has handed you a magic wand/fairy dust/a time machine with which to fix your loved one’s troubles.  So you feel a bit rubbish and you’re also aware that that feeling isn’t doing any actual good.  This is decidedly not cool.

The way to deal with worry is to act upon it.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that we follow people around saying “are you ok?  Are you sure you’re ok?  What’s the matter?  You look annoyed.  Are you annoyed?  I’M WORRIED ABOUT YOU” ad infinitum.  That is definitely not the answer, for obvious reasons.  However, I think we can agree that we need practical ways to deal with our worry:

1) Say something
Tell the person that you’re worried about them.  Not to make them feel more stressed or guilty for upsetting you, but to reassure them that someone (i.e. you, you super star) is thinking about them.

2) Say something to someone else
If the person you’re worried about has confided in you, obviously don’t go blathering their secrets around your social circle.  But if you have a mutual friend or family member who will understand how you feel (and may already feel the same way), share the load.  For example: I have four siblings, and if I’m worried about one of them I automatically rally the other three.  There’s a lot to be said for strength in numbers.

3) Say something helpful
Offer your support.  Make sure that your friend/loved one knows that you are willing and able to help them if they need you.

4) Really mean it
Only offer support that you know you can give.  You may not be able to fix their entire life, but offering someone a shoulder to cry on or a good distraction from their woes is still very valuable.

5) Really mean it and prepare for it
Stocking up for emotional emergencies is a lot more fun than panic-buying for the end of the world.  For example, I have a secret stash of nice things – chocolate, fancy coffee, etc. – just in case one of my friends comes round and needs cheering up.  On a slightly more serious/less sugar-based note, if someone you care about is going for a scary hospital appointment, for example, clear your schedule for that day as much as possible.  They may claim to be ok, but they might change their mind at the last minute and need you to go with them.

6) Really mean it and prepare for it and then do it
If there is anything that you can actually physically do to help, do it.  If you’ve offered help to someone and they’ve taken you up on it, that demonstrates a huge amount of trust on their part.  Respect their trust and don’t push them to do/say things they’re not ready for.  Worrying is hard, but being worried about is also a big deal.

7) Let them get on with it
If you’ve said all you can say and done all that you can do, your only course of action is to sit back and let them work through whatever’s happening.  You can’t force someone to confide in you, call you when they’re sad or turn to you when they’re scared – some people prefer to do these things alone, and we have to respect that.  But if you’ve made it clear where you stand (i.e. right beside them whenever they need you), then you have already acted upon your worry as much as you can.

One last thing: I completely understand that being told not to worry is a bit annoying, because we don’t have much of a choice in the matter.  But just as your words and actions come from a well-meaning place, so do the intentions of the person who says “don’t worry about it”.  They just don’t like to see you wandering around looking as stressed out as the goldfish at the top of this post.  Poor, worried goldfish.

Have a glorious weekend.

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Cheesy Conversations

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Happy Tuesday!  Did you have a nice breakfast?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have brilliant friends.  Last night one of my nearest and dearest friends came to visit me at the new flat, and if seeing her were not enough of a treat, she brought three different types of cheese with her.  What a legend.

Over said cheese and a lot of diet coke, we discussed the whys and wherefores of our current life situations.  These are somewhat complicated to say the least.

Where are we going?  What are we doing?  Where on earth has my phone charger gone?  Being in your mid-twenties is characterised by asking a lot of futile questions, and even though we can postulate and theorise and debate, it’s no big secret that none of us have any answers.

That’s ok.  It really is.  We are not supposed to know what we’re doing: we’re supposed to know by now what we want to be doing.  By that I don’t mean that we need to have planned out the next five, ten or twenty years of our lives.  I mean that we need to know what we want to be doing right now, and be working towards it.  We need to know ourselves well enough to be honest about who we are and what really motivates us, whether or not we think that it’s financially viable or approved of by our parents.

I have no idea what my thirty-year-old self will want from life.  I haven’t the foggiest idea what my forty or fifty-year-old selves will be gunning for, either (although an educated guess tells me that it will probably be “more cheese” on all three counts).  What I do know is that I have ambitions and hopes and vague aspirations, and that all of these are achievable if I am willing to have (literally) cheesy conversations with the people who know me best and love me the most.

For example, last night was the first time that I admitted out loud how freaked out I am about writing my next play.  Chris is Dead went down so well at Edinburgh and got such an amazing response from audiences that I am genuinely terrified of writing another script.  Have I peaked already?  Do I have anything else worthwhile to say?  What if from now on everything I write is utter drivel and doesn’t resonate with anyone at all?

No one can say for certain that that won’t turn out to be the case, mostly because I haven’t started writing another play yet.  But my cheese-bearing friend knew that, even though she can’t foresee the future, her opinion of me matters and her optimism on my behalf is a very valuable piece of encouragement.

I can’t tell you not to worry about the future.  We are living in an age when we are made to feel like 25 is (professionally speaking) the new 40, and that if you don’t know what you’re doing by now then you have already failed.  That isn’t true, by the way.  But we all feel that way from time to time, and the key to getting through it is to be worried, feel nervous, and get stressed: the vital second half of that plan is to let someone who loves you allay your fears.  They know you well enough to make you feel better about it, and that is what will keep you going.

Have a stupendous day.  If your breakfast wasn’t all that, have an extra delicious lunch.

Morals from Monsters

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  

As I said in this post, day trips are brilliant, and yesterday’s was no exception.  I had a very successful meeting, went for some delicious food with my friends, and then we went all touristy and messed around on Brighton pier.  The last ride we went on was the ghost train, which is what I’d like to to use as a slightly odd starting point today.

The ghost train was my favourite part of yesterday’s trip.  D’you know what’s weird about that?  I didn’t even want to go on it at first.  One of my friends was very keen, but I was pretty reluctant because I hate everything horror-related.  But the train ride was a brilliant combination of quite jumpy (lots of stuff made us scream, even though it was mostly in surprise) and gloriously awful (lots of terrible, clunky puppets that made us laugh hysterically as soon as we’d finished screaming).

I think a lot of people find life scary, particularly those who are still working out their post-uni plan or a specific career path.  We don’t know what we’re doing, where we’re going to live or what to pursue.  As children we were led along the SATs-GCSEs-A Levels pathway with very carefully worked out stops for coursework, Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the always-awkward sex education lessons.  In other words, we always knew exactly what we were doing, even if it made us roll our eyes and start doodling on our notebooks.  

When you get out of education you have to start planning things based on your own timings, not end of term exams or essay deadlines.  Some people take to this like a duck to pancakes, but for some of us it’s more difficult to establish our own way of working.  How do we know how well we’re doing when there are no parents’ evenings?  How can we tell if our careers are progressing at a good pace unless we are graded?  When does it become unacceptable to own (and use) a Thunderbirds lunch box?

I’m not suggesting that adult life should be run like a school – no more navy and yellow uniforms for me, thank you so very much Watford Grammar School for Girls – but I think that the lack of objective structure to real life is a bit of a shock to the system after education.  Not knowing exactly what to do is pretty scary. 

A lot of the big things about adult life are like getting on a rubbish ghost train: you’re not sure what to expect, it could be pretty scary, and there’s no real way of knowing which direction you’re going in.  On a brighter note, the scary bits can be funny afterwards, and it’s all a lot easier to cope with if you’ve got a good friend with you.  I cannot believe that I learned a life lesson from a rubbish ghost train.

Have a gorgeous Thursday.  I hope you have the mother of all lunches today.

Villains and Heroes

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Good morning, you marvellous creature.  How’s your Friday going?  

Our society is obsessed with the concepts of heroism and villainy.  Specifically in terms of celebrity culture, we like to be told who to admire and who to abhor.  I have a massive problem with celebrity culture in general, because I think that it’s pointless at best and incredibly offensive at worst to speculate on the lives of people we’ll never know.  It makes far more sense to look closer to home to find things that we can aspire to or avoid, and to surround ourselves with people who make our heroes list.  Here are a few examples of the goodies and baddies we are most likely to come across in life:

Villains

  • The git who doesn’t give up their seat for a pregnant woman on public transport.  How is that even a thing that happens?  It’s ludicrous.
  • The person who doesn’t care who they hurt.  I’ve known a guy to cheat on one of my closest friends with one of my other closest friends, and the audacity of that still makes me livid, even years later.  Seriously, don’t poo where you eat.  Or where you socialise, I guess.  In fact, pooing anywhere other than the traditionally designated facilities is just not cool.
  • The person who never says please or thank you.  That drives me up the flipping wall.  Someone bring me a stepladder, please; my rage is preventing me from getting back down to the floor.
  • The person who just doesn’t give a flying fig about you.  Why do we put up with people who never listen to what we say, ask us questions about ourselves or show any concern for our welfare?  This covers a whole spectrum of asshats from story-toppers to emotionally abusive partners.  People who only want you around as an audience do not deserve you.  You are not just a spectator.
  • The moron who likes to shit-stir.  Why would anyone get a kick out of inventing harmful computer viruses, upsetting their friends or creating vicious rumours?  I don’t understand.  Incidental Schadenfreude is one thing, but intentionally creating distress for absolutely no reason is just evil.  Villainous, you might say.

Heroes

  • Single parents.  Those guys are hands down the bravest, most hard-working and incredible people we will ever meet.  Whenever I get depressed about my responsibilities and worries I think about how much my single parent friends have to deal with, and feel a bit ashamed of myself.
  • People who fight their fears.  Like lots of people, my way of dealing with stuff that I’m afraid of is to simply run away from it and refuse to fix the issue.  When I climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh I went with a friend who, as far as I knew, simply loved climbing and always had.  However, I found out that he only took up climbing to confront his fear of heights, which is pretty incredible to me.  People who can challenge themselves like that are definitely to be respected.
  • People who always care.  One of my friends is the loveliest, gentlest and most compassionate person I know.  She also has absolutely no luck when it comes to health and family problems, but that never stops her from caring about what’s going on with me.  Isn’t it amazing to have someone in your life who doesn’t let their problems prevent them from loving you?
  • People who pursue their passion.  A lot of my friends are creative types, and I am bowled over every day by how hard they work and how much they sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams.
  • People who can get over a heartbreak.  If you’ve ever had your heart broken and have recovered from it, you are an undisputed hero.  Go get yourself a cape.

Have a brilliant weekend.

Let’s Not Give Ourselves Monophobia

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you today?

Fear is something that unites us rather than divides us.  The most common phobias in the world include all of the usual suspects – claustrophobia, acrophobia and arachnophobia – and the bizarrely comforting thing about them is that people who suffer from them don’t have to feel alone with their fear.

Weirdly, a phobia is often defined as an irrational or disproportionate fear of something.  How does that work?  Being afraid of heights is perfectly logical, because you might fall and hurt yourself, so why do we call that a phobia?  Likewise, nyctophobia (fear of the dark) makes sense because humans are hard-wired to mistrust the unknown.  Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) is also very reasonable, because snakes are creepy and poisonous and biblically untrustworthy.  In case you haven’t guessed, I really hate snakes.

The strange thing about phobias and fears is that they make us feel vulnerable, whereas they’re actually very useful for helping us to work out essential parts of who we are.  When we come across a fear in ourselves that seems strange to others (or vice versa), there is an immediate clash of confusion and incredulity: “How can you be afraid of snakes?  They’re so cute!”

Leaving aside for the moment how ridiculous it is to call a snake “cute”, I think it’s worth mentioning that everyone’s fears come from somewhere.  It might be an experience during the formative years of childhood, a reinforced impression that has formed over time or an isolated incident in adulthood, but everything that you’re afraid of makes perfect sense in the context of your life history.  I don’t know where my snake issues some from – maybe watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at a very young age – but they definitely have a valid origin somewhere in my psyche.

In modern life, we have many fears in common with other people: the fear of making a social gaffe, a fear of tripping over in public, or even a cold, clammy dread of falling victim to the whims of rail replacement bus services.  Having these worries in common makes for empathetic conversation and stronger connections between us, which is lovely.

Having said that, we deserve just as much understanding and compassion when we express fear of something that another person is not scared of.  Everyone’s fears are valid, even if we have no idea where they come from.  If we make each other feel weird about our fears and phobias, we are preventing ourselves from getting over them by making us deal with them alone.  Isolation is the enemy of progress, happiness and successful ball games, so let’s not do that.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Tuesday.

Unsporting Spectators

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Good morning, dear reader!  Happy Wednesday!

Today I would like to talk to you about the idea of standing by while stuff happens.  How often do we get involved with what’s going on around us?

I recently finished reading Giles Foden’s The Last King of Scotland, which is a bizarre combination of fact and fiction.  It faithfully describes the words and actions of Idi Amin during his tyrannous rule of Uganda, but the narrator is a fictional character who never really existed (although his experiences in the novel are loosely based on those of real people).  The character is a doctor, so it makes absolute sense that he describes the events in the novel with clinical precision and accuracy.  It is difficult, however, to get inside his head and feel that you know him.  Perhaps that’s for the best – his destructive and terrifying friendship with a dictator is not something that we necessarily want to sympathise with – but it was a bit jarring all the same.

There is also a moral dilemma afoot (that’s right: afoot).  Should Nicholas Garrigan (for ‘t’was the narrator’s name) have stepped in at some point?  He was afraid, and he was inexplicably drawn in to Amin’s web, but couldn’t he have done something?  He never says anything and he doesn’t try to create change in Uganda.  The British government repeatedly ask him to kill Amin, or at least to spy on him for them, and he refuses.  What a wuss.

I had a similarly irritated reaction to Robert Graves’ autobiographical account of the First World War, Goodbye to All That.  Graves was, I’m sure, a very brave man who fought well for his country.  Having said that, he comes across in his autobiography as a complete and total prat.  He has an assumed self-importance that some people get when they’ve befriended famous people, or happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Graves is like that about Siegfried Sassoon’s letter to The Times in 1917 – he essentially says “Oh, yeah, I was totally there for that.  Yeah.  Told him not to send it, actually.  Yeah.  Me and Siggy – we’re like that.”

Forgetting for a moment that Sassoon’s letter was a major turning point in public awareness of the horrors of trench warfare and the campaign as a whole, Graves’ approach repels the reader by making them feel that inactivity would have been better than what Sassoon did.  Garrigan and Graves – both too far from fiction to be ignored – are discomfiting people because they show us that not all humans are heroes.  We would all love to think that we would take action when faced with their situations, but the truth is that we have no way of knowing for sure.

Wouldn’t it be weird if Prince Charles finally got the throne, and it turned out that all those years of waiting had turned him into a crazed tyrant?  (Probably not going to happen, but something to bear in mind.)  How do you think you’d behave?  Do you think that you’d speak out against him?  Would you wage a campaign?  Would you help to save those who’d been mauled by corgis in the street for incorrect etiquette (or whatever his problem turns out to be)?

We have no way of knowing how we would behave in situations like that, but I think that we can find smaller ways to find out.  We don’t need a tyrant or a global war to show us who we are.  We can step up to the smaller, everyday moments of injustice, and refuse to accept them, like we do when we donate to charity or run a marathon for cancer research.  That is all excellent stuff to do.

Well, I’m off to the Post Office, because my life is thrilling like that.  You have an absolutely cracking Wednesday.

Jack Sparrow Knows His Stuff

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Good morning, you fabulous creature!  How’s your bank holiday weekend treating you so far?

Today I’d like to talk to you about something that I think worries all of us: timing.  It’s the secret of good comedy, good cooking and a happy social life, and sometimes it completely eludes us.

It might surprise you to learn that I very much enjoy the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, even though Keira Knightley features quite heavily in it.  (My only explanation for this anomaly is that she spends most of the film being slapped by pirates or made to walk the plank, so maybe that’s why I’m ok with it.)  Anyway, despite being pretty infuriating, Jack Sparrow is an incredibly compelling character – which is probably helped by the fact that he’s portrayed by the wonderful Johnny Depp – who came out with a line that I think we could all learn from: “Wait for the opportune moment.”

I think that a lot of us live in fear of timing things badly.  We hate to miss out on anything, and the idea of a lost opportunity is horrifying.  In many cases we are just plain impatient.  Friends as young as twenty-two talk to me about not wanting to have regrets on their death bed, which is understandable (if a little morbid at their age).  That’s why we sometimes stay out longer than we mean to, or go to that party that we know we won’t enjoy.  It’s why we apply for all kinds of jobs, regardless of whether they’re the right ones, and why we travel all over the world.  We want to know everything, see everything and miss out on nothing.  That’s a lot to ask of ourselves.

Of course we should take opportunities, but I think that we should take them out of joy and optimism rather than fear of regret.  Grabbing everything that comes your way can be incredibly rewarding, but it might not leave you much time to stop and appreciate where you are.

We don’t have to do everything right now.  We don’t have to achieve all of our life goals right this second, and we don’t need to have done everything we ever wanted to do by the end of the week.  Watch this – Bill Bailey knows what I’m talking about.

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely think that you should pursue your passion, go to the places you’re curious about and live life to the full, but don’t worry so much.  What’s the point of rushing around taking all of life’s chances if you’re not stopping to enjoy them?

Take it from someone who has a history of rushing into doing and saying things at the wrong moment: you’ve got time.  Wait for the opportune moment.  If you think you’ve missed one, don’t panic.  There will be another one along very soon.

Have a brilliant Saturday!  Maybe treat yourself to the posh coffee today.  Why not?  You deserve it.

We Are the Foolish

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Good morning, reader!  Isn’t it gorgeous out there today?  I love it when it’s sunny.  It also helps that Ash and I had one of our best friends stay over last night.  When we got up this morning I said the “Another beautiful day in God’s country” line from Hot Fuzz, which got me a slightly worried look from my friend and a reminder that our teeny tiny flat is not an actual country.  Unfortunately this turns out to be true.

So today is April Fools’ Day, a bizarre tradition which apparently originated in Roman times and has something to do with New Year’s Eve being celebrated in March by our friends across the Channel.  I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about today, probably because at our age my friends and I don’t have the time or inclination to think up witty pranks.  I’m definitely not complaining about that; life is confusing enough as it is without my friends thinking of ingenious ways to baffle me further.  I’m not even supposed to cross roads unsupervised, for heaven’s sake.

Besides, feeling foolish is not something that’s restricted to this day of the year.  Nobody likes to feel that they’ve been duped, but it’s all part of the human experience.  Sometimes we feel that we have been deceived into taking a job that turns out to be nothing like we expected, or misled by someone else’s feelings for us.  Deceit is a horrible word for something that happens all the time, whether it’s a friend telling you that an horrendous outfit is flattering, or a woman pretending to be knocked up in order to get a man to marry her.  (I’ll let you decide for yourselves which is worse.)  Making the discovery that you’ve had the proverbial wool pulled over your eyes is demeaning and downright irritating, because we’re intelligent people who want to be able to see the truth first time.

Like regret, fear and the inability to cope with emotional upheaval, we are reassuringly united by our dislike of being deceived.  I find it weirdly comforting that some of the hardest parts of being a person are universal, and that feeling isolated by your fear/regret/etc. is unnecessary.  If I had a pound for every time I’ve felt like an idiot I would be living in a mansion right now, but unfortunately embarrassment is not a financial commodity.  What I do have, which is much more valuable, is a fantastic group of friends who will sympathise, empathise and make me coffee when I feel humiliated.

You’d be surprised by how many of the smartest, best-looking, confident and talented people you know have wanted to curl up and die at some point.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that someone who seems sorted doesn’t understand how it feels to be foolish, and don’t be embarrassed to admit when you’ve been had.  You’re still a fantastic human being, and no one else’s trickery is going to change that.

Have something delicious for pudding today.  You deserve it.

P.S. the title of this blog is a reference to a song by General Fiasco, a band whom I heartily recommend you give a listen to.  Here’s the YouTube video of the song.  Enjoy!

Anti-Bucket List

Hello lovely readers. Hope you’re all enjoying your Thursday so far.

As those of you who’ve read yesterday’s entry will know, fear has been on my mind recently.  Today I’ve been thinking more specifically about fear as an obstruction: what (if anything) are you too afraid to do?  What are the things that you could be persuaded to do under the right circumstances, and the things that you will never ever do, really, stop asking, seriously, it’s not going to happen?

There are all sorts of reasons not to do something; fear is just one example.  There are things that we know we’ll never do because the right time has passed, or because it won’t ever come.  Money, geography, domestic commitments, embarrassment, sheer disdain and laziness are a few other examples of reasons not to do something.  With those in mind, here are my Top 5 Things I Will Never Do:

1) Go skydiving

I’m a wuss, I know.  The silly thing is that I’m sure once I was falling from the sky (aaaaaaaah) the experience would be incredible, but it’s the build up to the jump that I know I wouldn’t be able to handle.  The same thing applies to bungee-jumping, white water rafting, etc.  A friend of mine went to a university where they had a skydiving society (yes, really.  It makes the winter sports society from my university look like a chess club), and he absolutely loved going skydiving on a regular basis.  I have very clear memories of standing open-mouthed and horrified, phone glued to my ear as he gleefully described his most recent jump.  He also spent a lot of time explaining in great detail how safe the whole thing was, but I remain to this day mildly terrified that he did it and utterly convinced that I never will.

2) Learn how to boil an egg

This isn’t a fear issue; this is basic incompetence on my part.  There will be friends and family members of mine reading this one thinking, “But I’m SURE I’ve taught Vicki how to boil an egg at LEAST once!” You are all absolutely correct.  I have been patiently and kindly taught by all of you how to boil an egg.  Thank you for your efforts; you have all failed.  I have a bizarre mental block about boiling eggs.  I can make Sunday roasts for a dozen people, or whip up luxury chocolate puddings at a moment’s notice; I can make a birthday cake with my eyes closed and my cheesy leek bake is second to none, but for some strange reason, the mystical art of egg-boiling eludes me.  It’s a good thing I prefer omelettes.

3) Compete in the Olympics

This one will not come as a surprise to anyone, but unless “Speed Coffee Consumption” or “Most Accurate Gavin and Stacey Quotation” becomes a recognised sport, I will never be involved in this most glorious competitive tradition.  Ah well.

4) Understand physics

OH MY GOD IT’S SO BORING AND I DON’T CARE.  I have a mild interest in the more complex workings of chemistry, biology, astronomy and other branches of science, but physics to me is just the most monotonous aspects of existence made difficult to understand. Boring AND difficult?  Ain’t nobody, as a wise woman once said, got time for that.

5) Play drinking games

At the grand old age of nearly 25, I am definitely too old to play Spin the Bottle, Ring of Fire or Never Ever Have I Ever.  (Let’s not even think about this neknomination nonsense; it’s not worth commenting on.)  During my first year at university, my house mates and I unanimously decided to ban sambuca from our house after a particularly gruelling session of Gas Chambers; if you don’t know what that game is, I’m not telling you.  It’s a hangover in a glass, and the world just doesn’t need it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a pint and a natter.  On several occasions I have been known to enjoy several pints and an increasingly nonsensical natter; but drinking games are the playing field of younger, brighter-eyed and less inhibited people than I.  That ship has, thank heavens, definitely sailed.

In a way, it’s encouraging to think that of the five things I am most adamant about never doing, only one of them is down to fear.  True, ignorance and stubbornness are among the other reasons, but still.  It feels good to look at my anti-bucket list and see that I’m more stupid than I am afraid.  I think.

You and Your (not) Stupid Fear

There is a very specific tendency among my generation to find parallels in the events of our lives with episodes of Friends.  Many times I have been explaining a situation to a friend, whether it be a work issue or a love life conundrum, and as soon as I say the magic words “It’s like that bit in Friends when…” the other person immediately understands exactly what I mean.  It’s a bit bizarre to use a sitcom as a semiotic conversational feature, but there’s no denying that it definitely works (with people who are currently aged between 20 and 30, anyway).

My current situation is no exception: I am now unemployed.  I am excited by the possibilities that my new freedom holds, but also very scared.  It’s like that bit in Friends (told you) when Chandler convinces Rachel to give up her job, and when she starts to panic about her decision and he tells her not to give in to ‘the fear’, she cries “You and your stupid fear!”  That’s how I feel at the moment.

I think that fear is a double-edged sword (quick side note – where on earth did that phrase come from? Surely ALL swords are double-edged; a single-edged sword is a butter knife!  Anyway): it can be an excellent source of motivation, but it can also demobilise you.  If you can be afraid of something and use that negative response to fuel an active stand against it, that’s wonderful.  But how many situations in life do we really and truly respond to with that kind of maturity?  For starters, it’s a lot harder than it looks.

The writer and lecturer Marianne Williamson said “Love is what we were born with.  Fear is what we learned here.”  I agree with that idea in principle, i.e. that being afraid is definitely a response that human beings develop over time, but surely as a species we have evolved to have fairly appropriate responses to circumstances by now?  The fight or flight response still applies to a lot of occasions in modern day life.  The original “Oh-God-it’s-a-sabre-tooth-tiger-should-I-run-away-or-should-I-throw-my-spear-at-it?” issue is not so likely to be the stimulus these days; in modern times it could be the split second before a car accident, or the moment you realise that a shady character is following you home late at night.   But the actual response, regardless of the stimulus, is pretty much the same as it was when we first wandered out of the caves and started making kitchen utensils out of rocks. If the response has endured, is that because we need it?

Lots of people (including me) endorse pro-active responses to all kinds of negative emotions: anger, hatred, fear and even regret (which I wrote a blog post about for Empty Photo not that long ago – you can read it here if you fancy) can be used for the greater good in your life.  But the aspect of fear that separates it from the other typical negative motivators is that it deals with the unknown: if you are angry, you know why; if you regret something, you know what you regret; if you feel hatred, it is definitely towards a specific thing or person.  Fear, on the other hand, can be as vague and wishy-washy as it pleases.  And it can be very difficult to be firmly and confidently pro-active in the face of something that’s so flipping nebulous.

So fear is a learned behaviour that we probably do need as a motivator, but actually motivating yourself with it is a tad tricky.  I’m sure that everyone has different ways of dealing with fear and approaching its possible solutions, and I count myself very lucky to know so many freelancers (in the ARTS, no less!) who I’m sure will have very inspirational and encouraging tales to tell.  That’s not to say that they are all perfectly fine and dandy all of the time, thank you very much, but I know that they are all braver, stronger and more ambitious people because of their experiences with employment uncertainty.  I hope that they will share their wisdom with me, and that even if we never entirely rid ourselves of it, that we can all learn to use our fear.

Have a marvellous Wednesday!