Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What I am afraid of admitting I am afraid of

Today I made a list. For those of you who know me, this would come as no surprise. But this was no ordinary clean-out-the-fish-tank-filter type of list. I started compiling a list of everything I could possibly think of that makes me afraid.

We all fear things; fear is one of our most basic emotions and it fuels our paths through life, whether or not we decide to use it to our advantage. But we are often afraid (puns come free with this post) to admit the things we are afraid of. Many of us try to perform activities that conquer our fears, or take us out of our comfort zones. Yet half the time I feel I am afraid of so much, from the mammoth to the minute, that I don't know how to go about conquering anything. We are told to "face" our fears, but how do we take this metaphorical advice and turn it into something tangible, something we can hold in our hands?

Make a list, of course!

So I did, and the results were enlightening to say the least. I suggest you try this exercise: either type or handwrite (whichever you feel more comfortable with), stream-of-consciousness style and without stopping for 5 minutes, a list of anything that you are afraid of...anything! I started my list with the phrase, "I am afraid of," and went down the page from there. See what you come up with; you may arrive at some interesting conclusions. I won't share with you my whole list, since some of it is intensely private - and that's the point of making the list - but I will feature a few items that I found to be of interest to demonstrate the variety of fears my brain conjured up with only a bit of coaxing:

I am afraid of:

  • My dog chasing a squirrel into a busy road
  • Cellulite
  • Global warming
  • Not helping other people enough
  • Worrying too much
  • Responsibilities
  • Being too much like myself (??)

Can you relate to any of these? I have found, since compiling my fears into somewhat of a tally, that I can now try to connect the dots and see which fears directly affect the others and so forth. I hope to be able to make some concrete observations about how I react to forces that influence my every-day life, then make a plan of action to work toward either letting some fears go, or using them to my advantage. I also suggest adding to the list whenever something pops into your head. Or try the exercise from time to time and see how your fears change or disappear.

Please feel free to share any of your findings if you try this exercise. I'll be interested to see if anyone else benefits from it as I have. Don't be scared, give it a try!

(Aren't free puns great?)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Summer Holiday

Photo by Ryan Smith

The lake bottom is cocoa brown as my canoe whispers through the water above it; my oar is a spoon in silky hot chocolate. The tips of pine trees cast patches of morning sun along the edges of the bank as I peer down into the water. A glimmer of something in the muck catches my eye, perhaps a remnant from one of our many water games over years of summers here. I pass over a twisted log that has lived at the silty bottom as long as I can remember, like an ancient, slumbering frog that we imagined might suddenly open its lake-scum eyes as we dove down just for the scare of it and swam back up again, reaching for the safety of the sunny sky above. This sludgy floor is the dusty treasure chest holding all the mysteries, dreams, and memories of every sunrise and sunset between the months of May and August during every summer of my life at Highland Lake in Northern Pennsylvania.

Summers cannot exist without the lake, and the lake cannot exist without summers. Our time spent here is a sensual experience through and through. The season is allowed to fully bloom into itself, and so are we – my Parents, Siblings, Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents, who congregate here every year for days and days of summertime delight. The lake enkindles each of our senses: a bare foot padding over damp earth and moss, the wind chimes twinkling in the boat house as waves lap softly against the bow of the sailboat, chicken “speedies” on the grill (a local favorite) with peachy Finger Lakes wine, the gray outlines of bats swooping between the pines and over the water as the sun sets behind the trees, and the smell of the wood stove in the cottage on cool days. All these experiences exist for us now and tomorrow, but they are also steeped in the past, conjuring up memories that enrich every moment.

Each of us has a special place we long for or go to for refuge from the big, wild world. It may be as vast as a park or as small as a pleasant corner or sitting area in the house. Highland Lake serves this purpose for me; I know my family members who stay at the lake during the summers would say the same. We are so lucky to have it. Where is your special place in the world?

Please note: I apologize for having been away from my blog for a good while...I have no other excuse than that I was at the lake. I hope to get back to my regular writing schedule now that the summer holidays are winding down. Thanks as always for reading!