FEAR FACTOR

October 31, 2004.

Got back a while ago from wonderful film called Stage Beauty and am sitting in my study with a candle burning, listening to haunting music by Zbigniew Preisner. I feel productive, ready to create something meaningful, but what might that be? Underneath the anticipation of creation is an abject sense of failure. Every time I see another twenty-something author a brilliant film or book or album I feel time slipping away and the terrible fear that I will never accomplish anything worthwhile.

Several months ago a friend told me that I wasn’t committing to what I wanted because I was afraid of change. At first I thought she was out of her mind. I dream about change constantly. I want to wake up to a day that’s entirely my own. I want to do what I love- make films – and I don’t want anyone else telling me how to do it. I want to travel and stay up all night and leave routine behind. This life I live now has nothing to do with me. I get up at the same time every day, buy my coffee, take the train to a job that sucks away all my energy and creativity, and by the time I get home I’m too tired to read or write or do anything that I truly value.

I believe that we choose our reality. Even though it feels like I am doing everything I can, that I want something different for myself, I’m starting to realize how much effort is required to act on a dream. Thinking and wishing are not producing the desired results; it’s not working, so what needs to change?

Some people just don’t know how to claim what they want and I’m one of those people. I side-step my way through life, hoping to please, trying not to offend, terrified of saying, “this is who I am and what I want.” Why? What do I gain from this behavior? For one thing, it’s easier and safer to deal with the mundane than to risk failure. What if I call myself a filmmaker but fail to make a good film? What if other people think I’m a joke to even try? I always wanted affirmation from others that I was good enough to do the things I dreamed of. I wanted someone else to tell me that it was okay to go ahead, that I wasn’t kidding myself. The trouble is, there’s only one person alive on this planet who can give me that validation and she’s sitting right here.

In Stage Beauty Claire Danes plays the first woman allowed to perform on stage. She knows the theatre, is dying to act, has the passion and ability to bring something new to roles played formerly by men. Yet she questions herself and cannot deviate from how her favorite actor has played those roles, from what he thinks about a woman taking his place. But pushed to her limit one day, she explodes and says, “I always hated your Desdemona. You never fought. A woman would fight, no matter how much she loved him. If she was dying, she would fight.” And there in her own instincts, in her own heart, is the answer to how she will overcome insecurity and act as she was meant to.

Fear is our greatest enemy; I find that I am thinking and writing a great deal about the allure of safety and the ease of submitting to fear. I think the goal of my life is to rid myself of fear- fear of rejection, abandonment and failure. How would I act without those qualifications hanging over everything I do? I’m looking forward to finding out.

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