My blog post about the book Becoming a Writer, called Daring to Act on Your Dreams sparked a small, comments discussion about fear, that prompted me to recall a wonderful essay on the subject called “Fear, I Embrace You” by Louise Plummer. (Thoughts of a Grasshopper, p. 71)
I can’t recall when I first read this essay. I know it was first given as a speech at a women’s conference held at BYU. Thoughts of a Grasshopper, which includes the essay, was published in 1992, so it’s been a while and yet I can still recall parts of it when fear rears its ugly head in my life. The other essays in the book are fun, but even if all you read is “Fear, I Embrace You,” it’s worth the modest price for a used copy of this out of print book (.01 plus shipping).
Plummer begins the essay talking about dreams, which is appropriate, because it is our dreams that fear seeks to kill. Plummer notes that “These dreams were my vision of a creative life.” Then she asks the question, “What keeps us from making our mark?”
She goes on to summarize the story of Icarus and Daedalus who were prisoners inside the labyrinth. In order to escape, they made wings using wax to bind them together. They flew into the sky, but Icarus flew too close to the sun, his wax melted and he fell to his death. It was often used as cautionary tale about not heeding the advice of the wise.
Plummer shares part of a poem called “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph,” a poem that “focuses on the exhilaration of flight and not the fall.”
Who cares that he fell back to the sea? See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down while his sensible daddy goes straight into town.”
(The Complete Poems [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981], 53)
Plummer goes on to point out that sometimes the creative dreams scare those who love us, that we fear they will “melt [their] wax and fall into the…lake.”
Plummer points out that much of the risk of living creatively, of making our mark only “feels life threatening. The risk is not death but disapproval…humiliation feels as scary as drowning.” In the essay, she details her fight to overcome fear and make her mark. It’s very inspiring and I love that she admits that she is still afraid; that she has learned that limiting herself “is more like drowning in an ocean than confronting fear…”
She writes: “Fear does not kill; it only gives you diarrhea….the really big fear makes me gag, or worse, throw up. I have lived through that, too, and…it’s good for weight control. Fear, I have to realize is my companion for life, and I embrace her. Fear has become the force that drives my creative energy.”
And at the end, she points out that when she is living the life she wants to live, she can allow others to live theirs. She doesn’t need to control or manipulate them into fulfilling some dream that she can’t fulfill herself.
Thanks to Plummer, when I feel fear rise inside me, I remind myself that it only feels like dying–that it isn’t actual death. That my dreams are worth the fear. I’m lucky that I’ve had the support of my family and many friends who cheer me on, but when I face the fear beast (in my case, the blank page of a new book or attending a new convention or sending a book out for those first reviews), that the cheering helps but I have to do it myself. No one can make my dreams happen for me.
So, fear. What are your thoughts on the subject? What’s inspired you? Kept you pushing forward? And to show my thanks, anyone who comments on a blog post in the month of May will be entered into a drawing for a $10 gift card from AnaBanana’s Bath & Body Treats.
Pauline Baird Jones still has to fight fear and yeah, it sometimes makes her sick, but she remembers Icarus and straps on the figurative wax wings, then opens up a file and starts making things up. Hey, its scary! To find our more about her you can visit www.paulinebjones.com There be book there. Brave books about brave people.
Dancing With Fear