Sunday, February 06, 2005

On Fear, Courage and Change:
Writing in Lieu of—or As—Meditation

Originally uploaded by S u e s s.

Yesterday I thought I'd like to attend the Quaker meeting in La Jolla today, and I sort of prepared myself for it. I say "sort of" because I think if I'd really prepared myself for it I wouldn't have fallen asleep on the couch, woken up around 2:00 a.m., wondered if I even had anything clean to wear to the meeting, gone back to sleep around 5:00 a.m. and hit the snooze button on my clock a few times when it started buzzing at 7:30 a.m.

I mean, does that sound like someone who wants to go?

I wound up getting out of bed around 8:30 a.m., turning on the computer with the intention of looking up the proper directions to the meeting house, then messing around with email until about 9:00 a.m.—the time that I knew it would be too late to comfortably get ready and arrive in time. Somewhere in my semi-not-un-conscious, I knew if I waited long enough it would be too late and the decision not to go with be mostly out of my hands.

My son's dad would say this is how I had the baby. "You were fearful! You fought it! You went kicking and screaming all the way!" he has said, not referring to labor, but to the nine months leading up to the grand event. His opinion is irrelevant. He's often criticized me as a means of deflecting attention from his own shortcomings and insecurities; it's taken me a while to learn this.

Just the same, he's wrong. I made the decision to have the baby—our beautiful son—the minute the lines appeared on the stick. I'd sat on the edge of the cold bathtub that morning, waiting as my son's dad slept, and when I could wait no longer (much less than the recommended five minutes), I peeked. Pregnant. I knew then that my life would be changed forever. It was as if I were suddenly whisked down a tunnel of sorts, to a life I'd only half-imagined. Really, it was a physical feeling, and my surroundings and my life literally snapped into sharper focus. I don't think I ever considered not having the baby.

Yes, there were some moments when my son's dad was being less than wonderful and I doubted my decision, but I never doubted it more than a few minutes. I never imagined not having the baby, regardless of whether or not my son's dad shaped up.

And yes, I was terrified all the way. Terrified into paralysis at times. If you read our court papers you will learn I didn't pack my hospital bag (somehow a sin or indicator of parental and overall incompetence, according to my son's dad), although in hindsight I see that it wouldn't have mattered if I had.

I've sometimes wondered, particularly after one of my son's dad's accusations of being fearful, what courage is. Is it not being afraid, or is it being afraid and acting from one's heart just the same?

(Yes, terminating a pregnancy can sometimes be the right decision and I don't mean to imply that it is not also courageous to do so. I don't know what's right for others in most regards and I try to leave it to them to figure out. Sometimes I do well at this and sometimes I think I need more practice.)

There's a lot of value in the expression, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."

I have some changes coming up that scare me, but they need to happen if I'm to live as a whole person. (No, I'm not pregnant.) I'm not wild about change; I prefer to have things sorted out and then operate within the framework I've set up. It's hard for me to take the steps necessary to change, and I fear I may put things off until it's too late to take the steps...and the decision will have been made for me.

I don't want that to happen.

Luckily I have some people in my life who support what I'm about to do, to the point of physically being with me as I navigate the options. That is the purest kind of support—the kind that actually brings tears to my eyes. Still, I'm the one who will have to do the work.

I must make it happen, and I must not wait too long.

I am afraid, and it is okay.

Fear is not the end of the story.