Tag Archives: fear

A Life Lived In Fear is No Life to Live

It’s cold and flu season, and I’m your canary in the coalmine. Got railroaded by the bug last week and I’ve been sick a full week.

I spent my weekend being The Human Spigot and exploring my all-too-close love-affair with polar fleece and cozy slippers, sipping honeyed tea and regretting food choices that turned me into The Loudest Coughing Neighbour Of All Time.

But all this time under the weather around All Hallow’s Eve has given me a chance to watch horror movies I’ve always been too cowardly to see. I was never a “horror” fan. But I never gave it a chance, either. They were scary, so, no, I wouldn’t watch ’em. Ever. A + B = Not A Fucking Chance.

Having crossed a number off my list now, the experience has left me sort of pensive after my horror-movie-spree of Halloween week. I still have more horrors on the trusty PVR, and I’m not worried about watching them.

I began wondering if maybe my fear of watching horrors was part of the problem with my general fears about life. If there’s any one thing I most regret from my childhood, culturally, it’s that inability to confront All Things Scary in horrors. I’m not sure where my apprehensions came from. Maybe it’s just demonstrative of my unlikely tendency to face fear in general.

It’s the cultural chicken-or-the-egg conundrum. Did my fears come first, or was it my fear of feeling fear?

I know that even today I’m a big old scaredy-cat. There’s so much I’m scared to face, so many excuses I find for honouring that fear and not facing those things which I should have the balls to face.

On some deeper level, this “I’m gonna watch horrors” movement I’m in reflects that I’m finally trying to do some of those things that scare me. I’m trying to take the scare out of the figuring, and make choices that don’t come from a place of avoidance due to fears. But, it’s hard.

A friend of mine does theatrical classes with kids and had a big scary day planned for his class today, but the asshats who run the school (and I know they’re asshats firsthand, having worked for the jerk owner myself) said it was “inappropriate” and now he’s doing a “harvest” class because the ghouls and goblins are nixed by administration. Probably partly on religious grounds, since I know who’s doing the deciding there. Whatever, lady.

When I heard about this, it made me angry. The thought of kids being raised coddled and protected, without the experience of being scared shitless, well, that’s not working out so well for me in my middling age, and I think it’s a recipe for failing the next generation.

Every kid needs to experience horror, fear, and the idea that Evil Lurks Somewhere.

Fact is, life is a big scary place. Evil is lurking. Bad things happen. But the further fact is, we usually outlast the fear. We get over it. Things scare the bejesus out of us, then we laugh it off, take a deep steadying breath, and carry on with life. That’s the human condition… most of the time.

Except we’re trying to handhold everyone out of fear — whether it’s Big Pharmacology trying to medicate the shit out of our anxiety or bubble-proofing kids, we try to “protect” ourselves. Don’t tell the politicians and the newsmedia, though — their whole industries exist on sneaking fear into our daily lives.

Today’s playgrounds — rubberized so kids don’t “get hurt” — are an example of just how ridiculous we are about life and its trials. God forbid Little Johnny should scrape his knee.

Personally, I know my stubbornness probably made it unlikely anyone would have succeeded when I was young and saying “No, I won’t do that, it scares me.” I wish I’d had craftier people around me that could have manipulated me past that fear. I wish my brother had taunted me less and supported me in confronting those deep, dark, scary places where having a big, strong brother with me holding my hand rather than trying to up the fear-ante might’ve taken the edge off things. I wish I’d had a lot of things, but that’s the way the growing-up-in-the-real-world cookie crumbles.

I think it  comes down to us being one of two types of people — either we focus on the exhilaration of relief we feel when fear subsides, or we get hung up on the terror that comes with fear’s rise. I’ve always been the latter, unable to get past the scare and celebrate how awesome it feels to realize we’re safe.

And maybe watching horror movies doesn’t mean a fucking thing in the long run of life. Maybe it’s a stupid waste of my time.

Or maybe it’s a sign that I’m changing some fundamental philosophies inside and opening my eyes to the reality that most of those things I’ve feared in life have been without point, and overinflated by yours truly’s excessive imagination.

Because, in the end, none of those movies scared me. A couple made me angry. “THIS? THIS is a horror classic? Carrie SUCKS. I didn’t even gasp once!”

In the end, the most common reaction I had, though, was that there was never anything I needed to fear, and I could’ve gotten it over with literally two decades ago.

Now I need that line of thinking to my day-to-day, because waking up on the fear side is no way to live.

PS: The Exorcist is still a fucking awesome movie. Saw it a decade ago and still love it.

Crisis of Confidence & Craft

My day daunts me. I must find nuggets of awesomeness that define me as a person and writer, deep within these stacks of posts. I’ve no idea where to begin. Other than the beginning, that is.

In the next 27 hours, I have to somehow distill all that I have to say, the whole of my dream, into one email.

These past weeks have been an endless parade of “terrifying” firsts.

My heartbeat needs a muzzle.

I’ll tell you more about this another day. Let’s just say I’m learning about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I’m sure a day will soon roll by where I finally feel like the scales of suspense are tipping in my favour, but this is not that day.

[deep breath]

[sigh]

I swear, though, the biggest lesson I’ll probably ever learn in this life, is that of reconciling how others see me with how I see myself, and striking a balance in there. I’m manic when it comes to my self-image. I’m either all self-love or all insecurity, and seldom in between. Logically, I know the insecurity is stupid, so I can talk it down, and I also know the self-love’s maybe a little over the top or biased.

I wish that was an easier lesson to learn. I wish it was easier to process in writing, too.

I can’t flick off the self-judgey side when I’m reading my old work. I can’t see past some of the stilting dishonesty I’m passing off as restraint. I wish I could undo my hesitations and get fully past the apprehension.

That’s where great writing lies. Ripping off the scabs.

I’ve come close on very rare occasions. Once in a blue moon I can extract all the marrow and get to the centre of anything I’m writing, but it’s so rare that it’s almost a religious experience. I remember those moments with the same intensity as I do a fantastic night of sex. I can’t explain that feeling, but, oh, is it rare.

I blame blogging for that, in some regards.

The nature of writing for such a short-yet-long shelflife is an odd thing. To truly edit well and nail a piece that’s, oh, 2,000 words, a few weeks should pass by. Ideas should be expounded upon or hacked as necessary, emotions redefined, words sharpened, ideas stretched or molded.

Writing’s like wine in that its aging process exposes its weaknesses and challenges its structure. When it’s young, everything gets a pass — it’s quick, in-the-moment, and it’s “great for what it is.”

But…

It’s writing.

It’s not just a second that flashes by. Well, it is… until it isn’t. One day you remember you have archives, you toggle through them. You stop on an insolently average posting and a sigh rises up as your belly turns and you’re forced to acknowledge you phoned it in.

You phoned it in because of some perceived deadline or stress, because some audience you might never know, never make money off of, and never impact.

A little restraint, a little time, a little longer pulling at those threads, and you mighta tamed lightning. But, no. So often have I seen something with promise spat out in mediocrity all because of rushing.

In the fast-moving world of overscheduled lives, pressing demands, and the promise of temporary, we bloggers cut corners and offer up lesser work than we’re capable of.

Or I know I do.

My average posting is written, edited, and up within the hour. Even when it’s pushing 2,000 words.

Excellence? Quality? Pfft, not even. I’m better than the work I churn out here, but there’s a limit to what I think you & this deserve. Deep down inside, a part of me thinks wonders why should I put my “A” game out just for some thieving hack to steal and publish elsewhere on the web.

But that doesn’t mean I need to bring my “C” game.

I’ve reached a turning point in the last two to three weeks, but it’s been a long time coming.

I want the blog to be more content-focused. I don’t want to post because I think you need another meal. I don’t want to care about your needs at all.

I was once told that Robertson Davies, the legendary dead Canadian author, said a writer ought not write until the thought of not writing became unbearable. I’ve never been able to source the quote, but I don’t really care that I can’t, because I love it.

Every piece-of-shit writing I’ve ever done was forced. Any crap I’ve produced has been because I’ve felt obligated and not honest.

Unfortunately, deadlines loom in the world of writers, so waiting for whimsy and her muse to traipse through that door is unfeasible.

But, in blogging? Really? Come on.

There’s no real reason any blogger should have to post more than 3 times a week. These people pushing for 5 to 7 postings a week, if not more, need to stand back and read the crap they’re writing. Seriously.

They need to look at it on a long-view and see just how poorly it’ll hold up in the passage of time.

Because I did. I do. I know now. I’m sad I phoned it in so much in 2007 and 2008.

I did what I had to do, but to whom did I feel so obligated? To you? What have you ever done for me? Really? Most of you sit there silently, paging down, reading.

And that’s okay. I’m happy you do. I’m glad you find worth in this. I want you to! You’d rather I write well than often, wouldn’t you?

But I’m not really obligated to you, am I?

Aren’t I obligated to the craft that has made my life what it is, that makes me who I am, and gives me these eyes I see my world through? Doesn’t it deserve better than the cheap and fanciful flings I have with it? Doesn’t it demand that I really rip into the truth and heart of anything I write on?

Norman Mailer tells how Jean Malaquais once explained the reasoning behind his life of writing: “The only time I know the truth is when it reveals itself at the end of my pen.”

Writing’s kind of this dream I have of life — it’s this place I go where things start to make sense, where the world has meaning.

“In the end, writing is like a prison, an island from which you will never be released but which is a kind of paradise: the solitude, the thoughts, the incredible joy of putting into words the essence of what you, for the moment, understand and with your whole heart want to believe.”

James Salter

Do most blogs feel that way for you? Do they feel like a paradise prison the writer at once loathes and loves their confinement within? Is it a place where journeys are taken and experiences shared? Is where you go to feel like an illicit voyeur with an eye on their innermost thoughts?

I wish mine were. I want it to be.

So I will write less. I don’t sit on posts, so I doubt you’ll see me writing and giving it three weeks’ barrel-aging before I share, but I will be more judicious about when I hit “publish.” I’ll be more considered in choosing themes to address.

I would like to see blogging evolve and become more literary. I think publishing, words, media, everything is changing so quickly that the only safeguard we have left is the desire for excellence.

For now, simply being better and judicious is a fine start.

In Case of My Death, Read

I’m familiar with fear. Oh, am I familiar with fear.

In fact, I’m not actually a person. I’m a giant ‘fraidy-cat. Yup. A pussy, wimp, gutless turd.

I do it well. Continue reading

6 Decembre 1989: Remembering a Formative Tragedy

I was 16 on December 6th, 1989, when gunman Marc Lepine stormed into Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, an engineering school.

When the blood had spilled and screams for the 14 dead women faded into muffled tears, it was found that the gunman had left a note explaining his actions — he’d wanted to kill feminists for making his life so much harder, thanks to quotas and changes in hiring practices.

bigI don’t remember where I was when I’d heard about the killings, but I remember slowly growing aware of what happened and why. I remember the confusion I’d felt as as a 16-year-old and the anger and fear this massacre opened in me.

In 1989, things were pretty “advanced” for women already. We had the old soul sisters Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin belting out that “sisters are doin’ it for themselves,” and movies like Baby Boom were showing that women no longer felt they had to have a man in order to make a “family” work.

I knew I could do anything I wanted to — that being a female really didn’t mean much anymore. Or did it?

Then, all my naivete changed. Continue reading

My Very Emotional Day

I should be bouncing madly, ready for the Von Bondies to take the stage shortly, but I bailed on my best friend for an evening at home, after a very emotional day.

Please comment, but don’t do the well-meaning “Oh, Steff, you poor thing” stuff, ‘cos that usually gets me worked up and thinking I should be feeling sorry for myself rather than succeeding being strong.

_________________

So, I know it’s a full moon night. I know I’m overtired anyhow. I know my week was daunting the fuck out of me to begin with. I know these things. I’m sure this is nothing. I know THAT, too.

Nonetheless, my mind went spinning a million directions. Tears were had. More than once. And in my open-space office, even. Continue reading

The Daunting Power of Love

Our young protagonist, involved in an unlikely affair with a considerably older woman, one that all outsiders would state an “obvious fail”, just shrugs at his dubious confronters and says, “I know what I’m doing. I’ll be all right.”

skeletonsdm060207_228x304And me, there on my sofa, I scoff and chuckle, “Oh, sure you will.”

Because I know. I know that, no matter how old we are, love makes bitches of us all.

Whatever your age, power status, social stature, or financial means, when love comes knocking and your heart starts racing, almost every one of us knows the cloying struggle between terror and exuberation.

My god — someone I like? Someone I need to be vulnerable for? Someone who’ll require me breaking free of my thou-shalt-not-enter comfort zone? Someone else to be responsible to?

I know all about the terror and the desire to run. Been there, done that. Yet it happens every time.

Why? Because I’m too fuckin’ smart for my own good. Continue reading