Tag Archive: fear

The Learning Place

The labels I so meticulously applied to myself are peeling off. I’m not talking about those ubiquitous ‘Hello My Name is…’ labels you get at conferences and meetings. No, I’m talking about the ones I used to define who I was during my adolescence and beyond. Clearly stated in black and white with large bolded font I held these out in front of me so people would ‘get’ me. They would know where to place me in the scheme of things. I would know where I fit…if I fit.

Loner, writer, creative spirit, deep thinker…a fan of all things dark and morbid including the works of Sylvia Plath. A pre-goth Goth. That’s how I defined myself.

But then a weird thing happened. As I moved through the years, I found that those labels really didn’t fit me anymore. Maybe they never did.

I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh. Where did that fit in with my file of available labels? It didn’t. I need and want people in my life…another shocker. I’m not really a loner? Who knew? I’m a survivor and oddly enough an optimist. (Maybe the two are inextricably entwined.)  If you had asked me at age 20 if that was the case I would have fervently denied it – too busy being dark and morose.

I have spent a lot of my life running from my fears, letting them dictate the choices I have made. I have lost important opportunities because I was afraid to walk an unknown path. Lack of confidence in my abilities, my competencies, kept the voice in my head busy pumping out negative, undermining messages. My own Greek chorus of nay-sayers. What is the opposite of affirmation? I’ve experienced it first-hand.

The fact that life is not black and white, that it is mostly a study in grey was difficult for me to accept.  That meant uncertainty, insecurity  and that fed directly into my fears. I wanted to know for sure how things would turn out, like reading the ending of a mystery so that there are no unpleasant surprises. Ultimately I wanted a guarantee. Preferably in writing…

I never really met the criteria of society’s accepted roles. I love science and the arts, love figuring out mechanical/techie stuff, don’t ask for directions, rarely read user manuals, never daydreamed as a little girl of my wedding day…

I could go on and on about the seeming incongruities that coexist within my psyche. If I picture myself as a child’s drawing I see that I did not color within the lines. I still don’t.

Sometimes while talking with my childhood acquaintances,  I felt a deep separation between my interests and theirs. I am not talking sexuality here or gender roles, just about one little girl desperately trying to understand why she didn’t quite fit in, didn’t meet the norm of what she saw on TV or read or heard about from other children. The unfortunate but not unexpected consequence was my arrival at the reasoning that there was something wrong with me.

Labels may be an essential part of growing up as we search for an identity, deciding who we are and who we want to become . The downside of course is when people let the definitions imposed by those early labels constrain their growth as human beings. Hopefully as we mature they no longer fit, their simplistic one-dimensional messages chafe. We are able to let them peel off or choose to peel them off ourselves.

Unfortunately for some, this is a threatening idea, that people do not fit into tidy boxes. They feel life would be so much easier, so much more predictable if people would only just color within the lines. There seem to be a lot of these zealots in our country today and they are increasingly vocal. Theirs is a message of hate, discrimination and prejudice. We can not let them be the only voices being heard.

Chase Utley

Image via Wikipedia

Oh ick. What happened to my beloved Phillies? They are such a great team, what happened? I was so sure that not only were we going to the World Series this year but that we would win it easily. How could it be over so quickly? I am going through not only my usual end-of-the-season withdrawal but also now dejection over the dashing of my hopes for a 2011 Series win.


Now of course comes the long wait for spring training to begin. Worse yet than the waiting is the knowledge that inevitable changes  are in store for the team.  I like and admire all the Phillies players this year. That hasn’t always been the case. In the past there have been players who made me roll my eyes back in my head and groan loudly whenever they hit the field. But this lineup is outstanding not only in terms of talent but also as really good guys. Committed to the community, to the team and each other.  I don’t want to see anyone of them go. Yet that always seems to be the inevitable postscript to any season. The cautious shuffling of talent to find the best mix. I have to say Amaro totally amazed me by bringing back Cliff Lee. It was a wonderful and triumphant moment when Lee returned to the Phillies fold. I always love watching him pitch. And of course  there is Ruiz and Ibanez and Pence and Rollins and Utley and Howard and Madson and Hamels and Halliday and the list just goes on.

There is something very comforting about baseball. I love hearing it on the radio, watching on TV or best of all, hunkered in a seat at Citizens Park bellowing out a offkey but heartfelt version of  “High Hopes” in honor of Harry K. The mix of fans. I mean I like football too, but right now I feel disenfranchised from the Eagles. The organization has made some changes in the past few years –  letting go of seasoned and talented players, bringing in a quarterback with a dubious past. (The book “The Lost Dogs,” about Vick’s mistreatment of his animals is a heart-rending read for dog-lovers). I have also had some negative experiences when I attended a few games. A far cry from what I have seen at Citizens Park, the vitriol at a football game is shocking at times and toxic. To the point that I felt uneasy with the level of venom being spewed towards the field. I doubt I will go again.

Change has always been tough for me. Paradoxically so since I have throughout my life made a lot of substantial changes both personally and professionally. Yet when I see things change around me I feel anxious. It may be a momentary response or linger longer, but it does affect me on some level. It can be as simple as a  favorite store closing after many years (Wanamaker’s, Strawbridges).Or as complex as the continuing evolution of my chosen profession (PR) as new technologies take hold. The passing of men and women I view as cultural icons is always a shock (Steve Jobs, Paul Newman).

Change jangles me, reminds me that I am not really in control of the world around me. When I was young and frightened I believed if I kept my head down I would be invisible. Invisible to those around me, invisible to violence, invisible to pain.

Life just doesn’t work that way. I used to believe that there were really only two kinds of people in the world: those who view it life as inherently safe and good and who expect to be happy, and those who…well, who fervently keep an eye on the sky waiting for an errant satellite to drop on them. Knowing that even if it doesn’t happen today or tomorrow, eventually something bad will happen to them. Like a frightened turtle they keep their head pulled in and shoulders up.

The only thing is…what if that satellite doesn’t fall out of the sky and hit them.What if they have spent a lifetime hunkered down trying to stay safe, trying to be invisible. When does caution become a cage?