Thursday, September 19, 2013

Facing Fear

My second voice lesson was scheduled for this evening. Unlike last week’s, which focused on breathing techniques and scales, tonight I would actually have to sing. An entire song or two. By myself. In front of a near stranger.

Early this afternoon I got a call from my instructor. I felt a huge rush of relief when I heard her voice, certain she was calling to cancel. Instead, she said she had another commitment and wondered if I could come just a bit earlier. Rather than postponing or indefinitely cancelling this experience I so dreaded, I’d be facing it a half-hour sooner. My stomach literally churned.

I relayed this story to a friend in my office.

“You should mention that on your blog and Facebook page,” she said.

I shrugged. “Hmm. OK, maybe.”

“No, I mean it. I think sometimes with your humor and your nonchalant quips, people don’t realize you’re actually afraid of some of these things you are doing.”

Really? Was this possible? Have I somehow come across far more carefree and courageous than I am? In the name of humor or a poignant story, have I minimized or even omitted the fears and anxiety that have accompanied several of these experiences?

As I’ve mentioned before, The 52/52 Project is about venturing outside my comfort zone. And with that, my friends, has come more than a bit of fear.

Sometimes it’s been manifested in small twinges of trepidation. Other times, I’ve felt a heaving sense of anxiety. Fear takes many forms, depending on its source and the particular situation.

Some of my experiences have entailed the fear of fear. Strange how you can talk yourself into being more afraid by focusing on how horrifying something is likely to be. Case in point: A Brazilian wax.

I’ve been terrified of the resulting repercussions. How could I protect myself on a police raid, if I suddenly found an escaping suspect’s gun aimed at me? As the SWAT team and vice squad stormed the front porch, it hardly seemed far-fetched. My blood pressure has never hiked so high.

I’ve feared failure, especially when an experience has involved my talents or skills—or lack thereof. My belly-dancing class was a hoot, in retrospect. But in the days leading up to the class, and in the midst of stepping right when everyone else was pivoting left, my frustration mounted. The fear of proving inept—and of being judged as inept by someone else—may be the primary factor that holds most of us back from trying anything new. I know it was the underlying reason behind my volatile stomach before tonight’s voice lesson.

Most of all, I’ve been afraid of not being able to follow through. When it finally comes down to it, will I truly be able to stand up on a stage and deliver a comedy routine? I’ve gone over this scenario countless times: If my heart palpitations don’t kill me first, surely the stone-faced silence of the audience will. And what of the fear of not seeing this project through to the very end? Of not finishing the book I’m writing? Of not seeing it published?

Yet, with each new experience these past four months, I have grown braver. Just a touch. I shrug things off more easily now. I’ve learned I can endure some things I would never before have dreamed of facing. I doubt anyone ever becomes desensitized to the anxiety of going outside their comfort zone, but each success—and even each failure—has taught me I just might be capable of facing the next.

Any exciting journey is filled with its ups and downs, its full array of emotions. Fear is clearly one. If we’re never afraid, we probably haven’t pushed ourselves far enough.

If we’re lucky, that fear is soon replaced by a sense of self-satisfaction and joy.

Am I finding joy and having fun on this journey?

Oh, yes. Yes, I am.

I’m afraid I’ve never had more fun in my life.

What are you most fearful of? Have you ever talked yourself into being afraid? What was the most frightening experience of your life that turned out far better than you anticipated?


  1. I think you've accurately documented the fear involved in tackling these experiences, but what wows me is how you power through them anyway. You're far braver than I am and that's why you're my hero.

    1. Bluzdude, you stole my line. I was about to say she was my hero.

      Sherry, I'm glad you're back blogging because I can't do Facebook!

    2. Powering through, eh? Yes, I'm like the Duracell Bunny--on acid.

  2. Great post Sherry and I think this is the essence of your quest: showing us that it's not all over around 50, that we can still change ourselves and evolve and not take ourselves too seriously. And fear is so often what holds us back in our later lives. Fear of looking stupid, fear of being misunderstand, fear of not making it. Fear of change. You are fabulously turning everything on its head with this project - with humour and verve that I'm enjoying - and showing us it's not only about getting up there and singing shakily, but it's about opening up, moving ahead, not having hang ups, feeling raw, being alive! Go for it, Sherry! Xxcat

  3. You're my hero, Sherry. Not for the things you do, but that you've chosen to do them.


  4. Powerfully written! It is what we each feel and think but you put it down in words and it has such impact. Hope to see it in either the beginning or end of your 52/52 book. Glo

    1. Glad it struck a chord, Glo. I'm guessing I'll work some of this in somewhere...

  5. Sherry, I love love love this post. I feel like I'm reading your book, chapter by chapter already, that's how good your posts are about the experiences. How much better is this story going to be when you shove all the pieces together AND do some rearranging and editing. I'm so very proud of you ---- proud that you're getting out and doing all of these truly fear-based activities, and proud that you can write the story.

    You go girl.

    1. Thanks, Teri! Just relieved that I've survived through a few of these experiences in order to write the stories...

  6. Agree with Anon - this was expressed so well. Thank you for going on this journey - and for inviting us along with you.