Things I'm Not as Afraid of as I Used to Be
For four decades, I basically lived in terror of the things on this list. Of course, if you'd asked me at the time, I wouldn't say I was afraid; I'd say I was "angry." But I was scared to death. I still struggle with these fears from time to time, but it's not as bad as it used to be. Thank God!
- •My wife being upset.I spent years in judgment of her for this: She's negative, irrational, needs to work on herself more... Then finally realized, "Oh - what I REALLY want her to be is blindly supportive, and emotionless. 'Cause I HATE emotions." I want the "sensitive male's" version of a Stepford Wife. And that's not her! She gets in a bad mood sometimes! She's allowed to, it's OK! It's even ENJOYABLE. This may have been the biggest - or at least most commonly recurring - fear on this list.
- •Death.Quantum physics/ unified field theory/ redistribution of energy stuff helped a lot with this one. But mainly, after a long, LONG struggle to get comfortable with "gratitude" (#blessed, right?!), I actually do feel like my life has been awesome, and every day is just gravy. I can get murdered by Jason Voorhees tomorrow and feel like, "Eh, I did fine."
- •People not liking me.50 people in the room, 49 of them like me, one doesn't. That one person got all of my energy and concern. Now I have simply run out of energy. No time to put on the most aggressive "nice guy" front of all time. Fuck it, plenty of people haven't liked me. And who knows, maybe I AM an asshole/ phony/ pompous douche. I've still got to get up and make breakfast for my kids and get to work, y'know? Doing my best, whatever.
- •People not liking things I like.As a kid, I was obsessed with Siskel & Ebert. If I liked a movie and they didn't, I'd be devastated. Then it was people close to me: "If you don't appreciate this thing I like, you don't really get me." Again - simply too exhausting to keep up this desperate flailing for approval of my choices. I like pickles. Valuable pickle-enjoying time is wasted by obsessing over why you don't like pickles, too.
- •People liking things that I don't like.If you like a band/ book/ movie/ TV show/ politician/ anything that I don't, you are very threatening, because what if everyone agrees with YOU instead of ME, and then YOUR opinion takes over the world? And the WHOLE WORLD ends up run by (gasp!) DANE COOK FANS?! Now - genuinely enjoy differing opinions. In fact, I find it boring when everyone agrees - like MSNBC or Fox News or 100% movies on Rotten Tomatoes. What fun is that?
- •Pop culture that I've been looking forward to that disappoints me.I would get ANGRY that a TV show I love produced a bad episode. Or a band's new album wasn't as good as the last one. Why? Because I had very few other sources of joy in my life. If the makers of the TV show were "phoning it in," they ruined my week! Bastards! Today, I have MANY sources of joy, and it's OK if a particular "Louie" episode doesn't meet MY standards (which, it turns out, are not the definitive arbiter of WHAT IS GOOD. I genuinely had no idea!).
- •The doctor/ the dentist.YEARS of avoiding these guys. Then finally bled out enough, gave up and started going. I had to employ an insane mental game to deal with the dentist, in particular: That I was a weirdo you'd see in a "Hostel"-type horror movie, who had paid for the sick thrill of allowing this deranged lunatic dentist to drill my teeth. Not the "healthiest" coping mechanism, I know, but entertaining enough to keep me coming back twice a year.
- •Terrorism.Read lots about our history of Middle-Eastern conflict, and watched all the amazing Adam Curtis documentaries, like "Power of Nightmares" (which is online now!). Context takes a lot of fear away.
- •Negative people.They're ruining everything! Everything would be great if it wasn't for all those negative people in the world! And other relentlessly negative thoughts! This is one of the most destructive fears I held onto, because it really kept me separate from people for a long time. I could ALWAYS find a reason to label ANYONE "negative." Have stopped looking for reasons. And, I never want to admit it, but... "negative" people are always the funniest. Always!
- •Positive people.Fuck them! They're shallow and dull! Remember when Tony Soprano called the cheery guy on the street "the Happy Fuckin' Wanderer?" Positive people were terrifying because they didn't seem to share my fear. Why couldn't they see that I was doomed, and so was the entire world?! Now I AM a positive person. And sometimes I hate myself for it! The Happy Fuckin' Wanderer. Fuck that guy (me)!
- •Other people getting attention that I'm not getting."Look at this fuckin' hipster." I was convinced that there is a finite - in fact, very small - amount of love and attention to go around. The guy at the cafe with the live lizard on his shoulder is DEFINITELY taking more than his share! So mock him, turn the crowd against him! Everyone should be small and cringing all the time, like me! Couldn't keep this one up, at a certain point, because I wanted to ask if I could check out the lizard, because it was actually pretty cool.
- •Other people getting success that I'm not getting.See above, but replace "attention" with "success and all the approval, love, money and sex that comes with it."
- •Making mistakes/ failure.I am operating at such a deficit at all times that I must never make a mistake! Then I learned the thing about Brian Eno, when he became a music producer. If a musician was playing a song and made a "mistake," he would have them go back and play it again, this time incorporating the "mistake" into the structure of the song - because he believed these "wrong notes" were actually spontaneity breaking through rigid "structure." Applied that to my whole life and wow, it worked.
- •Asking people for things.They'll get mad! These days, I fire off emails all the time, ask for help all over the place. If it makes someone feel overwhelmed and never want to speak with me again, that really is OK. (And never actually happens, anyway.)
- •People asking me for things.I believed I was so weak and helpless in this scary world, that anyone asking me for anything was completely overwhelming. That's why I love "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-style shows in particular, which are all about the insane "rules" we create to keep us "safe" from this overwhelm, and how terrifying it is when someone violates those unspoken "rules." Now I feel like I CAN help out when asked - and if I can't, I can say no. Much simpler. (But does not make for good comedy!)
- •People.I have grown to love them and be entertained by them. I see everybody as having SOME dignity, and don't look at them with contempt anymore for their "bad choices." And it only took 40 years of suffering and living in terror. Tony Soprano wants to punch my fuckin' lights out, life is good!