Monday, February 26, 2007

fear, her cold fingers around my neck

I was afraid on our trip. And I feel somewhat ashamed in admitting that fear. I go to these places to be fearless, and yet, I feared.

That we'd be ambushed on a dirt road in the car, held hostage. Shot. It may or may not have been the guns. It may or may not have been the stories of not going out after dark, of the particularly high murder rate, of the gangs.

It held me back. J wanted to explore and I would hold back. Hold backing with the banner i am a mother now, i can't go around being careless and creating an irreversible situation that M will be stuck with. But truth be told, I hid behind that. The fear, see, was more irrational than rational. And if anything, it made me feel old.

Because the reality was that amidst all the stories of danger, the warnings, the words of advice, we saw not one thing to make me fearful. Never once were we in a situation that was dangerous. Not even when we were pulled over by the police. In my mind, for those few minutes, I thought, this is it. This. is. it. But it was exactly the opposite. Friendly words exchanged, allowances for the idiocies of the gringos, and directions offered.

Fear. It's a major obstacle and motivator in my life. One that has wasted time and space and living. One I hate to admit to.

Fear, see. She gripped me on this trip, out of my element. Not all the time, but enough of the time that it felt like the old wooden yokes I saw around the necks of the oxen the farmers drove down the highways. Like the bars on the doors and windows. Like the helplessness I felt when seeing the dirt floors inside the corrugated shacks where some women raise their children, unimaginable, restricting, shameful that any child must be raised sleeping next to pigs and on a dirt floor.

It's humbling, fear. It reminds me of my vulnerability and of my responsibility.

The question is how to harness it, to use it for light instead of dark. To make it fluid rather than dusty and welded to my ribs. Because in retrospect, I missed some things. And the whole point, see, was to not miss a thing.

33 comments:

NotSoSage said...

Amazing. And so true...

This was so well-said, Jen. Take it and turn it into light, and know that you are being the best mother you could possibly be.

Julie Pippert said...

Such fear hit me when suddenly I had more to lose than myself.

It's why I hate flying, now.

Fear can be good. You can make it to the good. And good for you working toward that.

I'm so glad you're back and had such an amazing time (from your stories), despite fear. :)

crazymumma said...

The yoke of fear...

parenthood changes most people Jen. At least it changed me. I know I come off as some sort of bravado chick over at my place...but I well remember my first nights alone at home with my babies, the cave type fear I had of the predators outside.

I think most people, once they have had children, tread more carefully, because there is always so much more at stake.

Right now, my heart is being pulled out of my chest watching bigirl especially, as she is starting to be big, to grow mentally and physically, and to negotiate that terrifying terrain of the schoolyard in a more complicated way.

I fine balance feeling the fear, the caution, but not being ruled by it, and most importantly not letting our children be ruled by fear.

I'm glad you are home.

Thailand Gal said...

Your caution is, of course, justified ~ in any foreign environment where we may not know all the laws and so on. And M. is a valid consideration, too. You are responsible for her. That's not getting "old". It's just wisdom.

Fear is what it is. It has a perfectly logical application and purpose in our lives. It keeps us from stepping in front of trucks and jumping off buildings. It's the emotional Will Ranger yell that keeps us safe.

At the same time, it can be a product of misinformation (or disinformation) disseminated by those who have an agenda in doing so.

I'd say .. listen to your gut. That is where the truth is.. and if you are experiencing fear, examine why and make a logical decision about its validity.

(sigh) Geez, did I just type all that? LOL


Peace,


~Chani

cinnamon gurl said...

Maybe some things can only be seen in hindsight? When we returned from our trip, I totally felt nostalgic and regretful for things we didn't do. But I KNOW I was ready to come home, that there were tiring stresses, etc. etc. etc. But my memory sloughed off those bits pretty quickly...

I don't think all fear is bad. But I do always get tripped up trying to figure out which fear is holding me back and which is fear is keeping me safe.

But I know on the plane rides I recently took, that I felt fear sometimes, but it was less scary with Swee'pea in my arms than it would have been if he had been somewhere else. Fear of flying is totally irrational, I know, but somehow it felt better if all three of us were going to die than if we would just leave Swee'pea orphaned.

Because the reality was that amidst all the stories of danger, the warnings, the words of advice, we saw not one thing to make me fearful. Never once were we in a situation that was dangerous.

We experienced the exact same thing in South Africa. Except that we stayed with people who experienced bad things, so we just counted ourselves lucky. But I do remember wondering if people weren't just a bit paranoid. Until someone told us about two separate friends who got raped in horrible circumstances.

All that said, fear motivates me and holds me back in a big way. When I have energy I push against it, and when I don't I sink back into it. And that's ok with me.

Hey, I nominated you as a thinking blogger... when you get a chance, you can check it out at http://writeabouthere.blogspot.com/2007/02/thinkers.html.

Hel said...

I am so happy you are back and would give anything for a shared beer, our backs resting against a cob wall.

I know the fear you describe, I think we all do. Looking through photographs for my last post I was reminded how fear often kept me from living the full experience. How I would worry what others thought or needed instead of just absorbing and loving the complete experience.

Your joyful description of the waves went a long way to curing the worst of my insomnia.

Deezee said...

After becoming a parent, our lives are so much bigger than ourselves. As a single parent, I measure all my decisions regarding my own safety against my responsiblity as a parent. It's not even a conscious choice. My son needs me alive and functioning and my carefree adventures of the past are gone.

At nineteen I jumped out of an airplane - parachute in place, thank you - and thought, "The worst thing that could happen is that I could die." I can't imagine ever cavalierly thinking that thought again. You have a lot of company in your shift.

Jenny said...

Jen, I adore you. Please forgive me for being absent. I've not been myself.

You totally nailed exactly the thing that I wrestle with all the time. The struggle to be a responsible mother while at the same time not limiting how I'm exposed to the world. Fear of not being a mother vs fear of not being a person.

A tricky tightrope. I'm still finding my way.

kgirl said...

You expressed it perfectly.
I spent a year in the middle east, and each time I spoke with my mother, she was worried, fearful, wondering if I should come home. I thought she was ridiculous; it didn't feel like a war zone, but I'm beginning to understand.

glad you had a great trip, and that you're home, safe and sound.

bubandpie said...

I don't think it's a cop-out, citing motherhood as the reason for your fear. The fact that you're a mother doesn't make the fear reasonable, but it is a causative factor: my mother never feared flying until she had children - the stakes are suddenly much higher. As they should be.

meno said...

I'm used to fight the changes that being a mother brought in me. I didn't understand that the world was now both bigger and smaller because of it.
I can't help my fear, just try and keep it realistic. Not an easy task, especially when my family is out of my sight.

kiki said...

as i've gotten older, i've become so fearful, it depresses me a little. my sister comments on it everytime we're together. i think a lot has to do with being a mama and realizing how precarious and precious life, my life, really is. it's humbling and awe-inspiring really.

mamatulip said...

Welcome home. :)

It's interesting you wrote about this, because I just read a similar (and very well-written) post about this over at Bub and Pie's place, and have been thinking about it ever since, as I often do after clicking away from her site. I'm of the same mindset, in that I think about things first with the knowledge that I'm a mother now, I have two children to think of, should I be doing this? Is it safe?

It's a fine line to walk -- not letting fear grip you so but making sure that what you do is 'safe'.

Z said...

Many would be afraid to make a trip like that at all, of course. I think that part of it might have been leaving your baby for the first time. It will be easier next time. And you'll be prepared, so it will not take you by surprise.

If it's any consolation at all, once M is grown up and you have fulfilled your commitment as a parent to a child (we're parents forever, of course) you will feel that freedom again. 'Course, you'll be pretty old by then. Like my age... ;-)

Laurie said...

I was completely changed after my son was born. You've said it so well, I can't add to it. Just know that you are not alone in your transformation and yes, I believe it is because you are a mom. Not a mother, not the person who gave birth to M, but her mom.

flutter said...

Well, if not missing anything was the point, you missed it first step out of the door. You missed M, immediately.
However, your adventure was exactly what you were in a mindset to accept at this moment. That is what it is about, this moment. Don't miss this moment worrying about those that have passed. Remember hugging a Canadian in the El Salvador surf.

QT said...

At least you are thinking about it. Your life did undergo a metamorphosis the day that baby girl came into this world, so yeah, things have changed a little. But you still went, right? Don't second guess yourself now -accept your time away for what it was,my friend.

Izzy said...

It's reasonable to have fear when you have another life to care for. I think living with a certain degree of fear is one of those things we take on we have kids; one of those many sacrifices we have no choice in. But yes, learning to harness it is the trick. And if you ever figure that one out, let me know. I used to be one crazy bitch who was 99% fearless. Now? Not so much...

(PS: I wasn't sure if you knew but I came in as the runner up in the STL award you nominated me for, which totally rocks! Thank you so much for the honor)

Izzy said...

I'm so sorry! You're probably scratching your head and going WHAT award? I had that blurb on my clipboard from a post to Pendullum and I accidentally pasted it in here when I was actually trying to copy my post because Blogger was acting wonky and not letting me do word verification.

KC said...

Jen, I've never been so fearful as since Joles was born. I think this is evolutionary or tied to our hormones, our brain chemistry of mothering. Guns, more so now, terrify me beyond comprehension.

Fear protects me. Makes me walk purposefully and quickly alone at night. Fear keeps me safe.

There are always pathological levels of fear but I don't think you describe that at all. Without healthy fear, we can't be good mothers, I think.

deb said...

The first time I thought about my own death I was 21, lying in a hospital bed with an infected episitomy and my brand new son was with somebody, but I didn't know who.

Our children remind us we're mortal. It's not bad, it just is.

Emily said...

It seems like in any unknown place, a little fear is good and wise. Perhaps keeps one from walking arrogantly. I'm glad your experiences were good ones, not reinforcing the warnings to be careful. Glad you're back!

lildb said...

how 'bout you cut yourself a little slack, kid? your trip, that two-week stint, is in some peoples' minds the dictionary version of brave. esp. given your current status as momma to a young, needy small one.

you're brave. in your fear, esp. recognizing fear is brave.

Deb said...

welcome home mama, despite your fabulous updates, i missed you so much!
yet....your moment in the ocean seems so worthwhile.
Fear is a bitch IMHO. i know the wise women who have told you it is what it is are right. yet it is true, the older i get seriously the more i feel fear. It has been the issue of my last year and still i sit with it.
stupid fear.

Lucia said...

There's the fear that keeps us safe and the fear that enslaves us. There's a fine line between the two, and it sounds like part of your vacation adventure was exploring it (willingly or unwillingly) and learning more about yourself through it. Travel stretches us sometimes and tells us more about who we are than we want to know.

Bob said...

fear or responsibility. How do you tell the difference? M needs you. It is easy to look back and say - there wasn't any danger. But that may not have been the case. You might have encountered the bandits. You might have been thrown into a cell, not knowing what would happen next. Like others have said, you have to have a realistic expectation of the dangers you're likely to encounter and weigh the benefit. Parents don't take risks that single people do. It is an abdication of your primary responsibility as a parent to blithely say I'm not going to stop living my life as I did before just because I have children. There are orphans because of this.

Life does NOT end when you have kids. But it does change. It became immeasurably richer for me.

Sober Briquette said...

Is fear an animal that can be domesticated? or is it a dragon we must slay in order to reap its treasures?

metro mama said...

Parenthood does change us. It's natural for you to be more cautious now, not a cop out.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Hi Jen, another Jen here. I didn't have a chance to read all the comments but I wanted to say: sometimes being afraid makes one feel alive. Once it's past, it can be invigorating.

Momish said...

It's kinda scary to hear you talk about fear. I am rather a hesitant and fearful person, so to me your adventures and such are the pillar of fearlessness!

But, the fear is there all along, I think. It is more about the courage to face them, overcome them and still have enough to seek out more that seperates in the end. I still think you fall on the other side of where I would fall! You are courageous, because in the end, you do instead of do not.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I hear ya lady, I really do. Fear is a bitch.

ewe are here said...

I think this kind of fear comes into play when you become a parent. I know I find myself worrying about the strangest things sometimes, all the while knowing I'm being completely irrational, but unable to stop myself.

A really thoughtful post -- you've really captured the feeling. Now I hope you can share how to take it and turn into something more positive...

karrie said...

I have not traveled much since becoming a mother, so I can totally relate to irrational fears. There is something about creating life that makes us so much more aware of our own mortality.

I hope the fear dissipates somewhat with time. I want to be one of those bad ass, crepey old ladies camping alone on a mountaintop when I'm 80, and not sitting in a McDonald's playing cards and bitching about the slippery sidewalks.