Fear.

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I’m having an affair with Fear. He’s been with me for a while and I’ve come to depend on his voice and assurances like a drug. He’s raised my kids with me – he even attended a few parent teacher conferences, good fellow that he is – and he usually sits alongside me while I drive. He goes to doctor’s appointments with me and he always accompanies me to social gatherings where I am bound to meet new people and he spends the evenings whispering sweet nothings into my ear. Heck, he dropped what he was doing and followed me around the world when I moved to Asia. He can’t keep his hands off of me. We’re like that obnoxious couple making out in the dark at the movie theater or staring longingly into each other’s eyes while roller-skating to love songs. We are entwined, Fear and me.

Here’s what dating Fear offers me.

He keeps me from making dumb mistakes: When I am ready to leap before looking he says, Do you really want to ask that woman you just met if she’d like to go for a walk or coffee? She might think you are a friendless loser. When I consider initiating intimacy with my husband, he steps in swiftly with, Just turn off the light and roll over, Sweetie. Let’s not have you rejected tonight by a man too exhausted to think. Also, he’s probably noticed those extra pounds you’ve put on. When I want to offer my services as a fashion consultant, he steps between the woman and me and says Shhh! She’s going to think you are one of those pushy pyramid scheme people. Just let her go to Nordstrom! See, if he weren’t my boyfriend I’d go around making a fool of myself all the time.

He keeps me safe and the same. With his voice in my ear, I am able to plan, strategize, consider, ponder and talk, but I never need to act. Action takes risk and he has a no-risk rule and I’ve learned to follow it. As I lean toward a new direction, he forms a knot in my stomach. Lean back, the knot disappears. Forward, knot, back, no knot. Fear hates failure and he is always keeping me away from it. Don’t try that new exercise program because you’ll probably quit by the end of the week. Don’t attempt a new leadership plan for your team; no one will follow it. Don’t travel to that country; you’ll catch a disease. So I stay safe and just dream.

He helps me focus on the future. Fear is very in touch with how it will all turn out. He is sure and positive and firm in his predictions. And I believe him. He doesn’t need to wonder, hope or trust because he can see into the future and just knows. It’s spooky sometimes how right he is. I mean, we never really know for sure how other options might have turned out because we always follow his plan, but it’s because he knows best. He’s been a parenting coach for me in always looking ahead and deciding what particular scenarios mean about my kids’ future. He was definitely present and in agreement with the coach that said she’d never play in high school if I didn’t let her join a travel team in fifth grade and he was speaking as loud as my heart was banging about how the bullying would never stop for the rest of my son’s life. He’s keen like that.

There are some downsides to dating him, I know. My girlfriends think he is a drag and are so sick of my showing up with him at my side. And they swear, if I talk about him to them one more time …

He gets boring after a while. I have a taste for adventure and novelty and I want to experience everything the world can offer me. He’s a downer when it comes to exploring new places, new relationships and new opportunities. Always yap yap yapping in my ear about the what ifs, the shoulda-coulda-wouldas, the ways it might possibly tank, the embarrassment and shame I might feel, and how I might be financially vulnerable if I proceed. His routine is so predictable it gets old.

Giving my heart to him closes it to others. He likes to occupy my whole heart and makes sure there is not a lot of room for anyone else in there. He helps me read signals and cues that indicate others don’t like me, think I am dumb, are laughing at me or see right past me. Honestly, when I give him my ear it makes sense not to let anyone in. There are good reasons to be suspicious and I don’t like having a broken heart anymore than the next gal. I keep it closed and watch people walk by and sometimes I just wonder how my life could have been enriched if I let them in.

But the biggest downside to loving him is that I don’t grow. There is no need to attend any lectures or courses for personal development; they won’t amount to much anyway. Because I don’t seek out new experiences or meet new people, my viewpoints and perspectives are never challenged or enlarged. I have a hunch that there is more out there for me, but he keeps holding me back, keeping me safe.

I’ve heard Fear’s voice for so many years that sometimes I forget I have a choice. Sometimes my own voice offers up words I know would make him proud. Occasionally the people who love me want to keep me safe and whole and so they speak some of Fear’s best lines too.

I dream of breaking up with him. I wonder what would happen if I played the field and dated around. I dunno if I’m up for it though. Could be fun. I hear Hope and Trust are currently single, available and looking for dates.

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18 Comments on “Fear.”

  1. Jan French says:

    Wow, Joy–just excellent! Jan

  2. Jeff Spears says:

    Welcome back we missed you! I bet your boyfriend told you not to write us. You are amazing.

  3. Chata! says:

    That was amazing. I to am dating Fear. after reading this I also want to date around. I truly feel hope would be a better lover! I hear he is kind, caring and really builds confidence. But, how do I dump Fear. He is a constant. Always there. Lord help me. I truly need You to make this change.
    Joy, thank you so much for this! I did not realize how deep this relationship was. Love you from the sis in law club. Only 2 in attendance.

    • joylibby says:

      perfect love casts out fear… you are heading in the right direction when you begin a sentence with “lord help me…” always leads you to good places.

  4. Christie Lee says:

    I adore you. I love your writing, and I love your insight. Thank you, Joy!!

  5. Joyce says:

    Brilliant writing and insights. So true for me too!

  6. Winn says:

    Love this Joy and the courage and cleverness of it! Fear is a popular gremlin as you well know and you have put to words what many of us feel. Wondering if fear got any “smaller” after getting to know it any better? So enjoy reading your stuff. Truly.

  7. Liz Parkinson says:

    Very well written Joy and inspiring. I know i have some Breakin’ up to do myself. Miss you And hope you have had a good summer of travel and adventure and caught up w all your friends. xo Liz

    Sent from my iPhone

  8. Lori B. says:

    You are a world class communicator – in paper and in person. You have an uncanny way of opening your heart and as a results, it gives those around you permission and safety to do the same. You are hope and trust for so many others – I guess we’re dating you!

  9. Susan C. says:

    Joy, I LOVED it!! My relationship with that fellow is also present and I get so mad at him sometimes. I love it when I win a personal battle no matter how small. Nothing compared to moving to Singapore but I still get it. Just writing this will put a wedge between the two of you for sure! You might always pine for him but I bet that’s all his presence will end up being. Hugs and much love to you!!!

  10. Lois Sowell says:

    Joy that is so good. Thank you for sending it. Good luck on the MIR results.

    Ma


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