"Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength. " Betty Friedan

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Fear Factor: Yom Kippur 2015

I am not really an observant Jew, actually that's being generous, I am more like a completely non-observant Jew. I do usually take the day of Yom Kippur to reflect and "atone" for things that I wish I hadn't done during the year.  Or, things I did or didn't do to others throughout the year.

I am happy to say that as I have gotten older, I actually have fewer things to apologize to others for, but I am by no means where I want to be yet. I still get snarky, impatient and intolerant, though at least now I am aware of it when I do. As they say, being aware is the first step, but you actually have to change your behavior for it to count.

This year, I had planned on doing the same as I do every year: take the day for myself, walk and/or go outside in the garden or some other natural environment and write a list of things to atone for and goals that I want to set for the upcoming year and see how I am doing on those I set last year.

The first glitch in this plan was that I was scheduled to have a book meeting with our publisher and because I fear that I will not live to see this book published, I agreed to meet (see, I couldn't even go 100 words before making a snarky comment about the project that never ends). I apologize for that (whew, got that one in just in time before the atonement ends).

But, life had other plans and instead; about a week and half ago, I developed an infection in my wisdom tooth and on Monday afternoon I had it extracted and am resting and recuperating from the whole ordeal. So, while not actually fasting, being on a diet that's similar to the one you have in preparation for a colonoscopy, I feel like I am fasting.

As I have been reflecting on the year, and feeling sorry for myself because of my tooth, I found myself going further back in my reflections and I have been struck by how much I let fear rule my life. I realize just how much the things I did or didn't do when I was young have come back to bite me in the ass, or, in this case, the mouth. Too fearful to get my wisdom teeth out, because it would "hurt" too much, the pain from having that tooth infection was so much more severe than the pain from my dentist actually taking it out.

This fear factor is not a new revelation. When I turned 50 a few years ago, it's as if I had some sort of epiphany and I realized that there are so many things I missed out on because I was afraid. I was afraid to do things, to not do things, that I would make a "mistake," that I would hurt others for the decisions I made. It doesn't seem as if I made a decision based on any objective or factual basis, but only based on fear.

It was this way for most of my life, at least through my 30's. I'm not sure what the benefit of this new found knowledge is at this point. I can't beat myself up for who I was when I was young. There's nothing anybody could have told me that I would have listened to. It certainly wasn't for lack of trying on their part. And, me writing about it in the hopes that some younger person is going to listen and benefit from my "wisdom" doesn't seem likely.

But, whether I want to admit it or not, I am a writer. I write. I don't know any other way to do things. I write everything: from lists of errands and gift ideas for those I love, to book and business ideas. I even wrote down the times I took the antibiotic the dentist gave me for my tooth!

Once again, I let fear get in my own way. Maybe the benefit of this revelation is getting me past another fear, that I am not "good enough," or thinking I'm a hack because I am human and have not always done my best work when life gets in the way. But my mistakes don't make it any less true. I am a writer. I write and will continue to do so whether anybody sees what I have written or not.