What scared you this year more than anything else? Did you learn anything new about yourself?
The question is a bit unfair to me. I think deep down everyone is most scared either of dying, or loved ones dying, whether they have reason to be scared of same or not. It is especially true of people like me who might be suffering from higher than normal anxiety levels on the whole. (See yesterday's post for brief thoughts on that.) So even if in a technical sense that would be the answer, I am not going to explore that in this post.
I think perhaps it would have been better had the prompt been "what did you fear this year more than anything else." Synonymous to most people, to me being scared is different than fear. The former is the result of a specific occurrence. A reptilian brain response to stimuli. Fear, however, is something more ephemeral, less immediate most times. More conceptual and more internal. (Though by no means less potent.) A fine line, perhaps, but I sometimes think my mind is a tapestry weaved out of fine lines.
So, while I can't say if I am following the spirit of the prompt or not, I am going to mention one of my greatest fears of 2011. A fear that was not unique to 2011, because it has been in place for a while. Ensconced in both my conscious and subconscious for years. It is the fear of irrelevance.
It is not quite the same as the fear of failure. Failure to me is humiliating, enraging, and far too frequent in my life. I am fed up with failing, and to an extent I fear it will continue. But I am somewhat anesthetized to it by now. (That's a whole other post for another time.)
No, the bigger fear is of my talents and accomplishments rotting, like so much corn in a forgotten and unharvested backfield. Going without attention and recognition for what they are, or what they could be with the proper help and collaboration. I have a great fear of my talents being unseen or unappreciated.
To not matter because nobody thinks I write well enough to be read. To go through life with unread stories, articles, blog posts and tweets because nobody out there thinks I have anything to say, and no style with which to say it. Performing in shows that nobody comes to see because my vision and talents on stage are not deemed artistic, creative, inspiring, bold or good enough. To be seen as someone who is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. These are some of my biggest fears.
I have always said that the two skills I have that have remained immune to self-doubt and outside influence have been my writing and my acting. I feel in a part of me deeper than I usually feel things that I am a legitimate talent in both of these areas. That I am quite frankly good, and at times great at both. When I have the proper motivation, venue, co-stars, and opportunities and such that is.
Yet I have a choking, bone-chilling fear that nobody is seeing that. An apprehension of semi-epic proportions at times that my pedigree, my credentials, my artistic educational provenance, to coin a phrase, has stamped, NOBODY across my forehead. A collection of scarlet letters that have the potential to fence in my talents, vision and creativity, and deem them of little worth. Confine me forever to a place where I am free to shout ideas into the wind, and be unheard, whilst the same wind carries the flashier, better loved, better marketed and sexier lesser talents into influence and stardom.
Have I learned anything about myself as a result of this fear? Nothing new, I don't think. It reiterates what this fear has always reiterated to me; I am uncertain if I have the luck, talent, strength, tenacity, nastiness, power or support to break through the coldness of a dark cynical and at times celebrity and credential obsessed world. It reminds me that I often see the world as a cruel, unforgiving, and destructive place for people like myself, with my given set of personality and talents.
At times I see a vision of the future, not unlike Scrooge saw, wherein the cracked, overgrown and ignored grave at the back of the obscure churchyard turns out to be my own. Not in regards to my life, but in regards to my potential. My art. My desire to tell the stories I want to tell. My relevance.
Can I, like Scrooge, alter this shadow? Is the shadow even there, or have I created a false image in my mind as a result of this fear of which I speak? I don't know. I only know that my experiences in life have lent themselves to incubating a real fear within me. The thing that outside of safety and health of myself and loved ones was probably my biggest fear, the thing that scared me most in 2011. As well as in 2010, 2009, 2008...