The Fear

by Lo on July 6, 2010

I had a meltdown yesterday. It came and went in waves, but pretty much lasted all day and continued well into the evening.

It consisted of sporadic, uncontrollable bouts of crying; a stuttering, uncatchable breath; and a heaviness in my chest that felt like someone reached in my there, took a hold of my heart, and just squeezed. This unsettling sense of panic sounds like, well, a panic attack, but Ben and Zach familiarly refer to this feeling as The Fear, which seems to more appropriately suit the symptoms.

The funny thing is, one might assume that my day with The Fear tagging along was brought on by the realization that I’m having a baby in two weeks. That perhaps the imminent life upheaval, or our financial situation, or the actual physical birthing event was weighing on my mind; but what freaked me out had nothing to do with my pregnancy.

I guess I stepped outside of my body for a moment and looked at my life and what I have become and I got upset. I am 31 years old. I am a waitress. That is what I do. That is who I am. And it is light years away from who I thought I would be.

I had such grand dreams–I really thought I was destined to be something great in this life. I was convinced I would be a succesful freelance journalist, an acclaimed story writer, an award-winning screenwriter. Furthermore, on the side, I was going to change the world. I was going to help people and animals and the earth.

The thing that makes how it all turned out difficult to accept is that, unlike a lot of people I know, I actually went out there and tried to do these things. I fled the guarantee of a comfortable, safe life with the idea that if I went out and did, I would become. But it didn’t happen that way.

I took off to Brazil and worked in an orphanage and considered–for real–taking one of the kids home. I actually researched adoption and called the embassy and told my family to get ready to welcome Caiu into their lives. Then I realized nobody was going to let a 24 year old jobless, single woman just swoop in, grab a kid, and head back to America. Who was I kidding anyway? Who did I thinking I was saving? Myself, from guilt? My experience in Salvador jaded me. I remember thinking that if things were that bad in Brazil, how tragic some other places out there must be. What was the point? I realized nothing I could do would impact the world in any significant way so I just wanted to forget about it. I stopped reading the news, I stopped following politics, I stopped learning. I stopped caring.

And yesterday, for some reason, that made me so sad.

After that I worked my way into a New York City magazine job with no experience, no degree in journalism or writing. I convinced my editors to give me a chance to write a few articles and proved that I was capable. I thought I had a golden ticket, that my clips and my editors were only going to propel me further. But I found that branching out and pitching to other magazines wasn’t so easy. I found that my handful of published articles weren’t enough or suitable as sample pieces, and that even the editors that believed in me, that actually praised my talent and told me to not give up, were only going to praise me and tell me not to give up. They didn’t seem to have the time or interest in helping me navigate the industry.

And then it was off to Los Angeles, first draft of an original screenplay in hand. I spent over a year working on it, and despite my disappointment with freelance writing, I was confident that if I moved to Hollywood to float amongst agents and producers and actors and writers and just handed my script to people, someone would believe in it as a project. Little did I know that there were more hopeful writers in LaLa Land than there were even struggling actors. And now its been two years. I’ve rewritten it three times. I’ve shared it with a handful of people who can’t help me. I’m ready to pull it up on my computer and hit delete. If becoming successful in Hollywood were a tennis match, I’m wielding a badminton racket. I don’t have the necessary stamina, the unrelenting drive for this place.

And then there’s fiction. I’ve written a few stories that I am proud of, that I’ve worked hard on in workshops and on my own, but breaking into the literary world is tough. I used to think I’d write a novel someday. That someday is quickly becoming neverday. Spending years on another project that will sit in the unfeeling soul of my Mac is just not something I am up for.

I guess yesterday I was feeling jipped. Like the rule that if you try, try, try you will succeed was an outright lie. And I fell for it.

While Ben was off tattooing late last night, Zach and I went for a walk.

“I’m miserable,” I said.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because I feel so unfulfilled.” I paused. “I mean, aside from Ben, our daughter, you, my family, friends…I’m totally, totally unhappy.”

Zach looked at me. “So, aside from everything that really means anything,” he clarified matter-of-factly.

I looked back at him. I considered his interpretation. I shrugged.

We walked for a long time.

When I went to bed, The Fear settled at the foot of my bed, still present but not crowding me.

And when Ben got home, he must not have seen it, because he sat right on it and squished it.

Today feels better.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Edan July 6, 2010 at 10:35 pm

I’m glad you’re feeling better today…but I’m so sorry you had that freak-out! I think it’s to be expected, seeing as your baby is coming, and life as you know it will be irrevocably changed. That’s sure to bring on both excitement and fear, no matter how in love with your baby you are already…

That said, I think it’s easy for us to believe that when we become mothers everything else stops. That simply isn’t true. I don’t speak from experience, but I do know a lot of kick-ass mothers who continued to follow their dreams once they had a kid. You were a writer before you got pregnant, you’re a writer now, and you’ll be a writer after your daughter is born. Dreams don’t die when a baby is born!

I think these fears tap into what a lot of women and men grapple with as they age, as they face big life changes like marriage, parenting, a move, and so on. If you were writing a book about your experience, you might want to start with this moment of fear, right before the baby’s born…and then…go back in time…to the beginning, when you first learned you were pregnant. Just a structural suggestion, that is…if you were writing a book…!

Katie July 7, 2010 at 12:11 am

I don’t know you, or have any advice to share that would ease your tension or fear. But, I have been reading your blog for months and find it entertaining, funny and honest. Thank you for the entertainment. I have a six month old daughter and can’t wait till you write about your six month old.

You seem like a really great person. Life will work out.

Paul E. Sanderson July 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm

“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” And from what I know about you I see you as determined. Paul E.

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