As I considered the title, for this article, I wavered. Do I use the word, fear, all by itself? Do I use the plural, fears?
I had no problem at all coming up with a list of "fears." When I considered my "greatest fear," what it might be, I had difficultly identifying and explaining exactly what I scared me, most.
I finally decided I need to know my greatest fear. Knowing my greatest, I can face and overcome it. I asked myself, "Above everything else, what is the one thing in my life that's really bothering me? What frightens me most? "
I resorted to write, as way to discover my greatest fear and, if lucky, find a way to exercise it.
I hope to unmask my greatest fear, revealing the identity of this life stealing, peace robbing demon. I hope to expose the deceitful tactics it uses against me. I hope to put it in plain sight, where you and I can see it, in its horribleness.
I need your help. In matters as serious as this, it helps to talk to someone. If it weren't for you, with me now, I'd probably not think about what frightens me most. I'd push such thoughts under the carpet; choose not to deal with it. This is what I've done for many years already.
Will you help me out, by lending an ear and an eye, for a few minutes, as I work through this? Will you walk, with me, down a road of personal discovery, to see where it leads? You might find it interesting. By doing me this favour, you might learn something about yourself. You may find that your fear is much as mine or not.
Sometimes I sense, if I only had the right woman in my life, I would be most happy. Her undying love and unwavering faith, in me, would drive me to achieve anything! Alongside each happy person, man or woman, stands a solid and continuing supporter.
Not just any woman will do. She has to be "the one." The one made just for me, and I just for her: soul mates and my fear. I may never find her.
Why does the fear of never finding her worry me? Is a life of loneliness my destiny, if I don't find here? Must I face the world alone; making it on my own? I don't know. Can I make it on my own?
I've never had any job satisfaction. All my life, I worked hard labour, to earn money. I had no interest the jobs or work.
My co-workers were all right, but I had nothing in common, with them. I spent my life trying to fit where I didn't belong. Trying to be someone I'm not.
It's a miserable trap. I can't escape from it. The constant need for immediate money keeps me enslaved, in jobs beneath my ability. I know I'm not alone. Many others sense the same dissolution. The feeling leaves us low, discouraged, and unmotivated.
Married at 18 and a father at 19, there was little time to prepare for life. I wanted to be a teacher, which called for education, but a lack of time and money denied.
In fact, I wanted to teach at the college. I wanted to teach literature, drama and music. The constant need for money, to support my family, made it hard for me to stay in school. I remain in the trap, of an unfulfilling, unrewarding, frustrating, back-breaking, degrading life of relentless poverty, 27 years later.
Here is my fear. I will never escape this trap. I will never become the person I can be. I will never answer my calling. I will never find the time or money to develop the talent, I hold. I will die, never having lived, only existed. I will never become the "me," I can be.
The one role I do not regret is parenting. I have three wonderful children. They are adults, now, but always the kids, to me.
Still, I feel I am starting to lose them. Years of separation caused us to grow apart. My personal shame and discontent in life, lead me to isolate myself from them.
I tell myself this is for their well being. I do it to protect them. I do it to protect everyone I love.
I don't care to load anyone, with my problems. I stay away from my children. I keep matters to me.
I tell them, always, how much I care for them. I tell them I love them. Still, I can tell, deep down inside, it hurts them that I am not closer, in their lives.
If I were to open, expose the hard reality of my life, to them, our bond might worsen. My children would realize, more than they do already, that I haven't lived up to my potential. More disappointment, of me, would emerge.
My fear is that, little by little, as time passes, I am losing them. I am losing their trust. I am losing their respect.
Last, but not least, is my fear about my faith. I see so many people claiming to have "faith," which obviously doesn't guide their lives. I am no different, which is unacceptable to me.
I have strong faith. I don't let it guide my life, which shames me. No peace, strength or joy flows from faith, if you or I are inwardly aware we live hypocritically.
My fear is I will continue giving in to the pressures of life. I'll continue trying to fit in where I don't belong. I'll continue trying to be a part of worlds, where I have no business.
My fear is I'll continue to abandon all that matters to me. That I'll continue to give up what I believe and live my life as a hypocrite, saying one this and doing that.
I've shared some personal feelings, with you. That's all right. It's time for me to get real. It's time for me to start seeing world, with 20/20 vision. Until I can do, nothing changes.
How does the saying go? "If we always do what we've always done, we'll always have what we've always had." There's safety in not changing.
I want a better life. I think I deserve a better life. I'm going to have a better life.
When I began to write, I had no idea of my greatest fear. I thought it would make for good writing, good reading and good thinking. Something led me to write about it. I hadn't planned it. I figured it would come to me, as I wrote. My strategy worked. I now know my greatest fear.
Complacency is my greatest fear. It wants to steal the potential of my life from me and everyone else. Its mission is to fill my heart and spirit with fear, worry and doubt. Its goal is to convince me to settle for less; much less.
Is it complacency that I fear most? No, it is not. I fear myself, giving in to complacency. It is so easy to do. Most times, we don't even realize we are doing it. Its suggestions are seductive and cunning. It's a fierce, ravenous opponent. It preys on our fears, our doubts, and our weaknesses. It attacks us when we are most vulnerable; especially, if we are alone.
Complacency wants me to believe I will never meet her. It wants me to believe my dreams are unachievable. It wants me to believe it's too late. It wants me to believe my family is better off without me. It wants me to believe I better take whatever I can get or I'm likely to end with nothing.
Will I grow tired of being alone and settle for the sexy woman, at the bar, who invites me to go home with her. Will I wait on my only? Will I give up on my dreams, settling for a job, at the plant, just so I can get everybody off my back, and the bills caught up? Will I continue trying to fit in where I don't belong because it's too hard to stand-alone, anymore? Will I come to accept the fact families often grow apart, and it's probably already too late to change, anyway? Will I choose to turn my back on what I believe because it's too hard to live that way in a world that doesn't share my beliefs? Will I allow fear of rejection, embarrassment and peer pressure to silence my faith or will I stand proud and strong, announcing it whether anybody else believes it or not? Will I procrastinate, and go on thinking wrongly, for too long, until it's too late to change?
I am a creature of free will. I have the freedom to choose how I will live my life, and how I will not. We have that choice and that freedom. The Apostle Paul wrote, in the Holy Bible, "Indeed the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. That which I would, I do not. And that which I would not, that I do! Oh, wretched man am I." As Paul, I am frustrated with me. I am frustrated that I am not always able to do right and make the right choices.
This is my greatest fear: that I will not do right, for me; for those I love; for the world around me. Making a wrong choice, one time, can bring much suffering and pain. I've done enough of that. I don't want to do it, anymore.
Now, I know my greatest fear. Now, I know its name and purpose. Now, I can call it out of the dark closets, of my heart, where it hides. I can look at it in the eye. I can tell it that it's a liar and a thief. I can defeat complacency, if I choose.
M Adam Roberts lives and writes from Clearwater, Florida.
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