The other night I spent hours chasing a young Holstein around my yard, fighting fires that sprung spontaneously from the floor, and waking Sig Other to ask if he smelled the perfume of a woman whose spirit was haunting our house. Maybe it was jetlag, maybe too much sake before bed, but whatever the reason, my night was fitful and restless and haunting. Rarely are my dreams this memorable, rarely are they so vivid. Sig Other, of course, responded to my early morning recount by questioning, once again, why I do not have a therapist with whom to share my nocturnal turmoil.
The truth is I’m afraid. Not afraid of a therapist. The lack of a therapist is just sheer laziness on my part. The truth is I’ve been struck by a crippling, overwhelming and deeply unattractive fear of failure. And this particular fear of failure that has haunted me for the last few weeks isn’t the typical fear of failure. It isn’t the sort that leads to a workaholic drive that dare not speak its name but manifests in a 24/7 kind of manic frenzy. It isn’t the sort of fear that masquerades as self-confidence or the fear that is worn as bravado. This particular fear is far more insidious, far more unappealing. It is the fear that manifests in dreams of chasing cattle. It is the fear that can be smelled. It is fear worn as fatigue and dragged around like a heavy weight. It is red wine fear. Not tequila fear. And it is the kind of fear that is decidedly, uniquely and very seriously un-American.
In America, we pretend. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make like everything is ok. And then, somehow, miraculously, it often is. My fear is uniquely European. Eastern European to be exact. A gift of my ancestry. An unwanted gift.
What does this have to do with the Holstein, you might ask? Ah – there is a method to the madness of my fear. In my dream, the baby Holstein is left in my care. And I, in my American bravado, say, “fear not, for the yard is well-fenced and the calf will be safe in these boundaries.” But it is not safe. And the yard not as well-fenced as I imagine. In fact, the Holstein of my dreams is not content to be in my care but rather, spends its time (the time of my dream) running away from me, trying to escape through this hole in the gate or that tunnel under the fence. My dream is spent pulling the calf back and trying to understand why my dogs are of no use as I scramble around desperately attempting to contain my charge.
I woke up exhausted and afraid. What if I am unable to wrangle the task that is my life? What if I fail at work? And if in failing at work, I fail at my marriage? For who am I if I am not the girl (now middle-aged woman) who is successful at her job? Who am I if I don’t have a place to go every day that has very specifically defined who I am for the past twenty years? And why would my husband, why would anyone, love me if I am not that person who is “successful”?
I’m a chickenshit. My husband said it to me when I talked about starting a blog. And I say it to myself every day. The difference, I think, between the winners and the losers in this world is simply how we each wear our fear. The winners are just as afraid as the losers. They just know how to keep it to themselves. And so, I am determined to become a study in stoicism. My Germanic roots have long given way to a kind of modern honesty that I think has done me a great disservice. I vow from here on (or at least for the next week), to hide my fear behind a veil of attractive bravery. I will march forth, I will wrangle the baby cow, I will soldier on and be very, very brave as a way of wrestling my fear to the ground and not let it get the best of me.
Oh look – I just wrote another entry on my blog. If that isn’t, in some way, a form of soldiering on, I’m not sure what is…