I can very much relate to these lyrics from the Indigo Girls have sung, …”and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear And I wrap my fear around me like a blanket, I sailed my ship of safety till I sank ii, I’m crawling on your shores

People think I am fearless. Truth is, people sometimes mistake my eagerness and my zest for adventure as a lack of fear.  They see me climbing steep mountains, parasailing, riding in two seater planes, snorkeling in the deep sea,  jumping from the high board, and assume I am never afraid.  I do not even get frightened of presenting in front of an audience of strangers.  So others see my confidence and courage to do things as fearlessness. Not so. 

Truth is, I am afraid all the time.  Afraid of making mistakes.  Afraid of pissing people off.  Afraid of saying the wrong thing.  Afraid of losing a friend.  Afraid of getting into an argument whether or not I think I can win it. 

While I am not afraid of doing scary things, I am always afraid of encounters gone bad. Why is it that I am willing to ride a speed car around the track at 150 mph, but have a fear of talking to children about something bothering me.  How come I can risk a 5,000 foot high aerial rope course or zip line, but be worried about my son coming to visit.

But what I have recently come to realize is that my fear is a good thing.  It keeps me on my toes.  It makes me cautious and careful around people.  For someone always eager to make personal connections with people, I can say the wrong thing a lot.  I can be too honest, too forthcoming and too direct.  That has gotten me into trouble.  I am someone who says when I am hurt or angry.  I lose my temper.  Often what happens is my reactions cause problems.  People get upset with me.  They do not want to hear that something in our encounter has bothered me.  Some people find raised voices difficult to bare.   I have been like this as long as I can remember, getting myself into battles with loved ones and friends just because we see things differently and because of the manner that I can communicate my disagreements.

This goes for people I do not know as well.  If a salesperson, for instance, is short or rude with me, I will sometimes call them out for it.  But invariably, that will lead to a hostile argument with that person, which I hate more than anything.  I simply cannot tolerate conflict either with people I know, or people I do not know. 

My aversion to conflict has made me afraid of encounters with people.  And that fear is protective.  It is something that makes me handle things in a more careful manner.  I go over in my head the conversations that have gone badly.  I analyze those situations where I said what was on my mind and it did not go well.  That has led me to be hypersensitive to try to avoid incidents and conflict.  I wrap my fear of insulting people or saying the wrong thing around me like a blanket, to protect myself from hurting them (which will lead to me getting stung back).  I am vigilant about not getting into fights where I can help it.  I try so hard to be sweet and understanding and most of all agreeable.  And, in those circumstances where I cannot help it, where my anger, my impatience or my self-righteousness gets the best of me, I later regret that I had not acted with the caution that my fear may have prevented.

Give me a high wire, and I will walk across it.  Ask me to bungee jump and I will.  Jump from a plane?  No problem.  Ask me to speak in front of a crowd of 1,000 people, and I will oblige. 

But set me loose in a conversation with someone who does not appreciate my opinion or may disagree with my perspective, and I will approach it with trepidation.  I am learning.  I do not dread personal interactions because I treat them as fragile, and handle with care, with an inner warning of what could go bad. 

I cannot wait for someone to invite me to go swim with sharks in the Pacific.  No Fear.  But invite me to a meal out with someone with whom I may have a disagreement, I will be afraid to say the wrong thing.  So, I will keep that blanket of fear around me just in case.  

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