Good Morning America is my morning show of choice, I wake up to it daily. One of the featured segments today, was an in studio interview with Demi Moore. She spoke about her family and her new movie "Flawless" with Michael Cain. At the end of the interview, Diane asked her what her biggest flaw was. Demi's response stopped me in my tracks. According to her, her biggest flaw is "how much I can allow fear to dictate in my life." "Still?” Diane asked. Demi answered, "Yeah, because, it’s truly I think, a constant overcoming".
I relate to her feelings about fear on so many levels. It has proven to be a great hindrance in my life. I can only imagine where I might be in my journey were it not for fear. Fear of what, you ask? Well, I'm still working that one out. However, I recognize that I am the obstacle that stands in my way. It’s been said that admission and acceptance is half the battle.
So begins my fight.
Am I afraid of success? Am I afraid of true love? Am I afraid of not being "good enough"? Am I afraid of rejection? Failure? Losing? These are questions that I've been posing to myself and the answers, my friends, are not pretty. Certainly, we all have our own insecurities, but they are not always crippling, like say for instance, my fear of water. You see, I cannot swim. The Lady enrolled me in swim class as a child and the instructor (for lack of a better term) insisted that I travel to the bottom of the pool to retrieve a set of keys he purposely dropped. I remember that day vividly. I stood there shaking and trembling, teeth chattering, looking up into the stands for The Lady, hoping she would rush down and spare me the humiliation. It didn't happen that way, of course and as a matter of fact, I think that all parents were restricted from the pool area during class; they could only watch from the bleachers. There are times when your parents have to let you take your lumps. So, I had to take my turn. With timidity and FEAR, I went under the water to get those damn keys. Panic ensued and water was in my mouth and nose, I was flailing and crying and terrified. I could tell the instructor was annoyed, but class continued and I sat poolside, sniffling, whimpering, and wrapped in my towel, until it was over. After class, The Lady came down and got me, and promised me that I didn't have to return. I suppose this is part of the reason why I get testy and standoffish when people push me to do things I don't want to do.
Last summer, at my friend Jenny's house, we were enjoying a lovely summer day, bar-b-queing and having a great time. I got in the pool, on the shallow end, to play with the kids and "take some lessons" from them. Another adult offered to give me a few pointers and I trust him so I followed his lead. Everything was fine until a guest of the party, a stranger to me, decided to come down and grab me to drag me to the deep end. Not a good look. I became that little girl again. I was terrified, only this time I also became enraged and I had my hand around his neck with the intent to crush his windpipe. With my free hand I was swinging at him and begging him to let me go. Finally, I screamed and my girl Dan Belle jumped in to save me, and as they lifted me out of the pool, I was cryin' and cussin'. Our friend Alex had to tell the dude that I could not swim, and he tried to apologize, but it was too late. I was hearing none of that.
In my adult life, I see this fear of "drowning" manifest itself in so many ways. Some days I am fierce and determined, even brave. Those who are closest to me will be the first to say that I am courageous and bold. They use my move to LA as an example. It took a lot of guts to pack up my things and move here with no plan. Looking back, it was not a bright idea, but it worked, and is one of my proudest accomplishments. It essentially removed me from my comfort zone and forced me to be great. Prior to moving here I had an idea of how I wanted things to be, it was a fairytale of sorts, but in so many ways it actually happened. I got the right job, met the right people, had the support of my cousins, made a few friends, and from there everything took off. Six years later, I'm still here. Like Derek Luke's character says in Antwone Fisher, "I'm still standing, I'm still strong." But some days, I have doubts.
I don't want fear to rule nor ruin my life. I can point to a few things that have already suffered because of it. I was once a model, I can still crush a runway, but I was afraid to leave the states and go overseas, where I might have fared a lot better. I once hosted and produced my own sports show for local cable access in Chicago. The show was popular, and I was very good at it. I had plans to attend broadcasting school and become the first black female sports anchor in the city. Ask me what happened..........fear happened. Who knows, I might be like Pam Oliver, Lisa Salters or Suzy Kolber right now, holding it down on set or on the sidelines.
Two friends, both very special to me, have addressed this issue with me on separate occasions. They said things to me that I carry with me on a daily basis. One said, Maven, “fear is not an emotion that comes from God. Don’t give it energy” and the other shared with me a quote I believe he learned while pledging (Omega), it says “Fear is a mind-killer. It's a tiny little evil that envelops me from the inside out. I must face it and learn to control it”. Both of these guys are strong in my mind, they each have incredible stories for which I admire and celebrate them.
I think about my late Grandmothers when I am afraid or down on myself. They lived long, colorful lives, battled their own demons, and came out triumphant in the end. I think about other people who have touched my life, but since passed away, and I know they are looking down on me, always wishing for my success and well-being. I think about my parents, The Lady and Papa, who sacrifice for me, encourage me, and are my biggest cheerleaders, and although my father cautions me not to compare myself to others or measure my successes and failures by that of others, I can’t help but think about my best friends and their journeys and accomplishments; they make me so proud.
If you are out there doing “the damn thing”, I say keep doing it. You never know who is watching you or looking to you for inspiration.
As for me, I plan to learn to swim this summer. I consider it my first step toward overcoming my fears. And maybe while I'm taking my adult lessons, some child who is also learning, but is afraid will see me and it will become ok for them. I’ll keep you posted.