Fear Regret, Not Failure

Tuesday, January 6, 2015 | 2 Comment(s)

And so ends 2014: The Year of NOT Living in Fear.

Did I learn anything from this annual goal? Is creating a theme for your year dumb, or the dumbest?

I am genuinely glad you asked.  I have answers -- all the answers to these questions. If only you'd asked me something about the meaning of life today as well! Maybe we all could have reaped the benefits of my temporarily bottomless wisdom.

The number one thing that surprised me after repeating my 2014 Mantra, "I'm not going to live in fear," was how often it was applicable. When I came up with it, the idea behind tossing fear into the back seat was to combat the increasing number of worries I could feel myself getting amidst.  I was my own Worst Case Scenario Handbook, except that I just thought up the scenarios, and then spent countless hours perseverating over potential solutions to problems I didn't even have.

In this regard, my mantra worked great. Without willfully attempting to screw myself (aka. I'm not going to put an ice scraper in my car because I will NOT live in fear of winter -- winter always wins),  I trimmed the fat off the prime rib of my neuroses.  I let go of the calamities that were way out of my control, and tried to focus on the actual problems in front of me.  After countless repetitions, I can now easily recognize and deflect those those ticky-tacky worries when they are thrown my direction like dodge-balls at the final kid in the circle.   I'm proud to say I didn't die of frostbite, lack of nutrition, or electrocution this year -- despite my devil may care attitude toward suggestions on how I might be able to baby-proof every facet of my life experience.

But not living in fear also helped me through a much more potentially debilitating situation.  In truth, I almost turned away from my writing this year.  Not on one particular day, or for a week in August, but throughout the course of the year as a whole.  Writing a book is a solitary endeavor fraught with countless obstacles and little positive reinforcement along the way.  During the time spent finishing a book, there is a constant merciless voice, just behind that the choir made up of all aspects of your self-confidence that are singing you forward, which tells you to stop.  To give up.  The voice points out how many other productive and lucrative avenues I could pursue to lead an upper-middle class life of relative luxury until I'm old and grey or hit by a bus.

What the voice omits, what it fails to mention, is that this older, wealthier, more prestigious version  of myself hasn't written a book.  Not even one.  He didn't finish that first comedic passion project he began back in his thirties, and since that book sat incomplete below the stacks of student papers and various recognitions, that older me never thought to pull out the darker, even more personal memoir I had once planned as a follow up to my first book's release.  Way back when.

While this caustic voice may be seated further away from my soul than the rest of the attendees, trust me when I tell you that the distance doesn't regulate its volume.  Sometimes the voice is so loud I hear it coming out of loved ones who are worried about my "lack of a job" or upward mobility.  Fear engulfs the stage like a fog-machine when there is no clear vision of my eventual outcome.  I understand the concern. Who wouldn't worry that I might be steering myself towards a precipice, blinded by the haze of career uncertainty?

Me. That is the only right answer.  Maybe my wife too, but I have to be where the buck stops when it comes to determining the meaningfulness of my own life. I am the one who has to remember not to live inside my fear of failure.  I didn't begin the "year of not living in fear" to combat this insidious self doubt, but that didn't make my mantra any less applicable.

I wasn't always successful either.  Like I said, I almost put my writing aside.  And when I tried my hardest, and I still couldn't shut off the anxiety, I refocused myself to fear regret, not failure.  Cause I know that old prestigious me still wonders late at night what might have been, what could have been, if he had gone for it and finished that book he started all those years ago.  I hope that me can sleep through the regret, though I don't plan to find out.

Therefore, I conclude that making a new years mantra isn't the dumbest thing ever, it's just dumb.  But half of the best ideas out there are mostly dumb anyway. So I'm gonna perpetuate this one, at least for myself.

Which brings us to now, 2015, just as the year begins to pick up speed. This year, my mantra is: "head towards the light."

I swear it isn't morbid.  The idea behind moving in the direction of the light, for me, has less to do with a death metaphor and more to do with responding to those goals or people in my life that enervate, motivate, and appreciate me.  It means finishing this book.  It means appreciating those captivating moments, and indulging them.  By heading towards the light, I point myself in the direction of the self I most want to be, and then I jog off into the opaque unknown.  


  1. “I continue to work because I’m a writer. No cliché is truer than that which says that the writer does not feel fully alive when he isn’t writing. He doesn’t always feel fully alive writing, but he feels more alive.” Wright Morris