I have almost as big a thing for quotes as I do for shoes. Maybe bigger. Almost every day I find another saying (or three) that I print out and tape to the wall above my desk. Unfortunately, the one that’s probably most visible in this photo is “Don’t Be A Whiny Little Shit,” which I love because, well, sometimes I am. But my favorite is the small one, right above the butterfly, which simply says,
Every morning when I come into my office, those eight words are the first I read. Before I wake up my computer, light my vanilla-scented candle, or read the to-do list I left myself the night before (because God knows I remember nothing these days), I look at that quote and ask myself:
Am I afraid?
If the answer is yes, I ask myself what specifically I’m afraid of.
Am I afraid of:
one child never moving out,
the other moving back in,
both children moving back in,
discovering my life insurance policy doesn’t cover suicide,
running out of wine,
never meeting a nice, normal guy who’s cool with the fact that I’m not normal,
never writing another book,
finally writing another book but being unable to find a publisher,
or getting cancer and having to count on my kids who can’t get their act together enough to fly the coop to take care of me?
Of course I could be and frequently am afraid of other awful scenarios I haven’t listed here, big stuff like not being able to pay my rent, buy groceries (or, eek! wine), but the point is I make myself acknowledge whatever it is that’s scaring me and then I ask myself the million dollar question: If that scenario came to pass, what’s the worst that could happen?
When I first moved into my apartment, I had lots of answers to that one. Mature responses like, I’d hide beneath my desk! Call my mom! Run back to New Jersey, live in my childhood bedroom, declare myself a failure and die! I confess, the first few months on my own I was definitely afraid. I’d read that quote, feel the fear in the pit of my stomach, and tell myself (out loud, now that’s scary), Suck it up, Suz. Drink your coffee and pretend you know what you’re doing. You’re the mom, dammit!
You know, sort of like The Little Engine That Could’s whole, “I think I can, I think I can” thing, but with curse words.
I published a couple of pieces during that time. Columns about making lemonade out of life’s lemons and the pain of getting divorced. I shook writing them, and I shook when they ran. (How would people react? How would he react?) But I didn’t let my fear stop me. I wrote them from the bottom of my broken heart. I wrote them scared. And I survived.
That fact recently brought me to an important conclusion, and it’s simply this: a little fear is a good thing. Athletes and actors talk about how they get butterflies in their stomach before a game or performance. And they don’t think it’s so terrible. In fact, they like it because it keeps them sharp. I get that now. These days, being a little anxious, nervous, scared, provokes a “just try and stop me” response I didn’t know I possessed. I call it my Badass Mode. Can you even imagine? Me. A badass. But you know what’s even better? Lots of days I don’t feel frightened at all.
If all of my worst fears came to pass tomorrow, if I couldn’t pay my rent, or buy wine, or both kids decided to cling to the coop….forever, the worst that could happen is I’d deal with it. Figure it out. Go into Badass Mode and do my best to make it better. I don’t need to beat fear because no matter what happens, I can handle it scared. You can quote me on that.