October 12, 2015

On Fear


When I was seven years old, I taped a National Geographic poster of a jaguar to my bedroom wall. I can't remember if I asked for it directly or not, but somewhere between my dad's perusal of the catalog and its path to the the recycling bin, the giant jungle cat portrait fell into my care.

It was the first "pet" I ever had. I don't think I named it. If I had, odds are it would have been "Sam," because that's what I named everything at the time.*

For reasons I'll never quite be able to explain, I eventually began to talk to it. Not out loud; it wasn't like interacting with an imaginary friend, it was more like I'd unearthed some version of God. While I'd never been to church and I'd never been taught to pray, I figured if other people had nightly chats with a magical person then I had every right to an occasional conference of my own.

"Jaguar," I'd say, gazing into his predacious eyes, "Jaguar, today I told a lie. I told Mom that I didn't stick gum behind my dresser. I told her my little brother did it."

"Jaguar, please don't let burglars come through my window tonight and take me away. And if they do, please let me remember to take Ali Cat with me. Thanks."

"Jaguar, if you know Santa, please tell him I'd like a bed for my doll. I promise I've been good all year except for the gum thing.... Please don't tell Santa about the gum thing."

Of course my feline companion never answered back. He merely stared back at me from his side of the room. Still, beneath his nightly scrutiny I felt oddly comforted.

When my family moved across town at the end of second grade, I packed up my seraphic tri-fold and slipped it in a folder for safe transport. Unfortunately, it remained there for the next 17 years -- I never found a suitable place to hang it on my wall. And without the visual reminder, the conversations stopped.

Waist-deep in the brambles of puberty, I discovered a new way to cope with my fears. I pushed and lodged them deeper into the bowels of my... well, bowels. Down there, they cast strange spells across my intestines, agitating my insides with anxious flutterings. I learned to live with that too. I learned the age-old art of denial.

Fast-forward to this summer. I'm clearing out old paperwork from my room to prepare for the move to New York. I find an old binder with folders in it. I find the folder which still holds the poster. I unfold it to find the jaguar staring back at me, and I'm struck with the same impulse to confess my apprehensions. How long will it take to find a job? What if I feel lonely? What if the city rats eat me alive? What if I don't make it?

And then a funny thing happened: As soon as I started asking these questions, my mind gave me answers. I am resourceful; I know I will find a way to get a job before I need a job. I am amiable; I have every right to call on friends when I need them. I can choose to live by my own definition of success. Most importantly, NYC subway rats are not the underfed demons of 1984.

When was the last time you told someone you were afraid? When did you last admit it to yourself? Why do we waste energy dispensing alternative qualifiers for how we're feeling -- angry, sad, frustrated, "fine" -- when we know it all boils down to that four letter f-word?

Maybe because we can't recognize fear anymore. Maybe because you, like me, stopped giving yourself the space, the permission, to examine it.

In the interest of storage, I chose to recycle my jaguar poster. But in return I'm making a better effort to identify my own fears. I've started thinking of them as ghosts waiting to be exorcised into reality, to be looked square in the face and ushered earthward so that they might rest in peace.

This blog post is my first step. While I mused on how to move Inspirsession forward, two fears hit me at once: (1) that departing from the subject of style would mean failing on my journey toward clarifying a sense of fashion identity and (2) that by continuing to blog exclusively about fashion I'd miss opportunities to explore other important subject matter. So, I found a way to face these fears and turn them into fuel. I've decided my posts will still feature / be inspired by what I wear day to day, but their written content may explore other topics beyond personal style. I've chosen to work in watercolor to satisfy my long-held fascination with color.

If you feel strongly about any feature of Inspirsession, or there's a particular aspect of the blog that keeps you interested and inspired, please leave your comments and ideas below. As always, this is a work in progress. And, of course, I invite you to share your own tips for living fearlessly!

*A short list of "everything" being stray cats, story characters, paper dolls, and one perfectly-shaped apple I'd saved from a trip to Greenbluff Orchards.


3 comments:

  1. Rachel, I love your insights here, and (of course!) it reminds me of an important concept we find in yoga philosophy. This practice of "self study" or "self-reflection", is one of the 5 Niyamas, known in Sanskrit as ~Svadhyaya. Rather than seeing our actions as ways to something external, they become our mirrors in which we can learn to see ourselves more deeply. This practice of Svadhyaya helps us learn to examine our behaviors and motivations which we habitually use to maintain our self-image. In doing so, we 'pierce the veil' that this self-image creates and move toward a deeper understanding of our true being.

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    1. Sounds like something for me to research! Gotta find a yoga class here... <3

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    2. These posts really hit close to home. Your voice is both relatable and reassuring. I really dig the new intention/format.

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