The Bully We All Face

I know quite a bit about bullies. Through my growing up years we had a give and take relationship. They gave me shit every day and I took it. My ninth grade year was the worst as it seemed I was the punching bag of the lower IQ male population that needed to feel superior somehow. I was barely a hundred pounds, wore plastic glasses and had a target painted on me that I couldn’t wash off.

By the time high school came along I had learned how to stay out of their line of sight. I wasn’t completely free of harassment and even those who were thought friends used me as the joke that made me feel better. It took me several years to toughen up enough to tell the bullies to kiss off. Now I use them as characters in my stories and give them gruesome deaths.

You may have been one of those kids that jumped every time you heard the slam of a locker. Perhaps you were able to make it through school without having to suffer at the hands of a bully. You may have even been the bully in school, terrifying the sickly kids who could barely carry their textbooks. If you were, then I really hope that you and I run into each other before I pass from this earth. There are several things I wish to get off my chest. Regardless of which category you claim to be a part of, there is one bully that locks all of us into place, cowering at the thoughts of what could happen to us as they fill our mind. Most of the time we can push through, stand up to it as we shout, “We aren’t going to be afraid anymore!”

Who is this bully I claim we all cower in front of? Fear. Fear can keep us from moving forward and enjoying experiences we would have normally enjoyed. It also keeps us from going after our dreams and attempting new things. It’s that voice that whispers into our ear, telling us that people will laugh at us, that we’re not good enough to ____ - filling the blank with whatever you’ve always dreamed of doing. Fear paralyses. It scares us into submission, crippling us from moving out of our comfort zone.

Fear is probably the bully that has made me cower the most in my life. My fear of heights keeps me from the high dive. A fear of sharks keeps me out of the ocean. A fear of being ridiculed more than usual stops me from attempting new things. It also kept my writing in a desk drawer for twenty years.

However, fear is just an emotion, a feeling, and it will pass. You’ll live through it and, hopefully, be stronger on the other end. You may be jittery as you push through the fear, believing that at any moment you’re going to keel over, but you won’t. You’ll make it. I know this because I made it.

When the girls wanted to climb to the top of a lighthouse in St. Augustine, I took one look at the 250 steps and knew I wasn’t going to make it. It didn’t help my fear that the steps were iron mesh and I was constantly aware of the one way trip down if I fell over the flimsy railing. The trip up wasn’t bad. I kept my eyes forward and aimed at my goal. Climbing back down, however, was a whole other story. My knees hurt like crazy when I finally touched terra firma again, because of how hard I had clenched them the entire twisty way down.

Attending the County Fair last month, the 8-year old wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel. Oh Joy. I was fine until it started and the rubber wheels squeaked. We climbed higher and the 8-year old thought our small car would spin as it went around. After I threatened to use her to test the law of gravity, she finally settled back and enjoyed the view. I couldn’t tell you what it looked like as my eyes were clamped shut as my hands gripped the rail. Of course, every time the ride stopped, we were perched at the very top. Sometimes the Universe likes playing those cruel jokes on me.

I survived, however. My heart was tested the following week and it was found to be strong and healthy. Take that, Fear!

Fear can be healthy. Many times it serves as a protector, prickling the hairs on the back of our neck as it warns of danger, urging caution. We need to pay attention to those promptings. Yet, fear cannot rule our life. I rode the Ferris Wheel. I looked over the rail of the lighthouse. And I sent out my manuscripts. It didn’t kill me, and it won’t kill you. We’re all afraid of something, but we must stand up to the bully that would keep us from flying into our dreams. He’ll back down. You’ll survive the confrontation.

Seth Godin wrote, “If you spend your days avoiding failure by doing not much worth criticizing, you’ll never have a shot at success. Avoiding the thing that’s easy to survive keeps you from encountering the very thing you’re after.” Fear is a part of life, but you can’t allow it to limit you. Pushing through the fear helps us to grow. We will fail, be rejected, and criticized. However, if we take that and learn from it, we’ll be better next time. Even Stephen King faced rejection.

With Reaping the Harvest out, I’ve listened to what people have said, making my notes, so that I know what to work on for the next novel. The goal is to make the next piece of writing better than the last and then the next and the one after that. Yet, if you allow fear to keep you from trying, you’ll never grow. Stand up to the bully. It’s the only way you’ll see your dream a reality.

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