Number 13, Volume 2
Fear—An Irrational Emotion?
“The only thing we have to fear on the planet is man.” Carl Jung
“The fear of life is the favourite disease of the twentieth century.” William Lyon Phelps
“Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light?” Maurice Freehill
My own definition of fearlessness has never changed over the years. When I was younger it meant climbing trees, or riding a horse bareback, or traveling alone to foreign countries, or singing opera and hoping I could hit a high C in front of hundreds of people, or passing an exam in law school.
One would think that as I grew older fear would somehow melt and completely disappear supported by my many successes in life. Yet this strong emotion hangs around annoying us when we are about to embark upon something new. A little voice inside our head warns us to be cautious: be careful of the chain reaction. If you do this, maybe something worse will happen. It is our instinctual survival technique that keeps us safe from harm.
I have done some terrifying things that make others worry more than me. One of my chosen challenges was to fly around a Mexican ocean on a parachute swaying in the wind behind a boat which dropped me unceremoniously in a tennis court as astounded players watched me ruin their game! But the sense of quiet and peace up in the air and the bird’s eye view of the beach below is a memory I go into whenever I want to calm my mind. Scary? Yes, just like a roller coaster ride at Disney, but I loved the experience, it was fantastic fun!
Would I jump out of an airplane? Yes, to feel the rushing clouds on my face, a feeling of exhilaration to make my heart beat like a drum. But my husband, a pilot, refuses to do it as he was instructed to never jump out of a good airplane, unless it was on fire.
Another time I had fear so strong that my knees were knocking was when I was just about to go on stage to sing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, from Evita, and I only had two rehearsals with a pianist whom I knew would not let me breathe. Fear can be a paralyzer. The last thing you want to do is to forget the opening notes and sing off key and make a fool of yourself in front of several hundred people. I just hoped the stage trap door would accidentally open and I would fall in and have a good excuse not to sing. I want to forget this experience in Rome at an awards ceremony filled with famous film stars. I heard the applause in the ladies’ room as I was busy losing my lobster dinner. Never again! I promised myself. Yet – I couldn’t wait until my next performance.
Every now and again I think why torture myself? Does some sort of masochism run in the Lindsay family? Scariest of all is letting people, friends and enemies alike, know the true me. I think I would rather walk down the street completely naked than reveal myself and my fears to them.
I have an admiration for women I have met in my lifetime who push themselves, even at midlife, to grow and explore new ways, be it by leaving a spouse or ignoring the security of a pay check to start their own business. Among the fearless women I have met and admired is one called Margaret Barrie Lindsay, who when she lost her husband in WWII, strived emotionally to continue to live without him and worked to support her baby girl. And when her second husband abandoned her for a younger woman, instead of giving in to despair and drink, she joined the US Peace Corps to teach English in Poland, thus making herself useful to humanity. And when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s she refused to accept that reality and bravely fought the disease for ten years going to the best doctors and keeping physically fit. She refused to permit fear to ruin her life. And that is why now I am fearlessly trying to help her despite others interfering in her life. She used to talk about the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and now she is an unwilling star in the reality of life. But as I told her when I saw her last in Dundee, “hang in their Mom, you taught me to be fearless in sports, and now you can lean on me. We will get through this together because I love you. I want you to live to be 100 so that you can get a birthday card from the queen of England! Then you can frame it with your other awards and say: “I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things she fears to do, provided she keeps doing them until she gets a record of successful experiences behind her.” Eleanor Roosevelt