Fear

People, closed spaces, crowds, helplessness, losing people, losing jobs, loving too much or too little, reptiles, insects and worms – these are some of the things I’m afraid of. I’m around thirty years old, give or take a couple of years, an editor by profession and out-and-out modern in my approach to life. I’m outdoorsy, love shopping, eating out, travelling, cooking, music, books, perfumes, watches, dresses, shoes and so much more. I’m a woman, normal in every respect, who takes life, work and relationships seriously; I’m a woman who cries when hurt and bleeds when cut. I’m a theist, a believer in good and therefore, I also believe in the presence of evil and in ghosts and demons and the rest as manifestations of that evil. I realize, every moment, that I’m human and that I, therefore, have human failings – fear is one of those failings. I face as much of it as the next person and I have my own ways of dealing with it, so that I can keep moving forward, past my fears, fighting them instead of giving in to them and coming to a standstill.

Once upon a time, not very long ago, fear used to rule my every action, every thought even, until I was so deep in my own darkness that I used to contemplate about killing myself and putting an end to the suffering. This lasted until I realized that nobody could help me unless I picked myself up and out of the darkness I was in. I also realized that the more you try to shun fear, to avoid it or deny its existence, the greater is its hold over you. So I learnt to acknowledge my fears to myself and others, in spite of the fact that people have laughed at my fears, loudly and often. I realized that bravery lies, not in being unafraid and therefore, foolish, but in acknowledging fear as being real and in being wary of the object of your fear. Once I realized this, the rest wasn’t easy; but I knew that I could scale this mountain, slowly but steadily. Overcoming fear is like climbing a never-ending staircase – one step at a time, placing one foot in front of the other and climbing upwards. And fear doesn’t hamper my day-to-day life anymore.

I’m not at all ashamed to admit that my greatest fear is of people – not reptiles or worms or insects or darkness, ghosts, height and so on, but people. I’ve been bullied, abused, ignored, duped, cheated, ill-treated, threatened – by people. Yet I still go out every day and socialize with people for three reasons – I need to face my fear instead of running away from it; I’ve realized that experience is a better weapon than ignorance, and that not all people are bad – if I’m alive and thriving today, it’s because I’ve been helped by a lot of good people. The scars from the past, however, are a constant reminder that not everybody can be trusted and therefore, I need to be wary at all times and never let my guard down. The most painful experiences have nearly always come from the closest quarters – people who I thought of as family or friends. And these experiences have led to  the realization that fear is closer home than we realize.

It is sometimes hard to get back to normal even after the trigger or object that causes fear is removed. The effect of fear might extend from a couple of hours to a couple of years, maybe even longer depending on how potent the fear is. Fear is often related to past incidents – the past, here, might refer to the recent past or a more distant past. Many of us find that we tend to forget various incidents with time. However, the memories of such incidents, especially the bad, fear-inducing ones are never entirely erased; they are hidden from sight by the gathering dust of time, but they are often awake in our sub-conscious. Therefore, we often find ourselves unreasonable fearful of certain things or even certain people. This is where the saying ‘A burnt child dreads the fire’ inevitably comes to mind.

So, the question is, how does one free oneself of the paralyzing effects of one’s fears and continue with one’s day to day life? I’ve realized from my personal experiences that we can only be truly and completely free of fear when we realize that we are trapped by our fears in a spot from where there is no going back and the only act left is to move forward, face our fears and keep moving past them. The image that can be associated with overcoming our fears would be that of a ship in a gale, the sailors trying their utmost to save the ship from being wrecked because there’s nothing else to do. Life is the ship that we try to steer in the stormy seas of time, and no matter how dark the sky, how high the waves or how strong the gale, all that we can do is to hang on and try to survive. This is fearlessness or bravery, in my opinion – the act of not giving up, no matter what; the act of realizing that if we don’t master our fears, they will master us and destroy us; and that the act of facing our fears and moving forward past them, putting one foot in front of the other and climbing from the darkness into the light is a monumental one. Once we realize these things, the rest is definitely not easy; but, the realization and acknowledgement of our fears is the first step that we need to take in order to conquer our fears and live life as it should be lived; besides, it also shows us the path out of a miserable existence. Some day we might even come to know that our constant battle against fear has helped somebody else face his or her demons. That would certainly be something to look forward to, wouldn’t it?

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A page from THE DIARY OF AN IGNORED WOMAN

 

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Dear Diary,

Today, for the n-th time I’ve felt lonely. Left alone in a wide, wide world while the rest of the world is busy shaping up, decorating and re-decorating their own tiny worlds-within-worlds. Everybody is busy; everybody is uppermost in somebody else’s thoughts; everybody has some significance; everybody but me. This has happened often enough before – when I’ve felt insignificant, hugely underrated, purposefully, mercilessly ignored; but just because something has become a habitual part of one’s life; it doesn’t become bearable or inconsequential, does it? True, I’ve stopped asking, “Why does it always have to me?”; instead, I now ask, “Why are the most sensitive, caring and loving people always left alone during their darkest, most difficult phases of loneliness?” For, let’s face it – everybody needs attention. It’s an elemental need to feel wanted and cared for. Some people – and these people are often the ones that have the most empathy – need it more than others. I, personally, find nothing criminal in somebody’s wanting to be the centre of somebody else’s attention; and who cares whether you call it self-pity or attention seeking or blah-blah, when I feel lonely and ignored? It’s hard enough to be physically distanced from your loved ones; but it becomes unbearable when emotional distance is added to it. Ask me how I feel when I’m at my loneliest? I feel as if the walls are growing larger and coming closer by the moment, intending to crush the life out of my frail frame. I feel as if I’ve entered the darkness of an endless tunnel, and no matter how much I try to find my way out of it and into the light, no matter which direction I take, I just seem to be moving around in the darkness in circles and coming into painful contact with the cold, creepy walls sometimes. I feel like the lone survivor in a post-apocalyptic sordid world, and all I want to do is kill myself, just so I wouldn’t have to keep on breathing alone.

There now, I’ve finally succeeded in putting it into words – the fact that I am afraid of being left alone, that I fear emotional distance more than the physical one. And since you and I are having a heart-to-heart tonight, let me tell you something else. Do you know why I’m extra-nice to people and treat them as if every last one of them deserves my love and attention? It’s because I’m the most selfish creature on the planet. Selfless love? I don’t know what you mean by the term. I love because I’ve a lot of love to give and a greater, never-ending need to receive love in return, so that I can give some more. I love watching romantic comedies because I love happy endings; I share in the joys and tears of those fictional characters and purge myself; and I absolutely do not like tragedies, because they make me feel helplessly and sadly lonely. But here I’ve digressed; as I was saying, I love people, because I harbour a secret hope in my heart that may be, just may be, some day, I won’t have to shed tears in secret and feel lonely and ignored any more; that some day, when I’m crying my heart out, of an evening, and somebody suddenly knocks at my door, I will no longer have to run and wash my face hurriedly and check in the mirror if my eyes look red and puffy, before pulling up a ghastly half-smile that says, “I’m cool and all’s well with the world” and opening the door; that some day, when I feel sad, I won’t have to feel lonely, because I’ll have the rare privilege of having somebody’s arm around me, dear diary.

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PAIN

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No, this wouldn’t do. She realized that day that she loved him far too much for her own good. Or for his, for that matter. Her love for him was a constant, acute sense of pain; when she was with him, it dulled to a throbbing sensation, but never quite went away. And when she wasn’t, it threatened to consume her. It filled her with fear – the fear that all that she held dear was going to fall apart some day; and all because when she loved, she loved fiercely. Her love was of a kind; it couldn’t be contained. She loved like her days were numbered and love was the only thing left for her to do (for everybody else had excelled at everything else)- before her lamp went out.

So, she made a decision. She needed to leave while she still mattered, while everything was still in place. She owed it to herself and to him. No matter what, he shouldn’t be hurt. If hurt, maybe just a little – something that time could erase; not destroyed by love. Love builds; it shouldn’t be given the power to destroy.

She left for the mountains, without a word to anyone. She hoped to find peace. And this she did find; though not quite in the usual way. The car she was travelling by was lost in a sudden landslide. Not a trace of her was ever found. It was as if she had never existed. But she had finally succeeded in putting an end to the pain caused by this love that consumed her – one way or the other.

DESIRE

Burning Desire Waves

The moments crawl past

As darkness digs its claws in deeper;

Yet, I cannot slumber-

I’m enervated, tempted,

Tormented by desire.

I close my eyes to shut all out,

But find your face

Smiling coyly up at me;

The twinkle in your star-like eyes

Simply steal my breath, trust me!

I pass my fingers lightly over

The slightly disheveled bed-cover,

While the brown softness of your skin

Is what my fingers truly desire.

The smokey kohl in your love-lit eyes,

Those trembling lips under my fingers,

Your perfect dimples and raven curls-

Are enough to set my heart on fire.

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LOVESONG

Don’t know how long

I’ve been waiting

For you. I remember

Several occasions

When my need was

Stronger than ever;

But especially, I

Remember one July

Afternoon, wet and cold,

When I, a gawky kid,

Fifteen years old,

Turned homeward,

Deliberately forgetting

Raincoat and umbrella,

Just to enjoy the rain.

I left school,

Soaked through,

And into the rain

I walked, searching

High and low, for you.

Oh, but, where were you?

I braved the storm;

Cascades of water, too,

That blurred my vision;

Even waded upstream

Through waist-high water

That transformed

Roads into rivers.

Oblivious of open drains

Or gaping manholes,

I pursued my way,

Expecting, at every turn,

Your strong arms

Or your warm bosom-

Oh where were you, then?

And how old?-

Sixteen, I should guess.

I miss you, now,

As I missed you, when

I was gawky and fifteen,

Frightened and wet!

Yet I love you, if

For no other reason,

But that I survived

Three heart-breaks and

Now, you’re heart-broken.

OF FEAR

What is fear? What causes fear? How does it affect a person? How are nightmares related to fear? M y personal feelings about a topic that is common to all. Read on to find out more.

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Fear is, probably, the most real of all human emotions and has the most long-lasting effects on the human mind. The myriad emotions that we feel everyday, for the most part, might be interpreted in terms of the element of fear. Happiness and  peace, for example, is a state of ‘no fear’. Courage and thrill, if we come to think of it, is a state of ‘little fear’. Tension, stress, suspicion are all variations of a state of more than usual fear, while unhappiness is the fallout of fear. And then there is FEAR in its purest form.

The thing about fear is that it’s very difficult to understand. More often than not, a fear is real only to the person who experiences it. Other people, even those who are nearest to him or her, find it difficult to understand a fear that seems quite baseless or even, harmless. It is, perhaps, this lack of understanding that drives people to the edge and forces them to hurt themselves in unimaginable and often, irrevocable ways. Yet, considering the fact that all of us suffer from some kind of fear or the other, is it not strange that we still find it so difficult to understand the realness of another person’s fear?

Nightmares are a semi-visual rendition of the fears that lurk inside us; semi-visual, because we see them, with our mind’s eye, while we sleep, when the mind is at its most vulnerable, the consciously-erected mental guards being down. Nightmares, like dreams, are very vivid in their details – they make us feel as if we are in our very own horror movie, one half of ourselves acting our part, while the other half unwittingly watches. This is, perhaps, the most fearful aspect of fear – it paralyses us from within, so that we end up gagging on our own dry tongues, have trouble breathing and finally wake up, after breaking out in a cold sweat, in the most painfully torturous positions imaginable, with a general feeling of being very dead.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been very prone to having nightmares. They, literally, plague me. The earliest ones, if I remember correctly, were the ones that dealt with loss; more particularly, the loss of a parent. I remember whimpering in my sleep, followed by a frantic search for my mother, upon waking up from the nightmare. They came in black and white, mostly black, like in the movies of old. Next came the most violent ones, around puberty, in the hues of the darkest black and red, and quite action-packed. I just hope that nobody else ever has the misfortune of having such nightmares. Next in line, were the ‘snaky’ ones – where a huge serpent, with the head of a human that I most loathed, used to sneak up on me, in a variety of situations, but always with the same insidious intent of crushing me to death. The serpent, in most cases, was either green or red. I’m not sure whether my general fear of serpents was the only thing that was responsible for these ‘snaky’ nightmares.

After I had left the university for good, I started having a very different sort of nightmare. I started waking up at night after dreaming that I was appearing for an exam, absolutely without any preparation, so that I knew none of the answers. As a result, I started losing my sleep over a preposterous fear, which, nevertheless, felt very real. I still have this nightmare sometimes and, in my sleep, experience the agony of uncertainty and doom that I’ve never had to experience as a student.

The other nightmares that I encounter these days are the falling-through-the air and the elevator ones. In fact, I might never have realised my fear of elevators had it not been for these recurring nightmares. Wherever I go, I’ve always preferred taking the stairs, to using the elevator. The number of times I’ve used an elevator is certainly less than half-a-dozen; that, too, when I was accompanied by somebody I trusted. Ever since I started having them, I’ve become even more wary of elevators, anywhere and everywhere.

The nightmares I experience, have changed over time; they’ll possibly undergo further changes. What hasn’t changed, though, is my reaction to nightmares. When I wake up in the morning, after a nightmare-ridden night, looking like a ghost of myself, I never forget to thank nature for this gift of light that drives away fears.

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