Down the Habit Hole

I have spent a good part of my life being afraid. You might even say it’s a habit. As a young girl, I was always the one who would hold back timidly, waiting for some sign from my older sisters or maybe a parent that I was ok, and the situation safe. As a young woman, my fear held me back from enjoying myself in some ways, and it saved me from getting harmed in others. Now, as a full-blown adult woman of 43 years, fear continues to assert itself into my life, and I think – all things considered – I’m done with it.

There. Finally! At last, I am forcing myself to say out loud how much I dislike being afraid of things, and how much of an albatross it has been around my neck all these years. And perhaps even more importantly, how much I recognize the frequently destructive, and not creative, properties fear has actually brought to my life.

If asked, I’m not sure I could verbalize what I am afraid of, and I’ve tried. It’s trite to say success, but I know that is one answer. Failure, sure – that’s another…but both of these are, I’m guessing, not unique to me. So what is it that I’m afraid of? I used to believe I was afraid of everything, like Charlie Brown. Luckily, time and introspection have proven that belief very wrong. I’ve done many things in my life that might scare others, things such as move across the world to live alone in a strange country; get lost somewhere outside of Gary, IN with no map, a dying cellphone, no phone charger and almost no gas, at night, alone; online date!

In a weird way, I think it was online dating, and all the experiences that exercise brought to my life that has helped me scrub away at my fears the most. At its base level, to me, online dating (in fact, dating overall) is nothing more than one big exercise in fear. Who will I meet? Will they like me? Are they really meeting me because they want the same things, or are we at odds? How will I ever find this out? Do I feel something for him, or am I forcing it because I don’t want to be alone? If I trust him, will he value this gift, or will I end up as tomorrow’s chipped Montana on toast, a la The Silence of the Lambs? The questions are too numerous to list here, but I think you can get the gist of it. In no other area of my life did I ask so many questions and feel so much fear. And as odd as this will surely sound, at the same time, in no other area did I feel so proud and sure of my actions. I was afraid, and, I was dating anyway.

Through its very action, I believe online dating churns up many of our deepest fears about ourselves as people, whatever those fears may be, on a repetitive, sometimes exhaustive basis. Depending upon how much you date, that might mean everyday…or every weekend, or every month. And I’m guessing this constant facing of fears that daters must endure, it’s more than the average person, and sometimes I wonder if not more than the average married person. And I don’t say that because I think married people don’t have fears (I know they do) or that I somehow feel many fears is a good thing, more – just that it is a thing.  Engaging in the exercise of dating, whether online, blind or by natural selection, is to engage in a constant game of ‘You & Your Fears!’ Every new meeting, every person represents not just the potential to (hopefully) be the last first ‘date’ you will go on,  they also represent the potential to be the date who exposes your fears even more completely than the last date. Or worse yet – confirms them.

It’s a slippery slope. To not get up off your butt and out of the house means you will surely never meet anyone, perhaps confirming your fear that you will be alone forever. To leave the house, meet someone and go on a date with someone who proves to be a dud perhaps confirms your fear that dating sucks, and all single men are trolls. But to give dating that last chance, and find yourself pleasantly surprised by how great his smile is, or how easily you both fell into conversation, and say – aren’t those beautiful brown eyes he has…that is something else again.That is, as my older sister likes to say, just darling. And all of it, each of these situations is only possible by being afraid, and getting on with it anyway.

My fear hasn’t been a positive in my life all the time, but I suppose I can’t really say that categorically it’s been a negative either. Even now, newly married and out of the dating pool, I still find my fears about relationships dogging me from time to time – a reality I never anticipated and a topic for another day, but it must mean something, right? It’s been said that fear exists to promote action, and I suppose I’d rather have been afraid and questioned why than to have been afraid and given up. We may be creatures of habit, but that doesn’t mean we have to fall into every hole we see, just because it’s there.

Top photo: BIgstock