A week ago today I started an adventure in Fear Aquaintance. I've been writing about it every day but have only now gotten beyond the fear that blocked me from starting a blog. And LOOK! It's got me blogging! I've included past entries for background to this experiment....
Yesterday someone posted on my facebook page that it would be fun to cut a little piece out of the chair every time I did something fearlessly and in the end have a toothpick perhaps left. I can see where this is coming from and it does at first glance seem a fun idea but too something in it rubbed me wrong. It seemed a simple and almost trite interpretation of what this experiment is about and certainly doesn’t match the resulting experiences I am having with the chair. When I first heard the story of the woman who carried an anger chair I knew she didn’t get rid of anger once and for all. That wasn’t the point. But she didn’t carry it around with her anymore as a pervasive burden that influenced and even dictated her every move.
Fear is thought to be a bad thing in our culture. A weakness. A negative. And perhaps it is, usually. But I can think of multiple examples of when fear is a healthy response, a tool we use to stay safe, healthy, even happy. When it seems a stranger is in the house, fear causes one to call 911, get out, or arm up whichever a person might choose. Fear made me realize when two people died on the mountain I was about to climb that maybe I might want to not climb such technical mountains anymore while I had a young daughter to raise.
The fear chair isn’t the embodiment of my fears or fear in the way that cutting it up would “cure” me of fear. It is the embodiment of what I have chosen throughout life because of fear. It is the burden of my fearful choices that I carry around. So, while I AM far more conscious of choices now and whether and how fear influences them, it is the pattern of my history as well as my present I wish to know. The “why” and “how” of fear is as important to me as the “fact” of fear. Eventually I wish to free myself not from fear but from a way of being in this world.
Could I do that by cutting up the chair everytime I face and conquer a fear? Maybe. And I could see the woman who suggested it doing this and it totally working for her. But for me it is a different metaphor I am after. Not a cutting up of individual fears but an exploration of my general fearful posture in life. Eventually understanding it and even forgiving it. Forgiving myself for carrying fear, for choosing it and then no longer choosing to carry it in the same way or even at all but simply allowing it to come when necessary and, knowing it well, I will be able to recognize when it can work for me and when I don’t need that tool.
Yesterday was a very tough day. Though the fear chair played a big part early in the day, the focus of the difficulties had to do with my life in general.
First, about the chair; I had a therapy appointment at which I described this massive dark (with some light shapes) suspended object that has made itself present in my psyche the past few days. I described it as my therapist patiently listened. I ended by saying I haven’t any clue what it might symbolize but it IS obviously enormous. She responded, perhaps it’s every choice you’ve made out of fear. Bowled over, I was. Holycow, how clearly correct an assessment this was! I sat speechless for the second time in a week with the depth and breadth of a notion just put before me that strikes sudden and sharply at a core truth hidden from me. Of course this is the mass of weighty decisions ive made, all based in fear! Wow…What do I DO with it now?
The rest of the day, after taking the chair grocery shopping, I spent at home, trying to fulfill a volunteer obligation that just was not working. Much is going on in my life that I cannot divulge here but it is related to why it was the right time to take up the fear chair. These goings on are huge and weighty and I have fear wrapped up in them. Decisions must be made everyday to face the fear and fears just to carry on with what is happening in my life. Much is out of my control. But my response IS within my control and so I realized last week it is time to become more conscious of the role fear plays in how I DO respond to the circumstances of my present life. The decisions before me are massive and I don’t want fear to be in control of the outcomes. So I have the chair.
I really was quite lost yesterday and to a lesser degree today. I puttered around the house. Painted. Worked on my fiber art projects. What I need to do is get this blog up and running, or my website. THAT is what is infront of me which I CAN do but fear doing. SO tomorrow!
Relatively uneventful fear chair day. I went to work in PDX again. Stopped for coffee. Had to drop off the pressure washer. Had hands full and wasn’t there long so didn’t bring in the chair. I don’t like not bringing in the chair. It feels false.
I painted the word “fear” in more places than on the seat today. I think it was too subtle. Too safe. I also painted some faces and ivy on the chair back. It’s fun to paint again. The chair allows me to paint like process painting – without planning or judgement but for fun. It doesn’t have to make sense. Though the faces I painted do look a bit scary and fitting.
Tonight I told my husband something it was scary to say. I started with “I love you.” Time will tell how it was received but I am glad to have said it. It needed saying.
Chair stayed in the studio with me as I finished piecing and then pinning the prayer flag “wisdom” for my “serenity prayer series.” This afternoon we all went to the dog park and then Mike and I and the chair went on a date to the Willamette Shakespeare Company performance of “12th Night” at Montinore Vineyards. The hottest day of the year today. Would rather have not had to carry a heavy oak chair around; but there we are… people for the most part don’t acknowledge the chair but for an occasional “wow,” at it’s brightness and unexpected presence I assume. Also, I do feel the physical strength in my arms increasing from this adventure.
The mass of whatever in me that I described a couple days ago is still a thing. I am not certain what it is but I am noticing too it seems definitely related to fear. Since it’s presence in my psyche, I notice too a real sense of increased distance from my fear. Like I am somewhat more of an observer of my fears than a victim or even subject of them. And I am definitely not certain what to do about the mass within me. I do have therapy this week. We will unravel this there I assume.
My fear/s is/are much more complex than I thought. Perhaps this is the case for everyone, I don’t know. There have been certain fears I’ve been well aware of through my life and then with this experiment, I’ve noticed other, less obvious fears that none-the-less were likely influencing me for a long time. Some are nameable, others less solid. But what has me surprised is this mass. This enormous entity within me that seems to be a weight though it is suspended in my visual image of it. It has enormous heft and it is dark yet multicolored. It seems also to have been with me since the beginning of time. Ancient. And it has influenced my life as if it had magnetic poles. Perhaps that is actually why it is suspended. Who knows. Or like the pull of the moon upon the oceans. Again a suspended object. Hmmm. Time will tell. I look forward to discussing this with my therapist. For now I am baffled.
I painted the chair a bit this morning in preparation for taking it into Portland again for work. It’s a Saturday but we have a new job to start and we’d like to get going on it. So I let it dry in the sun for an hour before we left. Fortunately in this case it is warm and so the chair was ready. The chari also went with to starbucks again and this time waited in line for the restroom as well. I got a couple photos.
A couple thoughts today. I noticed on the job today that I took a couple risks again that I otherwise might have let slide and let Mike take care of because of my size. But I stepped up and tackled them. Later I mentioned to Nan that I think having the chair around makes me more courageous. She said she’d noticed this yesterday as well and wondered if I saw it. Cool.
The other thought, as I talked with Nan about the whole chair adventure, I realized how much I see other people’s fears separate from me because of the chair. I mean, their reactions ARE to MY having a chair in odd places but because the thing they are reacting to in (or around or with) me is SO clear, so obvious, I can see that the reactions are clearly to do with them. Because the chair is so obviously the difference between myself and others, too, I therefore can see much better the WIDE variety of responses to me.
Yesterday I saw a man in Starbucks who has Downsyndrome. I stood there and realized my chair was a false difference. People live with varying conditions that make them stand out from the “norm.” I have created one in carrying a chair everywhere. This causes two thoughts in me, first, I wonder am I a poser? Do I need to create some condition to stand out so I can experience something others have no choice but to experience on a daily basis? And, is this an asshole move?
My second thought is that I realize it’s no big deal to carry a chair everywhere, hell, some people have to SIT in a chair everywhere they go. So it gives me courage to do something that is unusual because other’s put up with it every day.
But I do find myself wondering too why I NEED to do this. What’s the big deal? Other people deal with their fears without having to carry a ten pound dining chair around that screams “FEAR” at people. Why don’t I just buck up? Why don’t I just woman up? Grow a pair? Whatever? Why don’t I just do it? I guess these questions tempt me to stop the experiment. Leave the chair at home and say “I did it! I carried the chair of fear until I could face things and move forward courageously and without hesitation.” Then I realize I am still not officially blogging and don’t have my website up. I still haven’t visited a gallery with my artwork. There is still much that I fear in the world. So the chair stays for now.
This afternoon, after work, I spent a couple hours painting on it again. I think I am finally finished with the seat. It ended in an interesting place. Now to tackle the arched back. I have some ideas.
Challenging ideas. Scary. Sigh. Tomorrow.
Had the day off. Went into Portland. Stopped at a starbucks. A bit of grocery shopping. All with the chair. No one really seemed to notice or let me know they noticed with the exception of an employee at Winco. A gentleman around mid to late 50s. walked past, “Nice chair! Did you make that?” I looked at the chair nestled in the grocery cart. “Well, I bought the chair but I did paint it.”
I think my chair brings out other people’s fears too. Like that perhaps I am a crazy person and they should stay clear. Or fear that this woman has brought something that makes totally NO sense in this context TO this context and (I) don’t know how to respond? Do (I) let her know I see the chair? Do I pretend it doesn’t exist? Do I acknowledge it but also say “what the &(^* is THAT doing HERE?!” These are things I would think if I saw someone with an orange and yellow chair in their shopping cart, or in line at Starbucks, or at the hardware store. I’d be afraid of the unusual. The unlikely. The non-sense of it. And afraid I would respond wrong. Whatever that means.
There is one place I didn’t take the chari today, so I admit I would not deserve to sit in the chair even if I needed to today. I didn’t take it into Costco. We are not members of Costco, we just get our prescriptions there. But even when we were card-carriers, I never felt like I fit in, which is why we are no longer members. So I was intimidated by Costco into not bringing the chair in. Also, my daughter had just divulged some very personal news and we’d had an intense conversation and I needed a bit of insulation. So it was the right choice for the time but next time the chair goes in.
Today the chair and I went out together. Yesterday I was sick and so we stayed in but by evening I felt well enough to prime it. I asked my sweetie to help with the priming however, still a bit tired from lack of sleep and yuck. Got it primed and headed for bed only to awaken 5.5 hours later completely unable to sleep. I wrote my pages, played a couple games, read and finaly gave up at 5:30 and headed up to the studio in my pjs to paint a quick first coat of color on the chair for the big day.
I had a porch to clean in preparation for caulking so headed in to Portland with the chair. It was scary thinking I may have to stop somewhere to pick up materials or something and of course, committed to this, I’d have to bring in the chair. I called a couple friends for moral support.
Then I got the call from Mike. Would I please pick up some screening at the hardware store for another job. Ok.
So my first solo public appearance with the chair was a hardware store. It was the sort that you take a number and wait with all the contractors. I noticed I am apparently taking up space with my chair and was asked to move it (politely) a couple of times. Honestly, I took up less space than some of those men who didn’t have accompanying chairs. I found this interesting. And filed it in the back of my brain while I tried extremely hard to understand the man who, upon seeing me set the chair down to take a number, brushed past and pointed at the seat (which has “Fear” painted on it) and said “No Fear” then continued to talk auctioneer-style but hardly above a whisper to me about his own awakening, Jesus, the five houses, and I have no idea what else but from time to time he’d cross himself and say a word I understood to which I’d respond, “wow.” Or something, anything,… He talked non-stop until my number was called. A nice man. Clean. Handsome even. Nice, not-scary eyes. But blessed number!
The man who waited on me by contrast was utterly unresponsive to anything I said except the thing I needed him to fetch for me. I quickly saw a woman carrying a brightly painted chair with the word “Fear” painted on it into a hardware store might be as suspect as a man who talks nonstop about his awakening. I kept the attempts to converse or make light to a minimum. It was kind of fun knowing what it was about me that the other person thought was kooky. Usually I’m oblivious.
Upon reflection, it is interesting to think people might be afraid of me. I’d heard in high school a boy confided in my best friend that he was afraid of me. That perplexed me for years. I still don’t really know why he would have said that, I was a timid nerdy party-poser. Now I have a chair with “Fear” painted on it. There are layers to why that might be frightening. And frankly, this thought is a bit scary to me. I suppose this is why someone might hesitate to undertake this adventure. It’s why I didn’t when I first heard the story about the woman and her “anger chair.” But this time something shifted so powerfully deeply within me there was no question to saying yes to the project. I need to come to terms with chronic and debilitating fear and for some reason now is the time to risk more to do so.
Relatively uneventful rest of the day except I did remember I had to stop at the bank on the way home. So, yup, chair went to the bank. Then I think I was feeling cocky, I called my daughter to see if she wanted to bring her dog and meet-up at the dog park. She would be half an hour so that’s when I decided I can sometimes sit on the chair. If I feel I deserve it, that is, if I feel I have not let fear burden me. Then I can sit on it. I think I did ok today. The dog park was a walk so to speak in the park. The solid oak chair is quite heavy but I am figuring out how best to carry it and I feel the strengthening already. In my arms and in my-self.
Then it was home to paint the chair a bit again. It physically, like me, is a work in progress.
A friend and I have been getting together weekly for the past several years. She’s a writer, I am a painter. She is twenty years my senior. I am 51. Our chats used to last an hour and a half, then two and now three hours pass by without either of us checking the time. We get together to talk art and life and everything, from in-between to off the page.
Today was the usual digging deep into the darkness of our human experience peppered with self-examination leading to self-discoveries. We always laugh a lot, sometimes cry, but always feel, always LIVE fully in our times together.
As three hours approached, we were about to be kicked out of the café at closing time. C reminded me of a story she’d told me long ago that was now apropos to the theme of the conversation. She remembered reading a story about a woman who purchased and carried around a chair with “anger” painted all over it. She took it to work, in elevators, shopping, everywhere. It was a reminder of the anger she was in fact carrying and the burden that anger had become. She had to explain the chair to a lot of people which meant she had to explain the anger. She carried it around until she no longer needed to carry it. The chair left. The anger left.
The first time I’d heard this story, it struck me as significant; but I was not ready to hear it. This time I heard it to my core. I was ready. Something began to shift within me that I could not verbally express at the time. We talked about how that happens sometimes. We talked until I was able to verbalize the shift. My chair is not anger. It is fear. Fear is, has always, always been my burden. We talked about this. About how anger is really a form of fear and fear a form of anger. How, the two primal emotions, from which all others evolve are fear and love. Negative feelings from fear. Positive feelings from love. We parted as the café was closing. C had shopping to do, I had an appointment in the next town.
As I drove to my appointment, I realized my clock was 5 minutes fast. I would have time for a quick run into the thrift store. I needed, I need a chair. It is time I deal with fear on a cellular level. The time is right. It’s a frightening venture in just the right way to make something in my soul and psyche stand up and take notice. I could grow from this they say in unison.
So, using my best “law of attraction” -as -explained –through- quantum -physics – (read “Happy Pocketful of Money) voice, I told the Universe I need a chair. I thanked the Universe for the chair - it is wooden - that awaits me at the thrift store. I visualized the chair and as I pulled up to the store, I visualized myself walking out with my chair. And it would cost, how much money do I have with me? It would cost seven dollars. Thank you for the chair I will find that costs seven dollars. I walked into the store with only one thought - the chair was in the store. I walked to the rear of the store, and saw a dining room set with four chairs. Only a short pause at this- turned the corner and there at the end of the aisle were two wooden chairs, just as I’d pictured but more. I chuckled, hopefully silently. Silly abundant universe! Walking up to the pair, I glanced as I reached for my chair and saw it would cost me $6.99 to walk out the door with it. I smiled and picked it up thinking two things. “Thank you!” and “Did it HAVE to be THIS heavy?” I stood in line smiling. I’ve never felt so pleased to hand over my money. The Universe and I had done this; and the money was part of the collaboration.
As I walked to my car again conscious of my appointment it occurred to me the first place I would be taking my “burden of fear” chair would be to a couple’s therapy appointment with my husband. The Universe and I laughed again. How apropos.
Things I have already learned from my “fear chair”:
I do have to take it into restrooms with me but it makes a great purse holder while I pee
No one else gets to put anything on my “fear chair.” It’s my fear. It’s my chair. Boundaries about my chair, about my fear. More on this later I am sure…
I will not sit on the chair. Fear has had me sitting far too often, far too long.