October 18, 2016

Fear is a black hole

It feels strange to restart my journal on this subject, but getting to the bottom of this black hole has somehow turned into a self-imposed project these days.

Fear. It takes years of conditioning: under the pretext of discipline, of respect. It lurks within like a dementor, surfacing when you least expect, turning normal, unassuming joyful events into missed opportunities, if-onlys’ and such regrets. It is imposed, ironically, by those who crave the power they already have been granted. By those who fear losing that power.

When I was growing up I was always afraid. Of my parents, of letting them down, of life at school, of subjects like math and history, of failure at sports, of being bullied, of not having friends, of having friends. When you begin to analyse it on a psychological level, a pattern emerges. The laws of fear are such that if you are a person who easily fears, you will always find yourself surrounded by some people who will feed off your fear. Your fears grow roots that are unshakeable. And so it continues. As the years roll on we tend to hide away some of these fears in little boxes that we believe we will never open, that if we close our eyes they will disappear. Some fears, with the passing of time, are overcome. We mature. But in the process the roots that lie in boxes unopened and ignored, are the ones that come back with a vengeance as various other demons. Their seeds intact.

I continue to fear authority. I fear confrontation. I fear fear. These, I am still working on.

My parents today are my friends. Tick. My school batchmates today – we laugh at each other, with each other (god bless you, makers of whatsapp!), I don’t remember being so connected before. Tick. School is a been-there-done-that – with a different perspective. Tick. History is no longer boring. I now believe we were just reading the wrong books, or taught the wrong way. I can say this having finally completed my phd thesis – most of it concerning a period of Indian history. Tick. Sports: I was daunted by physical activity because I never had the stamina in me. I learnt that it was the fibromyalgia all along. And now I’ve re-discovered badminton. I train to improve my game. To pull out the boxes I’d closed when I’d once lost a few games at school. It is addictive and I love it. Tick. Maths…er, no, this is a fear I can live with ;-)

Coming back to my rant, I am compelled today to write this journal entry as part of my personal, overcome-my-fear project. Because, unwittingly, I let my sons down today.

When I was at school my french teacher always made me stand outside the classroom even though I topped her subject. Everybody knew it. She probably didn’t like my face or the fact that I was always slow to respond. Fast-forward to 25-30 years later: my 4-year-old’s reception teacher in the UK has an uncanny resemblance to my old Indian french teacher. Coincidently I, too, got on the wrong side of her book a couple of times: once, I was late for picking him up (about 10 minutes; I was busy with my thesis!); another time, my son jumped the queue when he saw me (he was excited to see his mother – as any 4-year-old would be!). But she probably over-reacted – turning her face as if to deliberately ignore, as if to show that she is the boss. I fell for it. Fear. Authority. Confrontation. And so, this morning, because I was afraid he would be marked late again (albeit due to a perfectly legitimate excuse), I quit the queue for a photo shoot in my older son’s school for siblings and abandoned the opportunity. The three of us had woken up extra early, we practically ran to the school to reach on time. We were proud because, for a change, we did make it! We looked forward to treasuring a memory.

But then none of this mattered because I just quit the queue. My sons were both upset. I was frustrated. And for what? They both got marked late anyway. I should have waited.

Lesson learnt. My son’s reception-class teacher is NOT my school french teacher. I am NOT going to let her feed on my fear anymore.