I've been wearing fear like a corset for years now. Laced up tight, I think some part of me finds comfort in the constriction. If I can't move, maybe I won't make any more mistakes.

Fear has motivated far too many of the major decisions I've made. It's a seductive closet to hide in.

It seems to me that the only way to conquer the huge, deep-seated fears I have is to flood them with light - to ask myself question after question until I get to the root of the problem. Fear hates introspection.

So I ask myself what exactly I'm so afraid of. I take a step back and look at everything that so overwhelms me: all the personal, professional, financial, and legal issues I have to tackle. And I realize that, oh my god, I have completely overdramatized, in my own mind, the extent of what I have to do. I have very few actual decisions to make. I'm cowering in the face of paperwork, at the end of the day. Some phone calls. A bit of leg work. Typing. Printing. Mailing. That's all it really is.

Since when am I the kind of girl who's afraid of keyboards, ink cartridges, sidewalks, and stamps? I jumped out of an airplane, for Christ's sake. I took off my clothes for a room full of strangers. I took myself across the planet, alone. I filed for divorce with no job and no money. I cut an alcoholic mother out of my life. I watched my father die. Since when am I afraid of some paperwork?

Since I stopped feeling independent and competent enough to take care of myself, and passed more and more responsibility on to other shoulders, would probably be the answer. Wow was that a self-fulfilling prophecy I talked myself into, oh, about ten years ago.

But it can't possibly be just the prospect of drudging through paperwork that has me so paralyzed, can it? So, the same question again. What am I so afraid of?

Here you go, Fear. Here's the tasty meat you're after:

I'm afraid that even after I do everything I need to do, after doing all the right stuff that's set out before me with neon guideposts to walk me through it, that I'll still be making the wrong decisions for myself.

I'm afraid I'll embarrass myself.

I'm afraid I'm not talented or smart enough to achieve the things I want.

I have cast myself as the villain/fool in a movie I haven't even written yet. I'm a racehorse who's shot herself in the head, saving everyone the trouble of betting on her.


So I sit down and I write a list of every single thing I need to do. It's huge and fucking scary. So I title it that. Ellie's Huge and Fucking Scary List of Everything She Needs to Do. The absurdity of the title releases a little tension from my shoulders: I've taken the wind out of Fear's sails. I add a second line: Incredibly Complex Resources Required - Laptop, Paper, Printer, Brain, Time.

Now who's looking stupid, Fear?


That's all I can do.