I have been taking writing classes for a while now, and where there once was a vague story line has turned into a memoir and two fiction proposals. I would like to say at least one is outlined, but writing is hard. It takes a lot of discipline and concentration. If you’ve tried it, you know.

The IMG_0704scary part is having someone else read it! Of course, I’m talking about stepping out there on the teeniest branch of the tree and handing a flash drive to a stranger. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but even a lot of my friends and contacts on Facebook (including students) do not know what I am doing. Hell, I’m not sure what I am doing. Some days I wake up with the Bad Critic standing over me, laughing.

“Seriously?” he says. “What makes you think you can do anything? A book?” and then he laughs so hard, he falls off the bed, and I put the pillow over my face and try to stay in bed.

I get up, though. Some mornings it takes everything I’ve got to put my feet on the floor. But my new part time job is helping. I’m teaching 4-5-year-olds English online. I have to get up at 5 or 6 because they live in China. I know, I said I wasn’t going to teach ESL anymore, but these little guys are funny, and I get to be funny, too. They call me Teacher Sonya, or just Teacher (which is a respectful title in Asia), and usually, by the time I get done with the first class, I’ve put the Bad Critic into a garment bag and zipped him up. Oh, he’ll figure out how to get out, but not for a while, and he doesn’t dare show his face while I’m teaching online.

Yes, I know it’s a circus act, but you remember my depression? It can’t hold on to me while I’m singing the ABC’s to a five-year-old online. So far I’ve taught 47 students. And now the circle of my ESL teaching is complete. Primary School through High School. Some days I wonder how I do it.

Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

What Are You Afraid of?

I am not afraid of much any more.

Height doesn’t bother me as long as it is not combined with speed, I’m good. Oh, I should clarify: speed as in roller coasters. That’s just nuts. I can’t even watch them on television.

All right, I can tolerate roller coasters if I have to because I figured out if I close my eyes the whole time, I don’t see the scary parts, and I’m okay. Now some people might say that’s wasting a great ride and the whole point of roller coaster riding. I’m just telling you how I coped with it when I had to ride.

I learned at a young age how to cope with my fears. I had a kind of claustrophobia that started when I was nine, and it was pretty serious. I felt as though I was going to faint or throw up. My stomach hurt and everything looked woozy to me. Woozy. Yes, that’s the best word I can think of because it is not easy to explain a panic attack. I told my family, and the doctor checked me out but couldn’t find anything. So! In the 1960s there was no support for this kind of mental problem. (At least I didn’t get locked up!) There were no medicines other than Valium, and that wasn’t what you give a nine-year-old.

The reaction I got from people around me was like the so-called “natural childbirth” method: Breathe Through It! Just breathe through it. Just breathe. As an aside, I did natural childbirth three times. I am, as we all were, a very strong woman.

So when I got dizzy, which was what I called my panic attacks, I had to figure out what to do. Fight or Flee? No. Usually, I was in a place where I could do neither.

What I could do, though, was sit on the end seat, so one side had a bit more breathing room, and I could always claim that at family dinners because I’m a lefty. Easy.

(Don’t get me started on being a lefty. That will be a later topic. There will be discussion afterwards.)

Elevators were hard unless I could manage to stay near the front. Most children are squished to the back. However, the ride is usually short.

Movie theaters and auditoriums were my bane, and I couldn’t always sit near an aisle. So, you can imagine how terrified I was of being ON stage. I was usually in a singing group, but the hot lights really bothered me. I kept breathing and breathing and never directed my eyes to the audience. I don’t think anyone in my family knew then or knows to this day how anxious I was.

We find our way through the forest that frightens us. As an adult, I became a teacher and stood in front of many students, some who wanted to learn and some who wanted to curse me out. We keep going, usually.

Today I shopped at IKEA, one of my favorite stores, and it was packed with more people than I have ever seen. Back to College? Already? I managed okay upstairs, but when I go to the lower level where all the lights are, I have to stop myself from running to the checkouts and into the parking lot.

So I guess you could say I have IKEA lights phobia. Or IKEA electricity phobia. But I think there may be something about all that lighting in one place. I remember watching a television show where the occupants of the house were sure there were ghosts, because they felt sick and dizzy every time they went to the basement. The specialists used an electronic device in the basement and it went off the scale near certain spots. They recommended the owners have an electrician check the wiring because some people are bothered by certain electromagnetic fields When the owners had an electrician check the wiring, he rerouted and replaced some of it. End of problem. (I was a bit disappointed no ghosts were found, but I was glad the owners knew what was wrong.)

So, to recap…ha! I began with fear of heights and ended with electricity.

My mind at work.