strength vs fear


When I was growing up, my mom often took on responsibility for two of her brothers who suffered from mental illness. My first trip to New York City was to visit one of those uncles on Staten Island in the hospital. I remember riding the subway in the city, taking cabs for the first time, and skimming across a blue-green New York Harbor on the Staten Island Ferry with my mother at my side. It was all a grand adventure as far as I was concerned and it never occurred to me that my mom was under any stress; wondering what kind of shape she would find her beloved big brother in, being forced to talk to strange doctors and make arrangements to get him back to Michigan. My grandmother always turned to her youngest daughter for help when the shit hit the fan because Carol was the “strong” one, the one who could get things done. I was surprised while talking with my mom in later years when she mentioned going to the doctor to get a prescription for Valium before she had to go to court to commit her other ill brother to a mental hospital. I suppose that was one of those eye opening moments when I really looked at my mother as a person, not as an all-powerful and all-knowing parent.

One of the characters in my latest book makes the following statement while talking to a friend, “…and the thing about strength is, nobody faces a potential heartache and thinks, Hey bring it on, I’m ready. It just doesn’t work like that Susie. We do what we have to do when the people we love need us and it’s damn hard sometimes. I don’t really buy into that idea some people have more strength than others.” So I’m wondering if you agree with her, are there people who are by nature stronger than others, or are some people simply more willing to act despite their fear? And do we pay a price by acting when we are afraid, or do we gain strength?

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6 thoughts on “strength vs fear

  1. “So I’m wondering if you agree with her, are there people who are by nature stronger than others, or are some people simply more willing to act despite their fear? And do we pay a price by acting when we are afraid, or do we gain strength?”

    I believe it has more to do with the end of this statement, that some people are more willing to act despite their fears. I know, at least from my own experiences, that when I have pushed forward, despite any inclination to stand back and “wait it out”, that I’ve not only learned from whatever expierence I’m going through, but I’ve also realized that I am a lot stronger than I realize. The strength is always there, you just have to be brave enough to act upon it.

  2. It’s an interesting question. I think it can go either way. Some people get stronger, some act in spite of fear, and some people simply fall apart in a crisis. I have seen all 3 behaviors myself!

  3. I think at the time we are acting, doing something difficult and painful, we might feel like it is “costing” us. As we get older though we realize that all our experiences add up to a stronger, more capable, and hopefully more loving person.

  4. ooh, this is impossible to answer–its always situational…

    i am intereseted in this question of the drugs, because we were all talking about how many people are medicated today; how college students we know are sharing their anxiety prescriptions and it is so readily normal, like asking to share a pencil.

    (maybe i am making it that way in my heart…)

    I think like your grandmother, some people project ideas onto us, and we take them up for as long as possible to honor that person’s idea of us; but what is strong or weak in us can be so misunderstood; those i thought strong once, were just pretense to power and underneath, ashen, and time always dismantles the fantasy.

    (thanks for your comment, loved it!)

  5. Well first off I love your blog.

    The questions you pose. Boy oh boy.

    I agree with everything even though that is not the question. I agree that you do what you have to do. You put one foot in front of the other. And yet, many people don’t put that one foot in front of the other, they look for someone else to do it for them.

    Love your post.


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