Killing Monsters

I have a story to share with you, but it requires another story, first. Some context:

I have on my life list as item #11: Ice Skate. And while those two little words might not seem like such a big deal, they are to me. Those two little words sum up a huge amount of fear.

For years, I’ve been telling myself, and anyone else who’d ask, that it was a fear of having my fingers cut off by some errant skater when I fell down. I’m running on the assumption that I will fall down, probably many, many times, before I manage to actually ice skate. And the fear of having my fingers chopped off made it easier to stay off those skates and away from that ice.

Until last week. When husband wanted to ice skate. Which brings me to the real story I have to share with you:

Husband suggested that I could watch while he skated (note: he’s only skated once before in his life. This is kind of a big deal for him, too.) And while he attempted to not fall down, I could capture some amusing photographs documenting his caper. I could laugh at his “heroics.”

Except that I stood in that ticket line with him, shaking in fear. And anger. So I convinced him – manipulated him – into walking away from something he so dearly wanted to do. I was intentionally stealing his joy.

But kind man that he is, he insisted that I tell him what in hell was going on in my head. Because stealing his joy and walking away had not reduced my fear/anger and had not improved my mood.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

So, of course, I yelled at him. “I’ll tell you what’s going on. I hate that you’re braver than me. That I’m shaking in fear and you’re laughing. And I’m not really scared about having my fingers cut off or of falling down. I KNOW THAT I’M NOT GOING TO BE GOOD AT THIS, THAT I’M GOING TO FAIL SPECTACULARLY, AND I’D RATHER JUST AVOID THE PAIN OF FAILURE THAN ACTUALLY ATTEMPT SOMETHING I KNOW I’M NOT GOING TO BE GOOD AT.”

And he just hugged me. “I’ve got you.”

“I want to be braver that this. And I know in my soul that if I walk away tonight, that this monster is going to get bigger. It’s going to be harder next time to say yes to trying this new, scary thing. If I don’t go into that rink with you, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. And I kinda hate that I’m jealous of how fearless you are.”

You see, dear friends, I had looked into this man’s eyes and seen the disappointment and discouragement. If I shut the door to his adventure, we would have lost something precious.

I have to face myself in the mirror everyday, and I would have to acknowledge that I had stolen something precious – to admit, every. single. day., that I had hurt the one person who loves me most.

Because I am afraid to fail.

That monster of fear with the big, pointy teeth? Me.

It’s really hard to admit that the thing you’re most scared of is yourself. Or at least that the monster is some ambiguous mental creation, rather than something real. But admit it, we must. And I did.

On January 2nd, I looked my husband in the eye and asked him in trembling voice to take me iceskating. “Help me kill a monster?”

And he took my hand. “Of course.”

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