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Perspectives of Five Women

Confronting My Fears

After blood donation

Image by acroamatic via Flickr

I don’t fear death. I don’t have an irrational fear of strangers, no matter how much my grandmother tried to instill that in me. I used to be afraid of water, but now I’m just very cautious around it. I have two fears – pain and helplessness. I confronted one of those this week.

I think it’s obvious why I’m afraid of pain. Death is unavoidable – I’m okay with that. But most pain is avoidable. I think this is why it took me so long to start running. I knew it would hurt. Why would I want to do that to myself? I’m not a wuss, either. I’ve always had a fairly high pain tolerance. Maybe it’s because when pain has really bothered me, it’s because it would have to be pretty bad.  I don’t think I’m going to get over this fear, but I don’t let it bother me most of the time.

The other fear, helplessness, really bothers me. I’m a very independent woman and I like to rely on myself. I don’t have a partner to share things, so I’ve learned to be very self-reliant. So, those moments in which I can’t do anything for myself really bother me.

I think it started in 8th grade. I was sitting in my health class, listening to a guest speaker. The D.A.R.E. program had brought in a woman whose life had been affected by drunk driving. I had been sick that week, suffering from my ongoing sinus issues. I hadn’t eaten lunch because I wasn’t feeling well. We were listening to the lady describe the accident that her family had been involved in because a drunk driver had hit them. She described her husband’s leg break. She said that if noon was the toes straight to the front, during the accident, it twisted all the way around to 7 o’clock. That was it. The next thing I know I’m being helped off the floor by our D.A.R.E. officer and my health teacher.  I had fainted, right in the middle of class. I looked around and all of my friends, except the guy I was dating, were staring at me. He was avoiding eye contact for some reason. The teacher helped me down to the nurses office. I was mortified.

From that moment on, it really bothered me to be helpless, to have to rely on someone else. I continued to have fainting problems off and on through high school and college. When giving a small vial of blood for medical tests, having a mole removed, or even having a TB test, I would have problems with fainting. It led to me avoiding these types of situations just not to find myself being helpless and needing someone else.

That leads to Wednesday of this week. After some medical tests this spring in which I had to have several vials of blood drawn and I did not faint, I decided to donate a pint of blood. I have wanted to do this for awhile, but my fear led me to avoid it, even though I knew it would be a good thing to do. My church held a blood drive and I decided to sign up. I was nervous, but the people were great, talked me through it, and made sure I was okay before I left. The thing that really got me was how selfish I was being. What is a few minutes of feeling uncomfortable or fainting compared to helping up to four people? I had no problems – I kept my blood sugar up with a bottle of apple juice and I took it easy when I got up. I was so happy that I successfully confronted my fear and gave blood, and I could see myself giving blood in the future!

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New Year is an Understatement

I know this week we’re supposed to give our resolutions. I’m like Isabel and Amanda and don’t normally make them. I also have bigger things on my mind right now. In three quick words I can give my New Years Resolution: Find a job.

Today is my last day at my current job. I’ve been with this company nearly 8 1/2 years. It was the first company I worked for out of college. I’ve worked in different jobs and different departments and have gotten to know so many people. After today I’ll never see most of them ever again. This has been an interesting week with the full spectrum of emotions.

I’ve been excited about the prospect of going anywhere. Free to start anew at a different company with different responsibilities. The next minute I’ll be panicking. Horrified that my income, that’s been so stable and secure the past 8 years, is gone and I have no idea where my next paycheck will come from. Overwhelmed at the to do list in my head: Sign up for unemployment, find health insurance that won’t eat up all of my unemployment money, pack because no matter where I end up I’ll be moving, sign up for an IRA so Ican move my 401k money (I keep forgetting this one which is why I listed it.). I know there are things I’m forgetting. Everyday it seems like there is something else I need to do to prepare myself for this change over.

And then I just become sad. I’ve gotten to meet and know some fantastic people at this job. People I looked forward to seeing everyday. People that may frustrate you sometimes but for the most part made you smile and laugh…a lot. I worked with some of the craziest characters I’d ever met. You can’t write characters like this. Nowhere else have I been where there are stories that end with “I took a Xanax, had a glass of wine,and woke up in Amsterdam.” Priceless. I will miss everyone here so much.

But I’m trying to look forward to the possibilities of the future. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence right? Now I get to explore the other side of the fence. I’ve never left the area I grew up in. Even for college, I stayed in the same state. Studying 3 hours from home. I still live in the house I grew up in. It’s time to see what life is like in other places. I have a couple areas in mind. Right now I’m focused on New England but that could change. Who knows? That’s the exciting and terrifying part of it all.

I’ve told myself over and over, “I will be fine everything will work out.” Friends and family say the same thing. Doubt will creep in and I’ll have an anxiety attack for a little while. I fear that I’ll make the absolute wrong decision. When I do, my loved ones are there to remind me, “If you follow your gut and your heart you will be fine. When its right you’ll know it.” I’ll have a new job and a new life and all will be well.

Today I just need to get through the saying good bye part.

This song has been in my head all week. I think it fits.

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Cracks in the wall

This is a blog about women’s issues, and I recently had an experience that brought some of the less-pleasant things about what it is to be a woman to my attention. 

There’s a wall between feeling safe and feeling unsafe, threatened and scared.  Other people can put cracks in this wall, or tear it right down.  But only we can rebuild it and mend the cracks and holes.  Sometimes we tear down our own walls, but still, we need to be our own bricklayers or continue to live on the wrong side of the wall. 

Someone put a crack in my wall last week.  This, I suppose, is my way of grabbing the spackle and paint and making it right again. 

What happened started out innocuously, and was really not as horrible a thing as happens to many women around the world.  I’m not attempting to compare myself to victims of rape, violence or threats.  I think what happened sucked, and it left me feeling bad, but I’m not permanently altered by it, I’m not injured and I’m not scared.  But I was left feeling a bit victimized and assaulted, even if not physically. 

I was driving to my parents’ house last weekend.  I was on a particularly boring stretch of highway, listening to the radio and trying to make good time.  I looked to my right and noticed there was a good-looking man in the truck next to me.  He saw me notice him and smiled flirtatiously.  I smiled back, turned my attention back to the road and kept driving.  I’ve done the car-flirt before.  I’ve smiled and winked and even, on one occasion, made chase down the street for a time.  It’s always been fun and cute and left me feeling giddy and attractive. 

Now, I was not looking my cutest on this particular occasion.  I was post-work out, I had showered and run a brush hastily through my hair, thrown on some clean workout shorts and a t-shirt before getting into the car. So, I was a little surprised that this dude was flirting like this.  It went on for about ten miles of highway.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic so he was beside me for most of that time.   

Finally, at the exit before mine, he started moving to the right, to get off the highway.  When I looked over the last time he stood up and flashed his erect penis at me.  I was mortified.  All of the self-confidence I had been feeling for the past ten minutes vanished.  I was disgusted. (I’ll take this opportunity to also say that I don’t find anything wrong with the act of masturbation itself, I just have a problem when it’s done in public.  And before you say, “oh, he was in his car, no one could see,” let me say, “No, he was waving it out the window.  That is wrong, and it’s a crime.”).  Then I felt a pang of fear.  I hadn’t seen his license plate, but he may have seen mine.  He might have a way of finding my house, he might do any number of other things with whatever information he was able to get.  I knew it was a stretch, but it was out there…”what if?”

Looking back, I should have slowed down, taken his plate number and called the police.  I didn’t think, though, and I sped up and tried to get away as quickly as possible. 

I was shaken.  It was such a minor incident on the scale of scary sexual encounters, but nevertheless, it was one of those moments when the rug is pulled out from underneath you.  Your illusion of safety disappears momentarily and you realize that anything can happen to anyone at anytime.  Almost like those dreams where you’re falling and you wake up short of breath with a sinking feeling in your stomach.  Then you have to make the patches, and wait for the spackle to dry so that you can continue to live in a world where all the dangerous stuff is on the other side of the wall.  And you cross your fingers and hope that it never breaks through.

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