I was in my mid-50’s before I realized that most of my life had been fear-based.
It just never occurred to me. These past years I’ve been taught to identify my fears and work through them.
Too bad I didn’t stumble upon recovery earlier. Hindsight truly say, is 20-20.
I don’t know what my outside looked like, but from 5 to 55 fear shaded my behavior. Exterior confidence was plagued by inner insecurities.
Would I fall off my bicycle? Would people laugh? Would the kids at my new school like me?
When I was ten I was asked to play in the Majors in Little League. That young, I was in a distinct minority. I was drafted by the White Sox that year (1960), and put at second base. The league rule mandated that all roster players bat at least once per game and play two innings in the field. Each fifteen player team had to have three players 9 or 10 years old; the rest were older: 11 and 12.
I batted once per game, and at season’s end was 0 for 16. All my friends were in the minors hitting up a storm. We’d hang out and they’d all have their war stories of homeruns, sliding into bases, and the like. My Dad told me it was better “to be a little fish in a big pond than a big fish in a little pond.” But I was 0 for the season, Dad!.
With two games to go the White Sox needed one win to clinch the pennant. Feigning an injury, I told Mr. Wendel I couldn’t take the field. I was so afraid I’d cost us a title. My father sensed it and called me on it on the drive home. He advised me then, nearly a half-century ago, that sooner or later I’d have to learn to face my fears.
I was a decent ballplayer…or better. In the collegiate days I was part of Sol’s Boys, a slow-pitch softball juggernaut. We cruised for years winning everything in sight; we were the class of the J.C.C. leagues; everyone knew we kicked ass. I picked up one league batting title (.683 in 1969), but was more appreciated for my defensive prowess. Still, truth be known, my mitt’s pocket had the following printed in bold print magic marker (for my eyes only): “Please God Don’t Let Me Make The First Error.”
Fear. Hidden fear.
Our team was so powerful that I vividly remember (each game) hoping someone would screw up in the field early, so I wouldn’t feel pressure. We were always strong enough to catch up.
College changed nothing.
Fear of abandonment. Fear of rejection. Fear of dying a virgin.
I recently came across a letter I had written to my Grandma explaining my sudden departure from Michigan State and transfer to The Ohio State University. In it I explained to her that I always wanted OSU, but was afraid to tell my father, since he wanted me in East Lansing.
I never feared relationships, though, because I never was in one.
So I married my first girlfriend.
Fear of sex. She was from the east coast and worldly. Fear of failure.
Would she love me if I didn’t have money?
Would they like me if they knew the real me?
Would I even like myself?
Isn’t it sad how I let fear govern my behavior?
Fear plagued me in the late 70’s when I asked my Dad to quietly meet me for coffee. Huddled at Fogel’s Deli in Columbus, I shared with him my concerns and played the “What if?” game.
He laughed. He smiled. He cried.
My father had, in his life, been to hell and back.
“Bruce,” he comforted, “I can promise you this….they won’t cut your balls off.”
And he was right.
My mother used to always quote FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
My friend Tom has taught me that the fears disappear if you go through them, and not around them.
Another guy swears that looking back, most of the terrible things that happened to him in life never actually happened.
I fear less these days. Making a long story short, let’s just say I’ve replaced fear with faith.
Most days I feel like I can face whatever comes my way.
Most days I do.
Life throws me curve balls from time to time, but with faith I keep swinging.
I hit some; sometimes I just whiff.
Still, I know, just know that even as I swing and miss, they won’t cut my balls off.
Even if I go 0 for 16!

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