I recently released my fears after hanging onto them for 30 something years. How many types of fear have I felt in my life and which was worst? Fear of failing my exams and bringing home a bad report at the end of term, knowing that my father would not spare the rod. Fear of coming home late or not at all after a fun night out with my friends, knowing my mother’s painful and accusing look would haunt me for the next week. Fear of the school authorities suspending me again for breaking strict Christian boarding school rules; knowing the wrath that awaited me at home. Fear of not getting a man to marry soon enough to escape the stifling rules of my childhood home. Fear of childbirth at age nineteen. Fear of being judged by my friends, my teachers but above all by my pious mother. Fear of not completing my education.
Oh, then there was the fear of never having a ‘white wedding’ like all the other good girls. Fear of death after losing my eldest brother and fearing I would never live up to his perfection in my parent’s eyes. Fear of not grieving him enough, correctly, with dignity. Fear of failing in my marriage and enduring domestic violence to try and save the failed marriage. Fear of being an inadequate mother to my three children. Fear of being vain, selfish and disrespectful. Fear of losing my friends who were always there for me.
Was there a time when fear did not haunt me? I could not remember a time when there was no fear but my memories were scattered. On some days they came into sharp focus but on most they were a blur and I struggled to recall what it was I was afraid of at different times in my life. I blamed my amnesia on the numerous bottles of alcohol that I drank throughout my 20s and 30s as I tried to drown the fear.
At 50 I know that the daring fearlessness with which I took on political activism in my 30s was my way of fighting back at the deep fear that consumed my personal life. I had no control over the things that made me afraid at home, so I made up for my helplessness by facing public life with courage.