Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fear Only Fear

Last night, we went to a concert. Not just any concert, I want to say, because without the follow-up description, it feels lifeless, like it was just some guy standing on stage strumming the strings. Willy Porter is definitely NOT 'just some guy'. He is amazing, truly amazing, and BY FAR my favorite live musician. Trying to summarize the experience that I have when I watch him on stage, however, feels completely overwhelming to me. There is really SO much I want to say, and feel, surprise, surprise, afraid that I won't be able to capture him completely. He's from Wisconsin, which matters to me only because it was on a trip in Idaho, with a group of kids from a wilderness camp in Wisconsin, that I first heard his honest, powerful sound echo through our van. At the time, nearly 15 years ago, he was playing local gigs for my friends in Madison. Now, he travels around the country playing to audiences that I think might admire the guy as much as I do.

In the past, I've written about how there are times when I feel like I've "got it", when I feel so connected to me and the world, and alive with possibility. Listening to Willy Porter in person was always one of those times. I'd always leave his shows, inspired to be ME, and make the changes in my life I wanted to make. 'Breathe' reminded me of the importance of slowing down in life, living in the moment, and the power of relaxation. 'Unconditional' brought about thoughts and feelings of being with my mom and loving my baby.

Last night, however, I really connected with Willy's song about fear. The overwhelming emotion has been my focus all afternoon, too. I added this video so you can experience a bit of what I'm talking about--it doesn't come anywhere close to how I feel when I listen to him at the Aladdin, but it can give you an impression. His fingers, what he can do with them...amazing. Check 'em out. I wanna tell you to turn it up as loud as your speakers will allow, because I think that's how Willy sounds best...but the sound quality on the following video isn't all that great, so listener beware. I also wrote down the lyrics below (tried as I might to find them online, I couldn't, and the process of writing them out allowed me to appreciate them even MORE). I find that when I can read along, they sink in deeper...

Fear only Fear

If a wild woman of wisdom gave up her way for a safe path,
I would ask the question, what wisdom is there in that?
Fear only fear, wanna keep her on her knees

If a man tells a bad joke, one against God or race,
and another man laughs, but laughs only with his face,
Fear only fear, wanna keep him on his knees,

There's a line between war and peace.
Fear only fear,
I fear my fears

When I walk in that dark place,
I don't know what is there.
Ehen I find what I will find,
I'm gonna try and face it in the mirror.

If a heart says to go, but your mind is so afraid,
I let my heart take control over all the decisions that I make.

Fear only fear, wanna keep us on our knees, fear only fear,
Is the line between war and peace.
I fear my fear, only fear...

The wall is so tall, no one can see in,
It's keeping you out, it's holding me in
It's keeping you out, it's holding me in
It's keeping you out, it's holding me down.

I hear those lyrics above and feel so connected, not just to Willy, but really to all of humanity, because when I can really accept what is true for me, I can accept that it is true for many others as well.

For me, fear doesn't necessarily keep me on my knees, but at times, it keeps me from being nice. It keeps me stuck in anger and blame, and unable to appreciate what might otherwise be sweet and full of wonder.

This afternoon, we went to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) at the German American School. We were planning to leave at about nap time so that Kaya would fall asleep in the car. Well, "the best laid plans...". We went in to the food vendors first, quickly realizing, however, that the cash was back in the car. The German pretzels were overly temping, though, so we quickly left to grab the dough. We had to go through the room of books first, however, which proved another big temptation for my pocketbook. After pushing Kaya to the outer limits of her patience, while riding on my back in the Ergo, I saw the exit and finally headed for the cash.

As it turned out, our wallets were empty, so I walked up the street to find an ATM. The decision plagued me, as I stood there needing to make a choice: $20 or $40? Geoff and I just decided that we were going to save money for our Germany trip next year that we're planning (and just bought the tickets for!!). Thus, I figured I should only take out 20. But we have to eat. And there's some books in there that I want for Kaya. I pulled out $40.

As we're eating our Weisswurst and Kartoffelsalat, Kaya starts rubbing her eyes and fussing for Mama. Uh oh. Tired toddler. Time to go. Eager to get a few books before a scream-fest ensues, I quickly come up with a plan, download on it on Geoff, and run back to the book room. I spend longer in there than I intend to, buy 3 books instead of one, and spend the rest of our cash. The guilt sinks in quickly, and I rush back to the two of them. I could see Kaya, in my mind's eye, screaming and kicking while the oompa band played songs of Jesus and Hallelujah.

Much to my relief, I find Kaya and Geoff playing on the benches next to the band, quietly. Seems that the meltdown has 'yet' to happen. Geoff has a look of concern in his eye. Uh-oh. He's mad that I took so long. It was really hard with her while I was gone. Instead of hearing answers to any of my concerns, I hear him ask me if he can have a few bucks. Um. Oops. Guilt actualized. I spent all our cash on more books than I said I'd buy. There was none left to tip the beer guy. Kaya started whining, "Essen, Essen," eagerly pointing all the food around us. More guilt. I spent all the money on more books than we need and now my daughter is hungry. I tell Kaya that I hear her, that I understand that she wants to eat, but that we're going to leave and head to the car so that she can go to sleep. "Missccch...Missscch!" she replies, with vengeance. Clearly, my mention of sleep cued her to want some milk, none of which we brought with us. I suck. I spent all the cash we had and now my daughter can't eat. My husband can't tip the beer guy. I bought too many books. Guilt piled on guilt. Covered up with the "need to keep it together while we're in public" (because I'm afraid of what they'll think of me, or what I'll do, if I don't...). Before her pleas grow any louder, and I look like the awful mother that I feel like, I scoop her off the ground, throw her on my hip (do they really think I threw her?), and head for the exit. I notice the beer guy looking my direction, hearing myself wonder if he's judging me or my husband for being so stingy. Move along, I tell myself. No time for authenticity right now.

We make it to the car, decide that Geoff and I are impressive enough to win a diaper-changing contest, and strap the lass into her seat. She's no longer yelling about wanting to jump off the curb one more time, but has started in once again on her request for milk. It becomes incessant, and is so loud that it's hard to converse with Geoff. I look at the clock. 12:45pm. About an hour past normal nap time, but not too bad. She can fall asleep in the car, and all will be well, I figure. Her cries for milk cease to subside, however, and suddenly I find myself running into McDonalds to buy a plastic pint of milk. I hate McDonalds. What am I supporting? More guilt. More meaning. I've become like the "rest of America", who will do anything to get their kids to sleep. Judgment upon judgment. It's everywhere, and never-ending, it seems.

I get back to the car, milk in hand, smile on my face, eager to soothe and be on our way. 5 minutes later, however, we're still in the parking lot, fussing over straws and spilled milk. Clearly, my patience is far too thin to be able to deal with her pulling the straw in and out of the pint, tossing milk all over the car. I guess right now I'm gonna make it mean that I'm irresponsible. I wish I could pull away from that right now, but I can't! It's too much. I grab the straw and return to the driver's seat, ready to let Daddy deal with this one. You want me to drive, he asks. No way. I need the 'escape' of the driver's wheel for a bit.

I could continue the play by play for the next hour before nap, including the continued screams for 'Milch,'; the spilled milk pint on the floor of the car; the puddle of dog pee on the carpet at home; the urine-covered bedding in Kaya's crib; the ripped-up dirty diapers on the bathroom floor; and the deafening silence between me and Geoff throughout the entire afternoon. But I think you see where I'm heading...

Fear, only fear, is the line between war and peace.

When I was standing at the money machine, I was afraid of what it would mean if I spent that money after we'd talked about saving it.
I was afraid of what it would mean if I didn't have enough money for us to have a good time.
What did it mean that I had spent all the money that I took out, especially when I didn't really want to take out that much in the first place?

Inside, the fears continued. The wall was so tall, no one could see in.

Am I spending too much money on German books that I could get for less?
'Should' I have asked Geoff if I could buy as many books as I did? Is he upset with me for not asking? Does it even matter? (What is he going to think of me? Do I look bad? Do I look like a selfish *^&%$#@?)

Beneath that fear was one that surfaced again a few days ago as I was driving in the car, that I'd been wanting to write about once again (despite the fact that I keep writing about it):
I'm afraid that Kaya's tendency to speak more English than German means something 'bad' about me. A lot of somethings, in fact, that lead me to feel sad, shameful, guilty and powerless:

It means Geoff reads to her more.
It means that, maybe, she likes to read with him more.
It means he's more available to her.
It means I'm gonna have to try harder.
It means that he takes longer on each book when he reads to her, pointing out the things on each page. Clearly, his method is more 'effective'.I like the sound of the words, the story. But maybe I "should" be pointing out the things so that her vocabulary will be as big in German as it seems to be in English.

Maybe Kaya has been speaking "more" English to me lately. Maybe she's been speaking more German with Geoff. Who knows, really. We've both heard our share of words that we think she says regularly in the "opposite" language, though:

Down. Rabbit. Fork. Color. Red. Pink...

Auch. Zahnbuerste. Zahnpasta. Wagen. Auto. ...

The other day, for example, she was lying on the changing table, looking up at the photo on the wall.
"Monkey," she said to me.
"Yeah, Daddy sagt Monkey, was sagt Mama?" I asked her. (Daddy says Monkey, what does mama say?)
She pauses for a moment, and then says, "Affe."

Apparently, she's getting something.

Is there really a need for all of this fear?

It hit me the other day that Kaya hears Geoff and I speak English with each other. Seems so obvious when I lay it out here. Of course she does. That's the language we have in common.

But I'd been forgetting that.
More precisely, my fears had been obscuring that significant concept in this whole process.

She hears English from her community, from all of her Grandparents, from her neighbors, from her Daddy. Essentially, from everyone she loves, including me sometimes.

She hears German from me, from strangers in a couple playgroups that we sometimes go to every week, and from CDs that I play on occasion. One, maybe two, emotional connections in German.

Duh, Tamara.

Fear, only fear.

After a long, stressful Sunday in my life as a human, Geoff and I finally stood face to face, arm in arm, ready, once again, to let down our walls. He'd written me a beautiful, meaningful letter full of honesty and insight. I'd read it with tears in my eyes, eager to move past the fear and start again.

I wish we could start this day ALL over again, he told me.
We can, I said. We sure can.

And with that, my "Good Morning!" became our good night, and a powerful reminder of the possibilities that lie in letting go of our fears.


  1. Not everyday can be perfect. We've all had days like that. I love how you said it, "in my life as a human." Sounds to me like you are doing a fabulous job and staying real to who you are and what you want. Keep on keeping on!

  2. You are an amazing, talented, gifted, loving, kind, thoughtful, powerful human, friend, mother and wife! Bless your heart Tamara! :)

  3. Thanks, Mari! I love knowing that you are here, out there supporting me in cyberspace!
    I hear what you are saying about not everyday being perfect. I completely get that, for sure, and even feel very strongly that I don't...well, I was going to say that I don't expect that, but I think there might be a part of me that hopes for it...not necessarily perfect, but easy and seamless.
    I write like I do because it helps me remember that others have days like this too...thanks for reminding me!


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