Scarlett’s Letter May 19, 2014 – Pop Some Tags

Pop Some Tags

I’ve had it! I feel like Jackie Chan in the Hanes “tagless” t-shirt ad jumping around trying to rid myself of the annoyance of tags in clothing. They are so annoying! Some itch, some scratch, some hurt. And for some fashionistas, myself included, the brand name means a lot to us, and there I stand, scissors in hand, deliberating, “pop some tags and have anonymous clothing or keep the highly sought after branding and be miserable?” If it’s Target brand, then, who cares? Snip.

Here I sit in my comfy sweats, my highly coveted “Ed Hardy’s” and the tag inside, in the back, is right at the top of my butt crack and it’s all scratchy. Do I cut the tag out? Or leave it and keep fiddling with it, which makes it look like I’m picking my seat an awful lot?

An Effort to Evolve

Have you noticed? There seem to be so many more tags than their used to be. There are labels for fabric content, in seventeen languages, and laundering instructions, in seventeen languages and weird hieroglyphics for the illiterate, I suppose. I don’t understand the pictures, so good luck with that. Then there is the size tag and the brand tag. I could probably buy a full size smaller in not for all the tags stuffed inside my clothing!

Cut it out. That’s what I do, if it bothers me, I cut it out. Poppin’ tags.

An Effort to Evolve

Do we really need labels? In clothing? On mattresses, couches, pillows, lamps. How about the sticky labels adhered to items you don’t want sticky stuff adhered to? Can’t “pop” those too well.

Labels are bad.

Labels are bad in another respect; the sticky, gummy, labels we apply to ourselves and the annoying, scratchy, itchy, labels we apply to others.

Many folks I know carefully classify people, with labels, like a scientist might a new species; genus, class, species, etc. They begin any account with the race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, socio-economic status, any and all diagnoses, height, weight, sexual orientation and/or marital status, of any person involved in the story. She was a large, poor, white woman, German, I think, about five feet tall and five feet wide. I think she’s Christian, probably voted for Bush, divorced.

We label the ones we love, repeatedly, and expect them to somehow overcome their shortcomings; my nephew is ADHD, on Ritalin, can’t focus, doesn’t do well in school.

We label ourselves; I’m overweight, Gluten intolerant, pre-diabetic.

We even classify ourselves by the prescriptions we take, there’s a weird kinship in pharmaceutical similarities.

When I’m speaking with a chronic labeler, telling a story, and I introduce a person to the story, I use their name, if I know it, or simply their gender. The listener is nearly aghast at the fact I’ve left out so many critical details. Often, they’ll ask me to further classify, or label, the person. I will often say, “Human, you know, a hominid”.  I try to set a good example, there’s probably a label for that.

Enough! Enough. Don’t you see? Labels are limits. Labels are excuses. Labels stand between you and your goals, your happiness, your self-confidence. Labels inhibit, you, and those you label. Cut it out. Break free. Be free. Pop some tags!




Let Me Slip Into Something More Uncomfortable

Comfort, we think of this as a good thing, something we desire, something we seek. We look for comfort in clothes, shoes, beds, chairs, couches, cars, climate, friendships, relationships, our income and standard of living. I have a hard time thinking of a place we wouldn’t desire comfort. And, yet, comfort can be the enemy. I’ll explain.

There seems to be a fine line between comfortable and too comfortable, in life. When we are comfortable, everything is going well, or well enough. Often, once we’re comfortable, we slip into a state of “too comfortable”, which is stagnation, or even complacency. This is where we fall into a danger zone.

Complacency and stagnation imply a lack of concern, a staleness, an absence of movement. Yet, the world continues to move at a very rapid pace all around us. We may soon fall behind if we do not pay close attention. This can jeopardize our career, our fitness and health, and our relationships.

Career wise, think of the job skills and the technical skills that are necessary to be competitive now compared to ten years ago. Compared to twenty years ago. I know people who were “comfortable”, career wise, twenty years ago and became stagnant and complacent. As technology advanced, they clung to their comfortable ways, and in so doing, became less than competitive and unmarketable in their careers.

In our fitness and health realm, becoming comfortable can be very detrimental to our long-term health. While we are young and our metabolisms match our young, hearty and often unwise eating habits, all is well. As we become older and our metabolisms slow, we begin to accumulate extra pounds. Often, as our career and family interests and demands increase, our activity level decreases, yet our food intake does not, and the problem worsens. Soon, we are “too busy” with life to imagine how we’ll ever fit exercise and healthful food preparation into our schedules. We won’t, unless we make the effort. But, I have to ask this, if you don’t have time for fitness and healthful food preparation now, how in the world are you going to be able to manage illness or disease with your “too busy” schedule? That is often the consequence.

Comfort in relationships is also desirable, but once it becomes stagnation or complacency, the relationship is doomed to unhappiness or demise unless corrective measures are taken. Relationships, successful, enduring relationships, take as much effort and energy as an effective fitness program. Relationships involve two people, each of whom are growing and changing, learning and advancing, with time. It is important to always be focused on those changes and how they impact the relationship. It is important to allow the relationship to evolve along with the changes, the evolution of the parties involved. If a relationship is comfortable, stagnant, or complacent, and doesn’t evolve as the people do, it will suffer and become strained. A certain level of consciousness should be paid to your relationship, as much or more as you pay to your personal and career advances.

To grow, to change, to evolve, to advance, we need to get uncomfortable. Metaphorically speaking, and in reality, if we are sitting in our recliner every night, veg’ing out in from of the television, it is very hard to foster meaningful change. Heck, it’s hard just to stand up again. We will never accomplish anything greater by repeating the same, ordinary behavior over and over. To accomplish anything greater, we need to do something greater, and this is usually something that will be, at first, uncomfortable. One of my favorite home workout videos is Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown. She is quoted in one particularly tough section as “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

John Assaraf , author, lecturer and entrepreneur posted this on Facebook “I find that so many people nod their heads and say yes ‘I want this or that’ but when it comes down to really doing what it takes to do ‘this or that’ another part of their personality kicks in. It’s the ‘I’m too comfortable’ doing what I am doing right now part of their unconscious that kicks in and they allow their old comfortable self to rule and keep them away from the possibilities of a better future. To succeed beyond where you are, you must be willing to do what you aren’t comfortable doing for enough time so it becomes easy.”

I have shared some of my challenging experiences in the past, experiences where I had to get uncomfortable to progress in a direction that was necessary for me to go. In my current job, I teach groups of professionals how to use any of several accounting and auditing softwares. I must speak for eight hours at a time, standing, in front of an often unenthusiastic audience. I was never one for ANY kind of public speaking, I was once even shy speaking to professionals one on one. This job came to me at a time when my family was in great financial need. I took the job and overcame my limitation out of desperation in order to keep a roof over our head for a few more months. As you know, this job requires a great deal of air travel and when I took this job I was a very nervous flyer. I overcame that nervousness out of necessity. I have also told of my decision to begin running in an effort to overcome another self-imposed limitation I’ve harbored for many years. I became comfortable with running out a desire to challenge myself personally. We can change in any manner we seek by putting ourselves in situations where we are uncomfortable, this fosters growth and evolution, builds self-confidence and self-esteem

I truly believe we can do anything, that we can overcome any self-imposed limitation we choose, but, to do so we must do that which makes us uncomfortable. We have to push ourselves to change and to evolve. An immovable object will not just begin moving without some force to dislodge it. We are often that immovable object. We are also the dislodging force if we desire it. Dislodge yourself from complacency and stagnation. Slip into something a little more uncomfortable.

I challenge you to slip into something a little more uncomfortable. Take a moment or two and figure out something, however minor, however major, you’d like to accomplish. Assign a timeframe to it. Let’s do this together! Tell me what you want to accomplish that makes you a little (or a lot) uncomfortable) and I’ll tell you what my new challenge is. Push-ups make me uncomfortable. I can do about one. I want to be able to do more. I remember a young lady in my son’s fifth grade class who could drop and do 100 push-ups. I want to be able to do THAT, but it’s very uncomfortable, for me! I know this is no major, life altering ability, but, to me, it is. I have always had inferior upper body strength, a limitation, perhaps even a self-imposed limitation. Just to prove that limitations, of any sort, can be overcome, I am going to work towards being able to do one hundred push-ups, non-stop, one year from now. We’ll round down to June 1st to make it easier to remember. By June 1, 2014, I will post a video of me doing 100 push-ups, non-stop. How uncomfortable! What’s your challenge?! Let’s all slip into something uncomfortable!

The Beautiful People

I don’t know who they are, exactly. I do know that I am not one of them, or at least that’s what I’ve been told many, many times in my life. They get things and I don’t. Somehow they are more deserving than me, or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe many, many times in my life. I envision Jennifer Aniston, who is indeed beautiful, but I don’t think any more deserving than, say, me. Or you.

In the naiveté of childhood I would say, “Mommy, I’d like a house like that some day,” or “I want to live in Paris some day”, and often these musings were met with the same response, “that’s for the beautiful people.” Was my mom calling me ugly? Or just undeserving? Was she being pragmatic, or instilling in me limiting beliefs? Both. I’m sure her intent was to soothe me, to reassure me, that a good enough life was good enough. A modest cookie cutter house in a curb and gutter neighborhood, a reliable, economical car, a job as a nurse and a husband not from divorced parents who watches TV at night and mows the lawn on the weekend. Those seemed to be her very practical hopes and dreams for me. Her expectations, even, as I spent much of my life enduring “should” storms. I should study this, I should say that, I should buy this kind of house, that kind of car, etc. Of course, none of it was what I wanted, but I’m wondering if what I wanted was the opposite of what she expected, just out of my own stubborn rebellion. Could be.

The beautiful people, I gather, are people who are wealthy, have multiple homes, travel extravagantly, drive exotic cars, dine outrageously and live luxuriously. The beautiful people can afford all the shoes they want! They can afford all the Louboutin’s they want! Beautiful people only hang out with other beautiful people. If I had to guess. And I can’t be part of the club, according to my mom. Ever. I’m just NOT one of the beautiful people.

But, in my stubborn rebellion, I refuse to believe that. I AM in the same club as the beautiful people, I have a lot in common with them! We are like THIS! I have 206 bones in my body. So do the beautiful people. I inhale and my body uses some of the oxygen in the air and when I exhale I breathe out carbon dioxide. So do the beautiful people. If I drink too much wine I get weird. So do the beautiful people. If I wear new shoes and walk a lot, I get blisters. So do the beautiful people. I require a bit of sleep every night. So do the beautiful people. If I cut myself I bleed. So do the beautiful people. I am a human being, capable of endless possibilities and limited only by my beliefs. So are the beautiful people.

I hope I raised my own children to believe they are the beautiful people, capable of anything they set their minds to, empowered, unlimited. I know my parents had all the best intentions in the world in raising me, and, truthfully, I am grateful for them. With the exception of being automatically disqualified from the beautiful people club. Because now, at this advanced stage in life, I still want to be part of the club, and I have to battle those limiting beliefs that I am just not one of them, that I am somehow different or less deserving. But you know what? I don’t have a modest cookie cutter house in a curb and gutter neighborhood, a reliable, economical car, a job as a nurse and a husband not from divorced parents who watches TV at night and mows the lawn on the weekend. I lied. I do have a reliable, economical car, but I desperately want to trade it in on something a little flashier. My point is, I have rebelled against every other expectation, so why not the expectation that I’m not one of the beautiful people?

Limiting beliefs compromise our potential. They prevent us not only from achieving our potential, but from even recognizing the potential of or our potential. Most of us never come close to what we are truly capable of learning, doing, sharing. Just think, for a moment; if we were all limitless, do you think we’d still be struggling with a cure for cancer? For AIDS? Do you think our economy would be a shambles? Our political system devoid of true and worthy leaders? If we all reached a quarter of our potential, the world would be unrecognizable, I’m sure, from what we see today. And yet, only the bravest and most motivated of us will spend the better part of our lives trying to crawl out from under our learned or, often, self-imposed, limitations, leaving very little time left in life to accomplish great things. The single best thing we can do to turn the Titanic around is to teach our young people that they are unlimited. There are, indeed, many beautiful people out there who came from very limited situations, never claimed those limits as their own, and became those beautiful people.

I know I am going to battle against any and every limitation, learned, or self-imposed, in order to achieve something worthwhile and meaningful in this world. It’s more than a material conquest to me, oh no, I desperately want to make a difference! And the difference I’d like to make is to help people identify and discard their limitations and become beautiful people along with me. You, me, and Jen Aniston. Beautiful people.


We are all victims, if not right now, at some point in our lives. Our survival depends on what we do about being victimized.

By survival, I mean our ability, as individuals, to live a life of endless hope and opportunity, to seek fulfillment. A life without limitations where all things are possible. For, without hope, opportunity, and fulfillment, we are limited to a life barely worth living, to merely existing.

Often, I hear people discuss how they were victimized. They lament the situation, retell the story, and, sadly, offer it as an excuse for some limiting behavior. To me, this is more tragic than whatever they suffered when they were victimized.

I firmly believe, and I have said many times before, we are only limited by ourselves. Overcoming our limitations offers us the opportunities life has to offer us. Living with our self-imposed limitations imprisons us from a life we were meant to have.

If we are all victims, why do some of us succumb to victimization more than others? I think many people truly don’t realize that they, alone, hold the power to overcome.

It is your choice, and that’s all there is to it.

If you are in a situation where you continue to be victimized, get out. There is always a way, and, again, only you are in control of whether you stay in that situation, or not. I have a friend, who after many years of abuse at the hands of her husband, after years and years of encouragement from her friends and family, left. She took her kids and went to a shelter, pressed charges, testified against the man she took vows with, and built herself a new life. She left the home she and her husband had built, she left a life with mutual friends, a neighborhood where her children had a school and friends. And she started over. It was hard, admittedly, it took courage, bravery, strength. There were tears, there was guilt, initially. And then, there was freedom, freedom from abuse, from pain, from shame, from fear, from victimization.

To this day, she never uses her past abuse, her past victimization as an excuse for anything. Nor do her children. She took advantage of work training programs that were available to her, she relied on the encouragement of her family and friends, she accepted charity when offered. Now she has a great, steady job with good benefits and retirement. Her children have grown into strong, well-adjusted, independent people. She recently bought her own home and has a long term relationship with a wonderful man who treats her like a goddess. This was all by choice. Hers. Alone. She took control, she walked away and took control of her life, of herself. Her abuser is powerless against her. He is broken. She is whole.

Whether you were a victim of abuse, neglect, or even bullying, as a child, as a spouse or in a close relationship, at work, or at the hands of a complete stranger, whether you were a victim of a violent crime, psychological abuse or identity theft, as a victim, you have been deprived of control over some situation. You remain a victim for as long as you allow yourself to be ashamed, afraid, hurt, scared or angry. Notice the words “allow yourself”. You are in control, you only need to realize it, then exert it.

Again, we have all been victimized in some way, at some point in our lives, and in being victimized, someone has exerted their power and control over us. Don’t you dare let them keep it. Notice the words “let them”. It is your choice. Take control, take back that control. By taking measures to overcome the abuse, violence, neglect, mistreatment, or the situation you were taken advantage in, you regain the power. Your power. And that is your first step to becoming whole, to being healed. To being limitless.

By playing the victim, by coveting your victimization, focussing on it, retelling it, you are first of all, constantly reliving it. You are never free of it and, you are allowing that person to maintain power and control over you. Many forms of victimization are demonstrations of power, and only you can revoke that power from them by reclaiming it for yourself. Then you can draw on that power, your power, to heal yourself.

We all have tremendous capability for strength, courage, bravery and healing, whether physical, emotional or psychological. The key to recovery is within you, find a way to tap into that strength, courage, bravery and healing power. Empower yourself, whether you do so by educating yourself, finding a support group, a therapist, or a sympathetic friend that encourages your reclamation of power.

But you have to make the decision and follow through. This is the hardest step, but once you walk out that door with your suitcase, once you turn your back, pick yourself up, brush yourself off and take that first step, the battle is won. You’ll find, once you take that first step, there’s a world ready to greet you, to help you, just ask. You need only take the first step, and your power is restored and it can be put to use fitting the pieces back together, the way they belong.

If you choose to hang on to your victimization, you are really only victimizing yourself. We are capable of overcoming, of moving beyond. To choose otherwise is just that, to choose. Why would you choose to be a victim at your own hands?

Don’t Judge Me

But it’s what we do. The instant we see another person, we make judgements. Whether a close friend, a relative, even our own family; some little voice from deep within makes some kind of (hopefully) silent commentary. Am I right? I think that’s pretty normal. And I make every effort to shut that voice down, to, instead, make a vocal, positive comment.

Great. So now every time I give someone a compliment they’re going to be grimacing at what I might really be thinking. Not the case. I have really, really been doing a much better job of seeing people with a “new lens”.

Would it be too much to ask everyone else to do the same? We are all unique individuals with our own mannerisms, style, tone of voice, speech patterns, gestures, expressions, habits (good and bad). That’s what makes us who we are. If we all fit into the mold that you think we should all fit in to, well, then, the world would, first of all, be very bland, with everyone looking just like you. And second, really? The way you dress, with those homely shoes? The way you chew with your mouth open? Oh. Sorry. Momentary lapse.

Actually, most of us are our own worst critics. Again, am I right? Another thing I work very, very, very hard to shut down. Self judgement leads to an eroded self-esteem and diminished self confidence. I actually sit down every morning, with my cup of coffee, and write down a page of affirmations about myself, followed by a page of things I am grateful for. This daily task takes about five minutes and sets the tone for a good, focused, energized day, brimming with self confidence and gratitude. I recommend it.

Back to not judging. I’ll admit, I do have a few prejudices. Are you ready? Mini van drivers and people who identify themselves by their limitations. Ouch. I know.

I know there are exceptions. There are one or two mini van drivers that almost know what they’re doing. Almost. And of course, these are my friends who are reading this right now. You know who you are! You’re fine. The exceptions. I assure you. From what I have observed, though, with the purchase of a mini van comes a lobotomy. They only scrambled the part of your brain that contained common sense as it pertains to driving ability and road safety, including making swift, efficient lane changes, effective merging, use of blinkers, and maintaining a consistent speed. And they also scrambled the part of the brain pertaining to any kind of vehicular pride. I saw a bumper sticker the other day, “Real men drive mini vans”. I had to pull over, I laughed until I cried.

Now for my other prejudice. I truly, to my core, believe that people are only limited by the limitations they define themselves by. I have seen amazing, awe-inspiring athletes with a prothesis, or two, or three. I have heard beautiful, eloquent public speakers that have overcome debilitating speech difficulties, like stuttering. I honestly think there are very few limitations a person can’t overcome, to a large extent, simply by letting go of their limiting beliefs and behaviors. There is so much written on the subject, I recommend going in search of some authors and titles that may help you. All of you. We all have limiting behaviors. Some of us, more than others.

So what drives me crazy is people who just throw their list of limitations at you before you’ve even made note of how ugly their shoes are. Oh. Sorry. Momentary lapse. An example “Hi, I’m Dora. This is my inhaler” or “this is my son Donald, he has ADHD”. TMI folks, for me, and more importantly, for you, or your child! “Hi, I’m Dora” and “this is my son Donald” would suffice. I really, really, really don’t want or need to know the rest. And you need to let go of it and take a chance at overcoming that limitation. And I think it is a sin, the worst of sins, to limit a youth with a label. That child grows up feeling different, limited, abnormal, anxious about their differences, with an excuse for whatever they choose, feeling entitled to special treatment, feeling entitled to act out, the list goes on and on. There is no one way to destroy a young life than to attach a limiting label to it. Work with the child, not against him or her. I know ADHD is real, I think we all have it, to a degree. I think there are very, very, very few cases of “true” ADHD requiring medical intervention. I think what most of us have is called “normal”. I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm! I’ll take THAT label. No thank you to the drugs.

I truly think limitations are a shield to hide from the fears of the world. “I’m afraid to take risks, to take chances, to grow, in any way. I don’t want to change. I am happy with my safe, comfortable, little world. People will expect more of me if I don’t have this condition, so I’ll just hide behind this shield, this limitation.” I know this is really harsh, but in fact, you are being way more harsh on yourself every time you attach a limitation to yourself. I’m not sure how to inspire people to break free of this behavior, but I aim to keep trying until I find a way! I have overcome many of my own limitations, some I applied to myself, some given to me as a child. I am a limitation destroyer, and I am so free! I really can do anything I want.

Those are my prejudices; mini van drivers, self-limiting labelers. And homely shoes.

In my perfect world, no one would judge. A huge ideal. But really, who the hell do we think we are to judge anyone for anything? It is not our job. Even a judge in robes, sitting at the bench, making weighty decisions that alter the lives of many, are not the true judge. They are judges elected or appointed by us, to exact decisions we are uncomfortable exacting because of their magnitude and importance. If, in my perfect world, even judges in robes sitting at the bench aren’t truly judges, then who is?

Isn’t God, or the Supreme Being, or karma, or the Universe, or something far greater than mankind, supposed to be the judge? That’s the way I understand it. The sum of our actions, our inactions, our lives as we choose to live them out, will be the basis of our fate, whether you believe in that fate running it’s course during the course of life, or in some ever-after, the fate is ultimately decided by something far greater than us.

I am basically Christian. Catholic. With a bunch of questions and several alternative opinions. And in my faith, in it’s somewhat incoherent and shaky state, at present, it is for God to do. To judge, that is. So, explain to me, then, does God drive a mini van? Because I just saw one with bumper stickers; one said, simply “Saved” and the other “In Case of Rapture This Vehicle Will Be Unmanned” (which is funny, because a chick was driving it). So, I have to assume, that chick was God, because in the Christian faith, God is the judge. And if that chick driving the mini van wasn’t God, shame on her for taking God’s job away! What an assumption! How embarrassing to be wrong on that assumption! The rapture happens and she’s still driving along, in the far left lane, at fifty, in a sixty-five zone, singing out loud to the Christian station, if only to drown out the Wiggles on the DVD player in the backseat, even though there are no kids in her car at present, the “off” button is so hard to find, her left blinker is still on. Who does she think she is to make such an assumption, anyway? Maybe there is someone at her church, or at another church, that waves his or her arms, palms upturned, even more enthusiastically than she does, acing her out of a place in heaven. Maybe she accidentally mouthed the words to the hymn incorrectly one time too many, losing valuable positioning in the great race to salvation. I plan to put a bumper sticker on my car that says “Wretch” and, perhaps “I May be Saved by Amazing Grace, or Not, It’s Not My Call, But if This Car is Driverless, You’ll Know What Happened”. I might need a larger bumper. No, I won’t be buying a mini van. Nor will I be putting any bumper stickers on my car. I actually hate bumper stickers, only idiots have them on their cars. Oh. Sorry. Momentary lapse.

Fear This

Go on, what are you afraid of? I mean that, go on. Is fear preventing you from “going on”, going on with new experiences, going on with new adventures, going on with new relationships, going on with life? Is fear crippling you from learning, growing, accomplishing and experiencing life to it’s fullest?

Fear of failure is probably the biggest, personal fear most of us face. And the stupidest. We must fail occasionally, in order to learn. How many times did you fail while learning to ride a bike? Every time you fell off your bike was a failure. And yet you stuck with it, learned the nuances of balancing and keeping up your momentum and you succeeded. That success required those failures as a mechanism of learning. The worst failure, though, would be never learning to ride a bike for fear of falling off.

In failing to face your fear of failure, you are, in fact, failing.

Where does fear stem from? As I see it, there are two sources for fear, both equally devastating. Self-preservation. And ignorance. If we look at common fears we all tend to possess, perhaps we can begin to identify it’s grasp on our lives and take steps to remedy fear’s grip on us.

An example. When we are in a relationship, one of our biggest fears is being unable to preserve the relationship. We fear the end of the relationship. We fear change in the relationship. Fear of “being dumped” can, in fact, destroy a relationship. Dwelling on the possibility, the fear, of being left affects your attitude and your actions. This, of course, can impact the health and longevity of the relationship. So much so, that you are much more likely to be dumped as a result of acting out over your fear of being dumped. Think of the insecurities that build when you dwell on the possibility of being dumped. Those insecurities change your attitude, your perception of what is happening with the relationship. Often you act out on false suspicions, develop unrealistic expectations, and set yourself up for disappointment when those unrealistic expectations aren’t met. Be grateful for and fully enjoy every day you are together as though it were a gift. It is. This fosters an environment of gratitude and appreciation which is conducive to a lasting relationship. Learn to identify and then banish fear from your relationships.

I encounter a lot of people who marvel at my bravery for traveling, usually alone, to cities around the nation, for work. They usually cite something they’ve heard on the news that justifies their trepidation. Crime, bedbugs, the flu, the aftermath of a hurricane, gangs, the homeless, food poisoning, identity theft. Keep in mind that media news sensationalizes everything as a means to their survival. The media news is a business, and they rely on you to watch regularly. They secure your loyalty by feeding your fears. It really isn’t that bad out there. The media intentionally breeds fear, be cognizant of that. Consider this; network news is vying for your attention, for your business. The networks are in competition with one another. It is all about selling advertising during their time slot, revenue validates them, ensures their survival. You are the consumer, you can choose to buy their news, or not. By making you fearful, you are more likely to return to their high dollar advertising time slot to view all the sensational things that are happening everywhere. I’m not suggesting avoiding the news, to be ignorant and uninformed. I do recommend alternative sources for the news, if not solely, then in conjunction with what you see on TV, as corroborative evidence. Remember what sells on TV; violence, scandal, betrayal, conspiracy, uncertainty. These are the themes, the topics, that are considered in “newsworthiness” because they will generate a great deal of emotion in the consumer (viewer), which increases the likelihood of building an audience of routine consumers (viewers). We look to the media as our savior, keeping us from evil, warning us of danger, protecting us from harm – real, imagined or sensationalized. The result, a fearful audience, captive in their homes, staring in disbelief at “the news”.

While we’re on the topic of television, let’s discuss programming. How many crime drama shows are there on the air now? How many different flavors of CSI are there? CSI; coming to a town near you! Every geographic region has their own CSI series, it seems. There a number of crime “reality” shows, now, too, crime that seems more real than regular programming. Folks, it’s all entertainment. Crime happens, but certainly not to the extent or frequency that the entertainment industry leads you to believe. We watch television crime shows so much, again, based on advertising dollars, we have created a demand for more and more crime shows. What impact must this have on the average viewer; hours and hours each week, watching the dramatic portrayal of heinous crimes. Even if only flipping through channels, we will only see crime shows, news, or, thankfully, sports, and occasionally, American Idol.

Based on our media conditioning, we have become fearful of people, of society, because there seems to be so many bad people out there. Statistically speaking, there are very few really bad people, per capita. A lot of violent crime, again, statistically, happens in the home and is perpetrated by someone you know and trust. Are you fearful of your family? Your friends? Of course not! So you have even less reason to be afraid of people out in society because, statistically, they are less likely to harm you. But I don’t want to breed fear, again, I just want to try to illuminate how silly it is to modify your behavior, to limit your life experiences, based on what you watch on television.

If anything makes me apoplectic , it’s the “they” factor. They will shoot you, they will rob you, they will crash into your car on purpose, they will rape you, they will poison you by not washing their hands. They will give you the flu. Who are they? They are few and far between. Again, statistically, there are very few bad people, per capita. What does that mean? No one is likely to pounce on you when you walk down a sidewalk. And for those “bad people” out there, they are relying on the ignorance and stupidity of their victims. Just conquer them with knowledge and common sense. The real “they” you should pay attention to are the people who are warning you about “them”. They are feeding off of your fears to sell advertising time. They will scare you into becoming a phobic, shivering, mess, huddled safely inside your house, watching them live scripted, fake lives on TV. I especially like the innocuous “they said”. I like my sources cited and referenced, thank you, so I can do my own independent research and decide whether I want to take their advice. Or not. What authority or expertise do they have to advise you to change, alter, or modify your behavior, to potentially limit the experiences in life that could bring you growth or reward or satisfaction? Have you even considered that question? Better to experience what life has to offer and assume a little risk than to sit on your hands, rocking back and forth, while watching an intentionally scary, false world on television.

Many great people can be quoted on fear:

We have nothing to fear but fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Do one thing every day that scares you – Eleanor Roosevelt

You gain strength, courage and confidence by each experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind – Dale Carnegie

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood – Marie Curie

Do not fear death so much but rather the inadequate life – Bertlot Brecht

Peace is that state in which fear of any kind is unknown – Joh Buchan

Where fear is, happiness is not – Seneca

If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been – Robert H. Schuller

They can conquer who believe they can. He has not learned the first lesson in life who does not every day surmount a fear – Ralph Waldo Emerson

He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat – Napoleon I

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. – Plato

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality. – Lucius Annaeus Sennca

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. – Dale Carnegie

What we fear comes to pass more speedily than what we hope – Publilius Syrus

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is – German Proverb

How do you suppose these great people became great? By facing their fears head on and overcoming them.

What great person, responsible for influencing millions, for making history, ever sat at home, watching a false world, wide-eyed in terror? Step out of your comfort zone, pick a fear, step out of the house and march right through that fear. Be persistent for more significant fears.

If you subscribe to “The Secret”, or are knowledgable about quantum physics, you know that fear represents considerable energy. The law of attraction is a law of energy. Energy attracts a result, energy attracts a like energy. Fear energy, if you think about it, then, will attract that which you fear. Now, be scared of that! You truly do have nothing to fear, but fear itself. Quantum physics supports that.

Fearless does not mean foolish. Being afraid to step in front of speeding semi is a good thing. There is a definite difference between fearless and senseless. Use common sense, tackle common fears. Fear is a natural instinct designed to preserve us from harm. Fear is designed to make us pause before proceeding so that we may take into consideration our actions so as to avoid harm. Consider your actions, then proceed with common sense. Wait until the speeding semi passes, you can then safely cross the street.

Irrational fear is the fear we want to conquer. It is irrational to think that if you walk down a city street you will certainly be mugged. Yes, you do stand a chance of being mugged. You also stand a chance of being a victim of a home invasion robbery while sitting watching CSI on TV. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, we are at risk for something extraordinary, something freakishly unlikely, happening.

Life can be lived so cautiously as to really not qualify as living. Inhaling and exhaling, eating and deficating, sleeping and waking, performing mundane daily tasks in exchange for a miserly pay and occupying spare time watching other people, fake people, actors, again, being paid based on the advertising revenue their show generates, live out their exciting, dangerous, fearful, completely scripted lives on television, is not living. And for the record, reality TV isn’t real, in reality.

You are only limited by your fear. There are handicapable people who exceed the limitations of their handicap because they choose not to be limited. Any person’s greatest handicap is their own limitations, usually based on fear. Fear of failure, fear of effort, fear of change. Get. Over. It.

If you practice a religion, have you given thought to whether your fear may actually prevent you from eternal life? That’s a scary thought!

We are meant to contribute to society in some meaningful way, whether you practice a religion, or not. We just are. What is your contribution? You may have to step outside of your safe, little routine to find a way to contribute. Name one person you think contributes to society in some meaningful way; a teacher, a preacher, a youth leader, a soldier, an advocate, a scientist. There isn’t a teacher, a preacher, a youth leader, a soldier, an advocate, a scientist on the face of the planet that didn’t have to conquer some fear, usually many, often on a daily basis. What are you doing? What fear is limiting you from contributing? Get. Over. It.

The bible says, I don’t know where, but somewhere, regarding the way to heaven; the path is wide, the gate is narrow. Now pretend for a moment you had to choose who could enter through the narrow gate. Would you choose the good and holy person who spent their life cautiously living, existing? Or would you choose the person who went out and boldly and fearlessly made a difference, who contributed in some tangible, measurable, meaningful way? Would you admit the person who made a wholesome home, raised their children well, performed their daily tasks to satisfaction and prayed at every meal? Or, given the limited seating, would you choose the person who raised their own kids and volunteered to lead a youth group? Who performed their daily tasks to satisfaction and took on additional tasks within the community to further good? Would you admit the person who prayed before every meal, or the soul who lived an extraordinary life, by example, who touched the lives of many and spread good will across the lands? I think I’d want to be the doer of extraordinary things, just to safely squeeze through that blessed gate.

The question should never be “what have you done?”, the question should be “what else can you do?” There is always more. More to contribute, more to learn, more to do, all requiring facing and overcoming some self-imposed limitation, overcoming some fear, whether trivial or numbing.

Fear is also the catalyst for great evil, for great harm. Genocide often has fear as it’s basis. The endangerment or extinction of many species resulted out of fear. Fear, out of ignorance, intolerance or self-righteousness, and unrestrained, is something to truly fear! And conquer.

Take a moment and write down some fears you have. Fear of heights, fear of public speaking, fear of large dogs, fear of large crowds, fear of driving in large cities. Think of as many things as you can and write them down. They may not come to you all at once, but when you encounter something, in real life or on TV, and you think “that would scare me”, add it to your list. Now, pick something off the list and think of a way to overcome it. Fear of public speaking? Start small, maybe join a book club or a Bible study, where, at some point, you’ll have to say something, out loud, to a small group of people. Then take it up a notch. Volunteer to read scripture at church during the service. Read aloud to children at a school. Take an acting class at the community college, or a public speaking class, speech and debate class. Join an organization like Toastmasters. Many highly compensated motivational speakers had fears of speaking publicly at some point in time. Many, believe it or not, overcame debilitating conditions like chronic stuttering. The only limitation was their self-imposed limitation, “I can’t do that, I’m afraid of speaking in front of large groups of people.” Once you cleanse yourself of those limitations, you have tremendous power to conquer fear and overcome perceived limitations.

Start to pay attention to your vocabulary. How often do you say something that translates to “I’m afraid” or “I’m scared”. Make note of what prompted that reaction and find a way to address it, meet it, conquer it.

“I admire those high heeled shoes, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to walk in them. I’m afraid I’ll trip and fall and make a fool of myself.” The alternative; never buy shoes you admire and likely trip and fall wearing completely flat-soled shoes. At least if you trip and fall wearing some fabulous high heels, people will understand how it happened!

I’m afraid of snakes. But not really. Rather, I say, “I don’t like snakes”. I have had many experiences involving snakes, yet, touch wood, I have never been harmed.

I think my earliest memory of being afraid of snakes came from my early childhood. As a child I had asthma. I don’t any more, and I have my opinions on those kinds of limitations, too. But, nonetheless, before I was old enough to take care of myself, I was treated for asthma. One of the treatments was a bronchiodialator or a steroid, or a combination, I think, but it had hallucinogenic qualities, at least for me. I remember sitting on my pillow, screaming in terror, and every wrinkle in my bedding appeared like a twisting, slithering snake. The pleats in my curtains were writhing snakes, dangling from their tails. Everywhere I looked, the common appointments in my bedroom had become animated snakes. My poor mother.

I once had a rattlesnake come trick or treating on Halloween. I had been living in the country where I knew there were snakes, yet, saw none. We had no trick or treaters on Halloween out in the country, so when I moved back into town, into a nice apartment complex, we were excited at the prospect of having trick or treaters. We had candy on hand and had even decorated. My (adult) daughter and her boyfriend were visiting and were manning the door while I moved some items from my car into the garage. I remember hearing the doorbell ring and the ritual “trick or treat” followed by the commotion of children obtaining candy and moving on to the next door. The ruckus didn’t diminish as I’d expected, I could still hear voices and exclamations. My daughter’s boyfriend (now husband) is an Eagle Scout, a wrestler, now in the Navy, by no means a wimp. But as the commotion continued and I began to hear my name interjected, I thought, perhaps, I should venture into the house to see what was up. My daughter and her boyfriend were across the room from the front door, pointing in that direction “there’s a rattlesnake in the house.” I peered toward the front door, and, indeed, there was a small snake there. Luckily for us, not the snake, it’s tail was caught in the closed door and it could not advance further into the house. Now, this particular Halloween fell on a Sunday night, meaning no agencies would be available to come to our rescue. I wondered what to do and did what anyone would do; I grabbed my phone, took a picture and posted it to facebook with a snarky comment about trick or treaters these days. Then I Googled it to confirm that it was indeed a rattlesnake. Finally, I called the County Animal Services agency and listened patiently to the recorded message. They did advise, that if it were an emergency involving an “animal” that one could call the sheriffs dispatch. First, is a snake technically an animal? Second, if the snake cannot advance further into my domicile, is it really an emergency? I chanced that it was, on both counts. I called the sheriffs dispatch. I prefaced my story with “I don’t know if this is an emergency, but …” They sounded far more panicked than I , and said they’d patch me right through to the fire department. The fire department answered, and again, prefaced with “I don’t know if this is really an emergency, but …”, to which I was met with an urgent reply “We’ll send someone right over.” Not a minute later, the biggest hook and ladder engine pulled up in front of my garage door and I had what looked like about thirty firefighters in my entry hall. So, I got out my phone, took a picture and posted it to facebook with a snarky comment about trick or treaters these days. The somewhat anticlimactic ending? They plucked the snake off the floor with a claw contraption like you’d use to pick up trash without having to bend down. They plunked the little snake into a PVC tube, capped at one end, fit a cap on the other end and left, presumably to free the snake in a more appropriate location. I was a little concerned that other snakes may have entered my house, unbeknownst, any time the door had been opened, so we all exercised some caution within the house, and when entering and exiting through the front door for quite some time thereafter. I no longer live there. Not on account of fear, the rent went up.

Not long after that, I was driving up the onramp to the highway near my home. There are a lot of open fields and new construction in the area, so I’m sure there are lots of field mice and other critters snakes like to feed on. And there are many hawks and other birds of prey that, in turn, like to feed on snakes. One such bird was flapping slowly towards the highway as I approached about the same spot. In it’s talons was a live snake, squirming violently, trying to free itself. I watched, and in the slowest motion imaginable, as the bird and I continued in a trajectory that would likely end up with the bird over my car within a few seconds, I saw the snake drop from the bird’s claws and spiral slowly towards the ground. The thoughts that raced through my consciousness; what if the snake lands on my car, what if the snake lands on my windshield, what if the snake lands on my roof, what if my sunroof was open? The snake landed on the shoulder of the road right next to my car. Ugh! I don’t drive with my sunroof wide open anymore. Ever. That’s not fear, that’s practicality.

When I tell folks about the snake in the house, depending on my whereabouts, a common response I get is, “why didn’t you shoot it?” I’ve shot a snake before, and it didn’t go well. But, more importantly, what would’ve happened to the tile floor had I shot the snake in the entry hall? I wouldn’t have gotten my deposit back, I’m fairly certain. So, I did shoot a snake in the wild, and even that I now regret. We were camping in a very remote forested area. We had been hiking down into the canyon our campsite overlooked, and upon our return, we spotted a snake in the dining tent. The snake spotted us and began a very surreal, and I would think physically impossible climb up one of the tent poles towards the ceiling of the screened tent. Horrified, I did something, intentionally, that startled the snake and made it drop back to the ground where it belonged, inside the tent where it did not. The screened tent had no floor, just a narrow flap along the perimeter. The snake, probably a good three feet long, stretched itself out, hiding completely beneath this very narrow flap, which, in my mind, qualified this snake as more of a serpent than a snake. We flushed it out of hiding with some long handled implement we happened to have nearby. I took the shotgun, I figured I’d have better luck with it than a nine millimeter pistol, and fired. Some part of the shot hit the snake, and in incredible slow motion, the snake spun through the air amidst the dirt and debris the shot kicked up. Twirling, whirling, spinning, up, up, up, then hanging for a moment, then down, down, down and “FWAP”, right on top of our brand new tent. Serpent blood and guts everywhere. And in the weeks and months after that, we were overrun with mice and rodents of all shapes and sizes. That snake had a job, and I appreciate that now.

So, snakes. I’m not afraid, just mindful. I don’t let it control my life; I camp, I hike, I backpack, I rock climb. I enter and exit my house from the front door. I enjoy myself, and I take the proper precautions to avoid an encounter with snakes. I don’t live in the jungle, so I know that snakes are not out there actively hunting me. They, in fact, are more afraid of me than I am of them. Their attacks are in self defense, for self-preservation, instinctual and never unprovoked. Snakes, are, in fact good. They control the rodent population, which keeps many diseases from spreading out of control. They are part of the balance of nature, part of the design, part of the plan. I respect that. I respect them. Caution is appropriate where snakes may be, fear is not. Caution results in seeking to avoid. Fear results in one of two things; refraining from pleasurable activities on the chance of an encounter or, the senseless and needless eradication of the threat.

So, go on. What are you afraid of? You have nothing to fear, but fear itself, and you, and only you, have the power to overcome that, as well.