As a naturally adept social creature, I am possessed by a pretty strong sense of safety in the world. Speaking or singing on a stage in front of more than a hundred people; travelling solo to distant lands and engaging total strangers in conversations at bus stops (that’s how I met my husband actually!) have contributed even more to this sense of safety when I have benefited from the kindness and generosity of strangers and friends.
Physically, my timidity is another matter.
I do not now, nor have I ever willingly participated in gymnastics, soccer, or baseball because of my low tolerance for physical injuries and insults. In elementary school the more coordinated kids made fun of me in Physical Education class because I ran funny and my knees would give out at random times. I was always picked last for any team.
Even curling… I have not only torn groin muscles but also slipped and knocked the wind out of myself doing this dangerous sport! Having never mastered skating as a kid, I took lessons as an adult, and yet I still have to force myself to lace up my skates and wobble around the rink a few times each time we take the kids out on the ice. Tobogganing is not an activity I undertake lightly either, having significantly bruised my tailbone multiple times. I still won’t dive into water for any reason and am extremely careful swimming in a lake, crossing roads, cooking, and using power tools.
I believe what makes me so extraordinarily careful (fearful) is that I am gifted with an imagination which can generate the most vivid and gory outcomes for almost any given situation in less than one second. And instead of visualizing the positive, hoped-for outcome, I focus on the one which my mind serves up to me on a silver platter. Essentially, being afraid has become a habit because it is the thing I do the most in terms of physical situations, so it comes the most easily. My chef’s specialty is vivid, gory, and dangerous. Which is fun, if you’re watching, or making, a horror movie, but not so great if you’re just trying to have a good life and not be a drag to hang out with.
Socially, I don’t even think “Even if I blow it completely, what’s the worst that could happen?” because I am confident that I can handle any situation that arises, even if I fail spectacularly (and what would that even look like, I don’t even bother imagining). I have the skill set for social stuff because I do it all the time, they are my natural gifts. But they weren’t always. At some point in the distant past I was a beginner and I had to learn and practice those skills by using them. Just like at one time I couldn’t walk, but I am pretty darned good at it now. Skating is just another type of walking, and if I keep practising I will get better at it. One day I’ll be able to skate as well as I do in my dreams. And if I keep on writing, I might get a lot better at that as well.