Tuesday, December 18, 2007

not furtado

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not after you.

I heard that line in a movie tonight. I thought, "That is so totally me!"

My Nanny (grandmother on dad's side) used to call herself a "Nervous Nelly". I think, were she alive today, she'd call me Nervous Nelly, too.

I don't trust anyone. I really believe that people lie to me on a daily basis. I think people are out to get me. I don't think that anything good can happen. I am always anticipating the bad. I am constantly nervous.

I wonder how I got this way?

I vaguely remember being this way as a kid. The earliest memory I have of paranoia revolves are the Marion County Superintendent elections of 1992. The principal of my sister's high school...Dr. John Something...was running for office. My parents didn't like him because he let a teacher flunk my sister when she was absent because my mom was sick. Or some other grade issue. My parents were never really happy with the FL school system. I knew that much as a fifth grader.

As a fifth grader walking through the neighborhood with my cousin and my sister, I also knew that seeing a big, yellow "Vote for Dr. John What's-His-Name" would make my mother angry. I knew she didn't like him. She didn't like politicians and their campaign signs either. I had seen my mom knock down other signs when they were blocking her view of oncoming traffic. She'd jump out of the car and knock them over. Which is probably why I didn't think it would be a big deal to knock over Dr. John's big, yellow sign.

Which we did.

And my cousin yelled, "Run!".

Which we did.

And then we heard someone yell, "Girls! Stop. Come back here."

It was Mr. Weldon. Father to my sister's friend Erin, principal at an elementary school, and neighbor to us all. I didn't know much about principals - I had never been in The Office myself. But I'd heard about the paddle. My mind began to race. Could we really get in trouble for this?

"Why did you knock over that sign?" he asked.

I don't remember what we said. It probably involved mumbling and shrugs.

"Did you know it is a Federal Offense to knock over politician's signs?" he asked us again.

In retrospect, I sincerely doubt that it is, in fact, a Federal Offense to knock down someone's campaign paraphernalia. But if Mr. Weldon's intent was the scare the living shit out of me, it worked.

We apologized, put back that sign, and began walking home.

"Do you think we'll go to jail?" I asked my big sister.

"Don't be such a baby," my cousin said.

"He should leave us alone," my sister spat. "He knows what happened to Mommy."

"Yeah, he's just trying to scare you," said my cousin. "Adults do that sometimes."

I didn't believe them. If Mr. Weldon said we could get in trouble for it then it was true. I barely slept that night. For days afterward, when I saw a police car, I would shrink in fear, certain they were coming to arrest me for Knocking Down The Sign. I remember being so afraid.

And for what?

I think that's where the Nervous Nelliness began. For years afterward, I remember being afraid of everything - bus drivers, severe weather, imaginary serial killers in my closet. Sailors envied the knots in my stomach.

I don't really get scared like that anymore. Now, it is more of an emotional fear. Always worried about a bad outcome. Always afraid of the unknown. Always anticipating and prioritizing the "what if".

I don't want to be a Nervous Nelly anymore. Therefore, I want to declare 2008 "The Year of Risk". I tried this with 2005. I called it "The Year of Yes", thinking that I would say Yes to anything I was asked to do (socially) but that sort of fell apart, because, well, let's face it, I'm basically a moody hermit. But I think the goal for Year of Yes was ill-intentioned. I just wanted to see what would happen. I thought I would end up with a lot of funny anecdotes, which would prove useful on first dates and cocktail parties. Instead, I found myself at a bunch of boring parties thinking, "I wonder who's going to get auf'd on Project Runway tonight."

Perhaps second time is the charm. I hereby declare 2008 to be the Year of Risk. I want to try new things. I want to do things I've never done before. My goal is to do so many risky things that when something normal comes along - a new relationship, a confrontation with the Publix cashier, an opportunity to advance my career - I won't run away from it. I'll embrace it. That is the goal of the Year of Risk.

Down with Nervous Nelly! I want to truly live in the Sum of Awe.

Any suggestions as of how to start?


Anonymous said...

I lived years being afraid. I decided to change that this year. It really takes a life moment to really change how you have always been.

I decided I might be afraid to do it....but I would do it, afraid or not. If you are scared, then do it scared.

I know you can.

The Working Girl said...

thanks! good advice.

emilysuze said...

There's this quote about stepping off of the ledge. When you do, there will either be more land in front of you or you will learn to fly.

Good luck learning how to fly this year. You won't be the only one! :)

Kimberly said...

OHMYGOD! I just found the link to your blog on Emily's blog and I'm SO HAPPY to have found it. I lovelovelove your writing and I'm now going to start stalking you. Be warned.

Also, his name was Dr. John Smith. Not kidding. I know, because he went to my church for years and we always thought of those yellow signs during the sermon.