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Personal response to Robinson Crusoe
"...I observe that the expectation of evil is more bitter than the suffering..."(p.181).
Only after several readings of different portions of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and several attempts at drafting a different type of paper, did I finally decide upon using this particular quotation. For me the best kind of writing is the one that does itself, and this quote is the basis for that kind of writing. All I have to do is hold the pen.
My first recollection of being "locked into" fear (aside from the boogey man, ghosts and witches) was the first time I had to be absent from school for several days. I believe I was ill with a sore throat and fever. At the age of five or six, an hour often feels like a day, and a day like a week, so to be out of school for four days seemed quite a LONG time. Anyway, I remember my mother finally telling me I could go back to school the next morning. While part of me was happy and excited at the thought of seeing my friends and my teacher, the other part of me was terrified. What if when I got to my classroom no one talked to me? (because I hadn't been there). What if my teacher was mad at me? (because I hadn't been there). What if they all made fun of me? (because I hadn't been there). What if I didn't know any answers? (because I hadn't been there). I would die: I just knew I would. Well, after several hours of this kind of thinking along with the escalating of fear and anxiety that accompanied it, I really didn't have to worry about school the next day; I was making myself too sick to go back! The next morning after refusing to eat breakfast (which my mother said I was too excited to eat), I got dressed in my favorite outfit (red corduroy pants, checkered shirt- -with solid red scarf, red socks and white sneakers), and sat on the couch-waiting for my older sister, Susan, to finish getting ready to take me to school. The old fear-thoughts started again, and this time I had neither the comforts of my bedcovers nor of a day's respite.
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The application of this quotation is not limited in my experience to my early youth. I have been "locked into" fear and acted in direct opposition to it many a time and more often than not been surprised and rewarded by the results. My marital separation and subsequent divorce was such an experience. At the time of my separation, my son, Terence, was five years old (one of the first full-day kindergartners) and my daughter, Maryellen, was two and a half (a terrible toddler). While there had been arguments and cold-war silences and an ever- growing accumulation of heart hurts, major disappointments, and financial failures, there was also a desperate desire to keep the marriage together.
We sought help through our minister and a marriage counselor. After several months of couple therapy, I realized that the only recourse was an end to the marriage. I was terrified. Wanting my freedom was one thing. Breaking up a home and taking the responsibility for raising two children alone was another. All the horror stories I had heard about `single parent' households flooded my head. Terence became a tragic juvenile statistic and Maryellen an unwed mother at best. These were two of my more positive visions of the future. How would I support them? Would we lose the house? I thought we would drown in my inadequacy. Only through listening to my own voice, sharing with friends and family and accepting their help and guidance was I able to act on what I knew to be the best for me, my children and even for my ex-husband. The night he came and packed his clothes to move into his parent's home came and went. I remember sitting on my couch after he had left with his father, saying to myself, "so this is it. Two children and seven years later, this is it." That was the deepest moment of sorrow I had and almost the last. I can suggest the significance of my loss of Billy by saying that the only time I noticed he was gone was when I set one less place at the supper table. In fact, life without Billy was delightfully unrestrained. We all ate together (no more arguments across the table); I had no more five-thirty deadlines; the bills were paid (unlike before); and there was much more laughter in our house. I joined Terence in attending school. I began taking college courses at Kingsborough with Maryellen attending the daycare center there. And even surviving turned out to flow more easily than I had feared. I was able to keep the house (through financial help from friends). The kids saw their father on weekends (much like before), and I was able to fill my time with my own pleasures. My decision to end my marriage opened the door for the life I enjoy today.
Fear, or the expectation of failure or defeat does not guarantee its own fruition; non-action, tunnel vision, loss of choices or options do. The worst kind of decision is one made by indecision. Where there is faith, choice or hope, there is an alternative.