Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Turning toward Fear--and Vulnerability by Dean Gloster

     I used to think I was brave.

     I took up scuba diving, performed standup comedy, started downhill ski racing in my 40s, went back to school at 57 to get an MFA, took up Aikido at 58, quit my job as a lawyer to write novels full time, and several times have even turned down offers for extended car warranties.

    Yes. That brave.

    But late in life I discovered that I just have a counter-phobic mechanism: From a complicated childhood I wrote about here, I have some PTSD, and one of the ways I deal with it, because I don't like feeling vulnerable or frightened, is that I seek out experiences where I can master fear. It’s like doing mental sit-ups to get in shape for some future mental stomach punch.


Some experiences are especially helpful, if you have a high enthusiasm-to-skill ratio

    But, of course, those are little fears I try to master. I definitely don’t move toward the big thing I fear the most.

     The truth is, what I'm most afraid of in life is: You.


    People scare me, especially if they get close--emotionally close. Again, from my youth, it's one of the things I carry: People you care about can hurt you in profound ways that strangers cannot.

     My father was a good man. He was honest, he kept his promises, he meant what he said, and he never cheated at golf. He was a fierce, scrappy Irish American who enlisted in WWII to fight Nazis, then went to college on the G.I bill and a boxing scholarship, where—in four years—he only lost one match, to the guy who won in his weight division in the Olympics.

    But he was not good with vulnerability. That was exactly not his deal. He parked himself behind a series of moats and walls that none of his sons ever managed to cross, no matter how many summers we tried.


    When he was dying, I thanked my dad for hanging in there long enough so that we could all say goodbye.

     “My pleasure,” was all he said, and those two words were as much as we were going to get from him on death and dying and seeing us at his bedside.

    I want to be different than my father, despite my hardwiring to be exactly like him. That’s one of the reasons I gave up the secure career of the law for the economically skinny and uncertain one of being a writer: Writing, done right, moves us toward vulnerability and authenticity.

    But there’s also the actual people thing. It's difficult to connect with people, especially as a writer who sits at a computer all day, during a pandemic where we mostly don't get together face to face with people anymore, but I'm working on it.


    I have writer friends now, and we have a lot in common, all (as my friend Jay Cherrie once said in an Imitation Hemmingway contest) wrestling with the white bull that is the blank paper with no words on it. 

    And I have new Aikido friends. We joke, we attack each other, we get thrown around, and we get ibuprofen afterward. As, you know, one does.

    None of us are whom we hoped to be. And for those of us with a lot of stuff or baggage that gets in the way of living how we'd prefer, life is sometimes a race to make some (difficult) progress toward that goal before the inevitable curtain.

     I have a ways to go, probably on both those fronts, but I'm making some progress. We'll shall see.

Dean Gloster is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel, JUST DEAL, is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and an off-kilter sensibility, including a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 54 percent of his soul.


1 comment:

  1. I love the point about how none of are exactly who we want to be. What keeps us all moving forward, eh?