Growing up, there were two-framed quotes on my bookshelf. One, from my father, was an eloquent rant on Positivity. While we might have had discussions on god or sports, our sit-downs focused on two things: the importance of PMA and compound interest. POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE.

I think he saw the occasional bloody stabbing image, or pitched medieval lego battle through the crack in my half-closed bedroom door and worried. Or perhaps he knew that it was a struggle he shared. What I received was a slap on the knee, followed by a wide-eyed exclamation: “PMA!”

The reverse side of the printed quote was a page from a powerpoint presentation on transmission lines (ever the recycler, my father) which taken out of context, meant just about as much to me as the intended message on the other side.

Even so, I kept it. I stared at it. I might have envisioned the ink pulling off from the surface and entering my pores. I wanted that positivity.

But I think I also wanted to be angry, sad, ignored. I liked being alone. I enjoyed feeling misunderstood. And the fear that sank in my belly every morning was my anchor, my atom bomb that would carry me through adulthood.

Which brings me to the second framed quote:

I must not fear.Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Dune. Desert planet. I’m not sure if I had even read the book when I had this framed. And I don’t recall if my mother made it for me or not, but I do know that she brought it to me one day and made me repeat it. Sitting in the living room, we read it together. And I can recall several restless nights in bed, repeating this over and over before the obliteration of sleep.

There are days that same feeling creeps up and threatens to overwhelm. Like a water glass that fills up too fast and overflows, the fear bubbles to the surface and turns your insides pale.

And while I never could have guessed it back then, these two quotes have informed one another. The one backs the other one up in a fist fight. When the fear finally passes through, I am reminded once again from where my focus must return. PMA.

No matter how much the fear crawls up inside, there is always an awareness of its passing. And once it has truly passed, the fortification of positivity begins anew, brick by brick, walling off the flow of fear that will surely come again…

Thanks, parents, for the metaphors.


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