Fear Itself
Elita Sohmer Clayman

I was eleven years of age when Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. He was fondly known in the press (no TV in those days) as FDR. People revered him and many years later we found out some not so wonderful and nice things he had done, but at that time everyone loved him including my parents and of course me.

My best friend Myra and I decided that we were going to write a biography about him since we both loved writing and we liked him. We sat down at my table in my home (no desk then either) and we poured over the literature we had gotten from the Enoch Pratt Free Library that we both frequented for our knowledge (no Google then). We each wrote a summary of what we had gleaned from the borrowed books and the encyclopedias we had at home. We gathered our notes and combined them and one day after about four weeks of this ‘research’, we decided that it was a boring topic and we both lost interest in it. We decided to leave the eulogies and praise to our elders and maybe some author would surely write him up soon, not us. We were two June birthday babies; mine was June 21st and Myra’s June 30th. So since I was the elder of the two girlfriends. she let me be the deciding person who chose with her in agreement to let go of this idea on writing our book.

The thing that fascinated Myra and Elita was that statement he made. “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

This statement enthralled, captivated and even charmed us with the meaning we thought it meant to two almost eleven year old young girls. I thought it meant we should never be afraid of doing or accomplishing things we wanted in our life and Myra thought it meant she should not be afraid of doing physical athletic adventures she leaned towards. She was more of an athlete and I was more of the thinker and writer.

To each of us it was a good slogan and a good line to remember in our almost coming teenage years. After elementary school, we both went our separate ways to junior high school and I never saw Myra too much after the elementary graduation ceremony.

I heard she went on to take up skiing and swimming etc. I took up the various aspects of writing and creating and putting down my thoughts which even now as a senior citizen I do in various modes.

If you examine the word fear in the dictionary it means feel alarm, frightened and scared.
As seniors, many of us awake in the morning and confront our fears daily. Some may fear lack of funds for everyday living with all the prices of everything increasing daily. Others may fear a visit to the doctor and what he will tell them. Others fear growing old and being dependent on their spouse or their children. Others fear the terrorist element that grips us a lot. Others fear the length of the day with nothing of importance or fun to do that day. Others fear as fear itself takes hold of their senior years and grips their thought and ideas and attaches itself to their daily life.

I have come up with a list that one can make either written on paper or written in our thoughts. There is anxiety and there are accomplishments. I call it my A and A for short.
Every morning I awaken and think that today will be a day of accomplishments without any anxieties. I think of the large things, the small things and the everyday things that I can and will accomplish that particular day.

I list them down on an index card and keep them at my computer or I take a space and write it in on the computer for easy viewing. If I happen to have a dentist or doctor appointment, I list it as an accomplishment. You may say that is silly, I say it is a deed done for one’s self to keep our health in order. I list if we plan to go out and eat a nice dinner, not necessarily expensive (we shy away from costly ones now in retirement years) as an accomplishment, I list reading my many emails from fans and friends, I list if it is hair salon day (to make me even more beautiful-ha) as a plus. I list even if I am expecting a monthly or weekly magazine through the mail as an accomplishment (if the postal service delivers it in time). Though some accomplishments of the A and A thoughts may seem trivial, they are a plus and not a minus.

I list if I am expecting a phone call from my children or grandchildren here in Baltimore or from Northern Virginia. I list how many days it will be to we get back to our ballroom dancing from having been in this automobile accident on June 18th, 2008. I list all of these that may seem innocuous to some but are important to me as accomplishments. I then try to list my anxieties for that day and I have found that when I list the accomplishments first, they are surely longer in length and worth more than the anxieties.

A friend in California with a good attitude at age eighty something lists (when I told her about the A and A list of mine) that she got up and is alive and knows it... Cute.

So anxieties can be replaced by accomplishments and accomplishments can overcome the usual anxieties and the only thing we can fear is the thought of fear itself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was in a wheelchair. This was kept from the public for a long time and since there was no television sets in those days, we did not see him daily on the tube and when we saw him in the movie news we saw him sitting and it did not occur to us as kids or even to the adults that he was in a wheelchair. They did not want the public to be aware of this thinking that this handicap would hinder our belief in him especially in wartime.

Of course things are so different now sixty some years later because we see everything momentarily on the TV and therefore we are used to athletes without legs competing in the Special Olympics for swimmers. I have seen a blind woman dance in a competition way back in 1980 or so in Florida and no one knew it until she won her trophies with her teacher leading her and we did not even notice it. I have seen a spastic boy dance with his teacher and held himself so erect and did well because of the encouragement of the pro teacher and the way she taught him. When he walked he was stooped over and shaky, when he danced he was marvelous.

So all of these fears we may and do have daily, weekly, yearly etc can be eliminated from our mind if we heed the slogan above. The only thing we have to fear is not only fear itself but what it can do to our mind and even our physical self.

I am not saying that there are not moments when we should be fearful but that when they arrive, we can think to ourselves that perhaps it is not as bad is we think and if we replace the fear thought with this-

Henry Ward Beecher (and I do not know who he really was, other than this saying) said
Fear is the soul’s signal for rallying and I think by this he really meant that our soul will
revive, renew and rebound and then we will eliminate the fear completely.

So if you feel fear, remember that the only thing you accomplish feeling the fear is to paralyze yourself with the fear and if you rally your mind into not giving into it, you will revive, renew and rebound and those are the three r’s to replace the f in fear. Your ear will be left to hear only accomplishments and the A and A will be yours to eliminate the first A and thrive on the second A which is ACCOMPLISHMENTS.Fear becomes ear and Voltaire said that the ear is the road to the heart and Moses Ezra said the ear is the gate to the mind. So the fear which we took away the f becomes the ear and the ear is our road to accomplishments because we hear only positive thoughts and no fear.

My physician assistant who I use in my internal medicine doctor’s office once told me that he cannot understand if I have a fear because of my strength. I said what does that mean and he said that a person like me (or you my dance readers) who can go forward and get on a dance floor and present their self either at social dancing or competition or showcasing before others is not fearful. They are strong people, so remember that all of you ballroom dancers, not only are you special because you dance you are full of inner and outer strength. So we are. So here is to Strength and that will rule out the word fear.

Elita Sohmer Clayman
Baltimore, Maryland
October 2008

Keep on Dancing 


Published by René Zgraggen
Montgomery, AL