Tag Archive for: Robert Heller

“Fear is excitement without breath.” Robert Heller

When I first heard the quote, I had to chew on it for a while. I wanted it to be true because it seems such a magical way to flip something awful into something much more desirable. If I’m fearful, all I have to do is breathe. Or remember that, with breath, this situation would be merely exciting. And exciting is good, right?

It has been several days now and I can say honestly that I see glimpses of it. Like lucid flashes of last night’s dream, I have moments where I feel like I can grasp the wisdom of Heller’s words, but as soon as I pursue the thought it vanishes.

After some frustration, I decided maybe it would help to come at it from a different angle. I love words and wordplay and I kicked butt on the portion of the SAT where you have to compare groups of words (bird is to nest as dog is to __________). I love analogies. So maybe if fear + breath = excitement, then anger + breath =
equals…sarcasm? Wry humor? Generally if I’m given time to take a breath when I’m royally pissed off I can come up with some witty remark that makes my point without screaming. Although, I’m not certain that sarcasm is all that much better than anger.

This led me to wonder just how much breath we’re talking about. Because I can see that (staying with the analogy) say, 15 minutes of slow, meditative breathing when I’m angry could lead to a much better assessment of the situation. In this case, anyway, it seems that more breath is better. So maybe it’s the same with fear.

I still wasn’t getting there. Not all the way, anyway.

My third try involved coming up with a scenario. So I conjured up something to be afraid of. And, because this was only an exercise and I tend to do things in a big way in my imagination, I went for one of the biggies. I hearkened back to the days when Bubba was sick with some mysterious illness that nearly killed him more than once. The days (three and a half years of which) before we had a diagnosis and I was never sure when he left on a business trip if he was going to be coming home again or not. That was pure, naked fear, that was. And even if I take out my mental measuring cup and add six cups of breath, I don’t see how that gets me to excitement. Granted, the dictionary definition of “excite” is “to arouse or stir up the emotions of,” but I generally think of excitement as a positive thing. By this definition, my emotions were certainly excited, but not in a good way – in a bleeding-ulcer-causing way.

After all of the logical labyrinths of the last week, I still can’t find my way around the sense of this quote. And it’s too damn bad because I really would have liked a simple recipe for turning fear to excitement.