March 4, 2014

Sandra Bullock knows about fear. She’s had to deal with a cheating husband, divorce, single motherhood, aging, adoption. I’m not sure how losing out on the 2014 Oscar for Best Actress impacts the mix, but I’ll bet she’ll be fine. 

I’m a fan because she is such a survivor. Recently, she amazed me during a pre-Oscars interview that she did on “CBS This Morning” with her director, Alfonso Cuaron. As Oscar nominees (I’m glad that he managed to win Best Director!), they were promoting “Gravity.” 

Of course, as the whole world knows, their super-exciting movie is about astronauts lost in space. During the interview, Cuaron praised Bullock’s “fearlessness” and strength in carrying the picture.

Then she spoke a truth that has stayed with me. This is what she said about starring in “Gravity:”

I learned how to get in touch with something I had no idea existed still. And that was this inner life, and to trust it and to dig deep for it — and, fear got you there.

Imagine — at 49 years old, Sandra Bullock had already made 40 films. Even so, she went into “Gravity” ready to keep growing. She looked inward and reinvented her long career at an age when most actresses are weeping over their Botox and wrinkles. Now that’s my idea of living in the moment.

It’s not the first time she’s been brave. In 2010, she adopted a baby boy and became a single mom, which was also notable because she crossed racial lines as a white mother who is now raising a black son. Their bond began soon after Jesse James, her husband of five years, made headlines for having an affair with a tattoo model. Oh, the humiliation! But when she talked about her kid during the CBS interview, she was positively beatific.

After seeing her on that segment, I had to catch “Gravity.” Watching it in an IMAX theater had my every nerve ending screaming. Of course, the 3D venue was expensive — 18 bucks per ticket. But for that price, I received 90 minutes of practice in facing fear, with Sandra Bullock at my side.

Then, I went home and reflected on my own fear: I’m afraid to stay happy.

As a single mom, I got happy after I built a financially stable, safe, comfy home for my daughter and me. I’m finally in a strong, romantic relationship too. Yet, unhappy feels more familiar. It’s part of my old pattern of perpetual self-criticism and anxiety.

There’s a related issue that sometimes bothers me more than I want to admit. It has to do with a fear of success. As you know, I’m working on a book project that has recently led to a terrifying thought. What if my book is actually quite good? Could I handle positive feedback? If I get my dream, what will I have left to whine about?

Culturally speaking — as a woman, the daughter of immigrants and a person of Asian heritage — I’ve been raised to not draw attention to myself. So having the life that I want feels like climbing onto the center of a very big stage. Very big. The challenge is to stay there. Don’t leave. Don’t get scared and walk away.

Let go, girl, let go of fear!

Like this:

Letting go!

If you’ve got a fear or two, I hope you’ll share and keep me company. Throw it right up there, onto the center of the stage. Do it nice and loud and proud. Get the round of applause that you want and deserve. Let fear get us to our inner life.   xo