I have a thing with fear. Its been with me from the earliest memory. I wasn’t overly shy, afraid of people. Most days I wasn’t scared of going to school, of riding the bus. I wasn’t afraid when we were occasionally left with a sitter. My early fear was of the dark. Though I shared a room with my sister, her unconscious presence wasn’t enough to bring comfort from a bad dream. The darkness of room and imagination held me, keeping me from running across the hall to my parents, to safety. Fear trapped sound in my throat, so I’d whisper “Mom”. Then again, a little louder “Mom”. Then spoken “MOM”, then loud enough to wake: “MOM!” She always came running. She always brought peace and a prayer, assurance that all was okay, that I was safe and cared for.
As I grew, fear changed. Given the worldview of my upbringing, the darkness of evil joined with the darkness of night, a fear combination that proved potent. I learned to say my own prayers to keep this alliance at bay, to keep it hovering away of arms reach. Morning always brought relief; the first bits of dawn meant I had survived, again. These fears didn’t usually follow me through the day. Only once, after watching a show with cousins, a show prohibited at our house due to violence I suppose, was I tormented. I had become the protagonist stalked by the villain, in this case a werewolf, catching glimpses of a tail, knowing it was just over there,waiting to pounce. I couldn’t share this fear because I had been “wrong” to watch the show in the first place. Fear of parental disapproval proved stronger than any relief I might gain, so this one lasted a while. Fear of parental disapproval. My next major fear phase.
Wanting to please parents is an evolutionary given. Small children can’t survive on their own. They need the food, shelter, love and comfort that caregivers (hopefully) bring. Displeasing the caregiver might mean rejection, ejection from the group, the tribe, the sanctuary. Rejection would mean death. My parents were very loving and would be horrified if any thought their care to be conditional of good behavior. As a rational adult I know this was not the case, but children don’t rationally know, they feel. They don’t hear the words, they feel the words, they feel the tone, they literally absorb the facial expressions. Wanting to keep everything happy or return things to happy as quickly as possible, are the furrows of secret, of little lies, of omissions. Ground that therapists plow through later in life.
By college, I learned there were things I just wasn’t to share with my parents. As I worked toward my emancipation to adulthood, trying out my own views, my own thoughts, I learned hard that it was easier to not share than to sit through a discussion I didn’t want to have. A one-sided discussion of why this view or that thought was flawed. Years later I would know these discussions, and the many that would follow, grew from the insecurities of my folks, insecurities that followed me, not giving me tools for discussions of my own, discussions with other thoughts and views. I still hate the feeling of disagreement, the feeling deep in my core, of frustration from unmet minds, minds that will never meet. I don’t really know how to live with that, to be ok with that. I have typically lived in avoidance, not necessarily avoiding the people, but always avoiding the subject or the difference, finding only common ground or pretending when there is none. This alone is the lack I regret most.
By ultimate Grace I have a partner who can live in disagreement, who can share time with people, who can discuss anything without having to “be on the same page”. Spouse is easy-going, affable. He can put others at ease, drawing them out, finding out who they are, what do they think, how do they feel. He can ever so nicely include his own held thoughts or not, it doesn’t matter to him. He knows who he is, he likes who he is, and he is ok with others not being him. I continue to learn from his life, from him. I can talk about anything without rejection and no, we don’t always agree. This characteristic of him has to be one of the reasons we are happily together.
Some years ago, a longtime friend died in a car crash. This person was noble, upright, a hard worker, a provider, a loving husband and father. The driver of the car who hit him collapsed at the wheel, not from alcohol but from some freak health condition. In broad daylight the oncoming vehicle swerved into the wrong lane, at highway speed, on a corner, and my friend had nowhere to go. He tried to avoid and saved his passenger but was himself hit full-on. This event crashed me. All of my fears collided. Standing in my room, alone, leaning on the windowsill, I cried, no, I wept. Deep, wracking sobs convulsed my torso, lungs heaving, throat gasping because if this could happen to my dear friends, it could happen to me-I could lose Spouse. I would be alone. Good behavior didn’t matter. Daylight or night, it didn’t matter.
Regardless of what you believe about metaphysics, about God, whether just electrical impulses of the brain or a being outside of ourselves, a being who interacts, a being who might care for, even love humans, I believe the latter. During this highly charged emotional moment, I experienced a deep peace that I would be ok. I wouldn’t be alone. I would survive. I was strong. It wasn’t at all from a place that this being would do things for me, would magically make everything ok; it was that he or she would be there, in it, with me. This isn’t a post on The Existence of God. Nor is it a post on all that could be written, could be said about the atrocities, the despair, the seeming abandonment of those who believe, at the hand of others who also say they believe. If there is a God why does this happen? Where is God in all of this shit? For me she’s just here. He’s next to me. I listen for whispers, feel for nudges. Rogue brain impulses? Could be. Does it matter? No. I am still often afraid but I remember this and it lifts.
Fear isn’t all bad. Fear is for survival. If I’m walking alone and feel fear hit my gut, I pay attention and go another way. This fear is like intuition. As a planner, someone who wants to know what to expect, I feel fear when I’m trying a new thing, going to a new place. This fear causes me to be more alive: Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway. However, unchecked or manipulated, these mild forms of fear become tools of hate and control.
The events of this week have sickened me. This entire presidential election cycle has been atrocious. Flagrant manipulation by those in power, abandoning those they claim to support; by those wanting power, feeding off masses, people tired, frustrated, afraid. Fear lashes out. Fear corrupts clear thought. Fear causes withdrawal from conversation, from interaction, from relationship. Fear brings hate & pain & death. For many I know it feels as though fear has won. It hasn’t and we get to prove it.
We can be brave.
- Respond to the whisper or nudge to talk to that person, to give to that group, to write that letter, to make that phone call.
- If you feel in danger, watch faces, listen for who you can turn to, we will be there.
We can think clearly.
- Find the sources that help, that will give good direction, good ideas, that empower you for good.
- Hide people or unlike pages on Facebook that cause unhelpful turmoil in your soul.
- Find the good, support the good, speak the good.
We can connect.
- Find people or a person to be with. Just be. Don’t debate, don’t complain, just be.
- Share gratitude
- Offer a listening ear or a shoulder for crying, but know your own limits.
- Work to make acquaintances or friends outside of your usual set of norms. Be open to different.
When you start to feel afraid, go outside, breathe deep, and ask for clear thinking, ask for bravery, and above all, ask for love. Love wins.