29 Dec what are we so afraid of?
Fear seems to be the single most crippling emotion we have… I have experienced much fear in my life, although many would describe me as brave or strong or even fearless. I suppose compared to some, I am all of those things. However, stick me next to another, and I am none. I wonder if fear is learned or if it’s innate… Is it something taught and reinforced over time? Or are we born with it and our job in this life is to find a way to overcome? I am more inclined to believe that it is just part of the unique DNA that makes us who we are; each of us gets a bit of that written into our code at creation. Maybe we get equal parts of fear, confidence, joy, courage, and kindness at birth and our choices determine which ones grow.
Have you heard the legend of the two wolves within us? One is good and one is evil. The one we feed is the one who dominates. Well, that’s probably not exactly how the quote goes, but you get the drift. (If anyone knows the real quote, please comment.) Maybe this is the case with fear. Maybe Fear only grows if it is fed. If we cultivate it, feed it, harbor it, and bid it welcome, Fear will stay and grow and thrive and, wherever possible, overtake us. Conversely, if we face it head on, look it in the eye, and firmly tell it to get the flock out, it will slink away with its tail between its legs and the after effect will be an internal surge of self-confidence and courage. Just speculating here, but you have to admit it does make a little bit of sense. It could be possible.
My sister and I were in the gorgeous waters of Playa del Carmen the other day, just having a soak and talking about the stuff we talk about. I told her I loved it when she writes about Fear because it gives me glimpses of the person she is inside, and helps me to see her more fully. I have to laugh because when she does write about her struggles with Fear, it’s almost as if she is describing someone I have never met. I just don’t see her that way, at all! I know the External Sarah, but when she writes she shares bits of the Internal Sarah that few get to see and know. I love both, but sometimes find one harder to recognize.
The girl I see is fearless. She is the calisthenics champion of Australia, ‘91 and ‘92. She is a well-loved writer. She is a traveler who has seen more of the world by age 33 than most will ever see in a lifetime. You don’t do that when you’re a scaredy-cat. The girl I remember is the 3 year old with enormous blue eyes and a permanent grin who followed our older brother around like he was her long lost best friend. Never mind that he was 13 and had no idea what to do with a 3 year old shadow. The girl I laugh with and write with and follow and admire is one of the bravest, most self-aware individuals I have ever known. She kicks Fear’s ass on a daily basis, and no one ever sees the battle. But does that mean she doesn’t have Fear? Nope.
I was chatting with a small group of friends a couple of days ago and one friend shared his struggle with Fear had caused him to walk down a path he truly regrets. He shared something very poignant and that is that most of what we fear never actually happens. Boom! Most of what we fear never actually happens. So why do we give it so much power? Why do we allow it soooo much room in our hearts and minds? We create space for it, and allow Fear to take up residence when we really should just look it in the eye and boldly say, “You are not welcome here.” This friend is a good looking, strong, athletic man. A grown up. A dude I could actually take some time getting to know… if you catch my drift. He is physically strong, can carry a conversation, and is self-aware – three things I find very attractive. Who would ever imagine that this man has battled Fear all his life? Who would think that Fear got the best of him and robbed him of many years, prevented him from living his best life, and crippled him in ways even he cannot fully measure?
And that’s just it, right there. Fear does battle on the inside, not the outside. Fear attacks our soft spots and mutilates our most tender parts. Fear threatens us, bullies us, and tries its best to dominate us… you cannot see Fear. We eventually see evidence of its handiwork though. Wrecked lives. Crippled hearts. Stinted emotions. Ruined relationships. Alcoholism, Obesity, Depression. Addiction. I’m not writing about anything you don’t already know. This isn’t breaking news, and CNN will not be calling me for added perspective or a direct quote. What perplexes me is that if we all know this, then why does Fear still win? What are we so afraid of?
“I can’t write a blog. Who would read it? What would I say? I can’t make myself that vulnerable…”
“I can’t ask that person out. What if s/he says no? Worse yet, what if s/he howls with laughter and tells everyone what an idiot I am?”
“I can’t audition for that play. What do I know about acting? What if I forget my lines?”
“I cannot apply for that job. What if they reject me? Or worse, what if they reject me and then tell me I am arrogant?”
“I can’t ask for help. People will know that I am weak.”
Seriously??? We all have fear. We all struggle with insecurities. We all have self-doubt. We don’t need to allow it to run us, or ruin us. We can be victorious rather than victimized. We can put fear in check, and live our best lives. We can!
In June, when my life changed in an instant, my friends stepped in and cared for me in ways I will never forget. When the time came for them to return to their own lives, there were a lot of hesitant looks, tight hugs, and questions like, “Are you sure you can do this? You’re okay if I leave you alone?” I’m sure some were convinced I’d off myself as soon as they were gone. That will never happen. Never. No matter how many times it crosses my mind. No matter how much living hurts. I promise.
Guess what happened that first night? I was afraid. I was terrified. I left all of the lights on, barricaded my bedroom door, and barely slept. I was full of fear!!! It made no sense. Mason was not my protector; I was his. I was the mama. I kept him safe, not the other way around. However, on my first night alone, I was scared out of my mind. I let it consume me to the point of irrational behavior. Barricading my bedroom door? Get real. How ridiculous.
There is this quote I love from a movie entitled After Earth, “Fear is not real. The only place Fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist… Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”
That night and many after, I chose Fear. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of the future. I was afraid of never seeing my Mason again. It terrified me to face life without my son, my only love, my true family. Barricading my door? From what? The future. The loneliness. The Fear. I haven’t admitted that to too many people because I know how ridiculous it sounds. Sometimes though I think we need to admit our ridiculousness to each other and become vulnerable. Who will reject me for being afraid? Who will judge me and criticize me and make me ashamed for being scared of what life would be without my son? No one. Not a single caring, loving, kind person would ever judge me for feeling what I felt. That’s the truth. It’s okay to be vulnerable and accept encouragement and support from friends who love me. It’s okay.
Fear is not real.
Fear maims and cripples, limits and defeats, hurts and destroys… and it does it all from within.
We need to look Fear in the eye and tell it, “No more.”
The more we do that, the easier it becomes.