I rolled my eyes so much when I was fifteen that my mom told me they would get stuck in the back of my head. Three decades later, I roll my eyes every time I read some banal quote about fear.
It seems to be the one emotion people want to discuss, either as a motivator or an explanation for this election and as a result, I’ve dedicated a fair amount of time doing things with fear: ignoring it, overcoming it (do the one thing that scares you) , trying to analyze it,(False Evidence Appearing Real), conquering it (Face Everything and Rise). As my friend Amy would say, “All the eye rolls.”
Fear shows up first, it is a knee-jerk reaction so often and while it’s not my favorite F in life; after this week, I might make it a cocktail the next time it appears.
Fear usually does that thing where it hangs around just over my left shoulder, but this week it got in my face. It started with the cliche’ call from a Doctor’s office, the one that delivers news which amounts to “this is not good and I need to look you in the eye as we discuss this.” The immediate reaction was to cry, to question, to check the symptoms with Dr. Google. I wondered if this is why some things had been allowed to unfold in a way which gives me time off this Summer. I wondered what I would do when a day would be magnified, amplified as a bucket of time which must be utilized. I remember the podcast S* Town and the obsession with time and I walked around my hydrangeas meditating on something I say to my sister: we can always make more money, but never more time.
Fear must be best friends with Monkey Mind and panic because they seem to hang out together and they make absolutely nothing better when they pal around in our brains. Twenty-four hours later, when my Dr. in the city called me and walked me through the results as she saw them and what we were going to do next, I realized a few things about fear:
Squawking about it does not help. I love to watch birds feed in my yard, spotting these beautiful and quiet visitors is the opposite of my time in NYC. Crows, on the other hand-not my favorite. They do nothing but draw attention to themselves with their loud squawks and they don’t add to the beauty of anything. Sharing the fear in your heart with two or three people in the beginning of a fearful time is all that is needed for peace. One who can comfort you in person, one who understands you don’t want to discuss it too much, but would prefer to make a Manhattan and sit quietly outside. Time is too precious and no one likes crows. Talking about the scary thing is not productive but sharing it with a VERY small circle eases the burden.
Identifying the expert does. We needed plumbers to spend a few hours in the house yesterday, on the same day the yard crew came and so, for almost five hours, Hudson the geriatric rescue hound, let me know how he felt about the activity and intruders. He didn’t understand why I was so calm with these obvious stressors to his little body. He was losing his mind at their audacity to enter and leave and cross his territory with loud machines. I tethered him to me by putting on his leash and making him sit with me. I was the expert in the room, I was in charge, I knew things he didn’t know.
It occurred to me that I needed to do the same with God–go sit with Him. He was ultimately in charge of the disruption and knew when it would end and how to calm it. He was the expert. Oh, and the alarmist Dr. who saw me one time may be the one who brought something to my attention, but she is like Hudson-not helpful. The Dr. who has been caring for me for seven years interpreted the results differently because she had a baseline.
Experts have baselines. The experts put you at ease, provide perspective- they’ve been through things before, they don’t talk about themselves or their fears, they just understand and calm yours. It is then healthy to communicate your thoughts because they are no longer squawking feelings-fear feeds on feelings. Facts make fear disappear.
Listen to the lesson. At the start of this year, I felt afraid that I might never actually become a writer, that I would die with words inside me, that a TV show my sister and I have been drafting and talking about for years, would only ever live in our heads. My fear of that happening was bigger than my fear of actually making my opinions and thoughts public. In the hours before the expert called, I was sitting quietly thinking my time would be protracted. I knew in my heart parts that if the news was not great, I would regret every single moment spent with my mobile phone in my hand and wasting time on social media. I removed it from my phone and now meditate each morning-fear put a spotlight on where I needed to focus.
I’m still no fan of people who use fear to motivate or who prey on the fears of others; but for once in my life, I was grateful for an unwelcome visit from an unwelcome guest and it came bearing a gift: Focus.