“Don’t be afraid.”

How often did you hear that phrase when you were a kid?

Don’t be scared. Don’t be frightened. Stop crying.

It runs through our entire society. Through the veins of our cities and arteries of our homes. A message passed down through the ages. Through the generations.

We believed it because we believe everything we’re told when we first arrive on the planet. When we come kicking and screaming into this world we know nothing and need to learn everything. So, we listen to those whose voices we hear first. They tell us what they were told when they first arrived, then we grow and run out to meet others who all learnt the same thing in different places.

Don’t be afraid. 

The problem is that we are afraid. We are scared. All of us. Most of the time. We don’t know what’s happening and it petrifies us. It goes all the way back to when we’re small and helpless and somebody turns the light out in our bedroom.

“Please just leave the light on outside and my door open, I think there’s a monster in my cupboard.”

“There isn’t son, don’t be afraid. There’s nothing to be frightened of.”

But I am afraid. So, I bury it. I suppress it. I trust what everyone around me says and I turn it off.

Like we all do.

It’s nobody’s fault. We trust what we’re taught and believe what the elders said.

But the secret is that they were scared as well. That’s what they wanted to say. They wanted to tell us that they’re scared of the dark too. They’re frightened of the unknown. Fear courses through their veins so hard that they don’t know what to do with it.

So, we all shut it down. Bury it. Repress it.

And so, it goes on. A lie that we all perpetuate. A message that we all spread.

Don’t be afraid. There’s nothing to be scared of.

It doesn’t help, because we are afraid. We are scared.

The world in which we live has been developed by those who know that fear is the most powerful control there is. Make us afraid and we’ll do things we otherwise know to be wrong.

There’s a better message to spread. A more powerful lesson for us to share.

Let’s just admit that we are afraid. All of us. In different ways. Scared of different things to varying amounts, but all afraid nonetheless. 

And that’s okay.

It’s human to be frightened. Fear is the most basic of human emotions. It has kept us safe for centuries. The trick is not to suppress it. Not to bury, repress or deny.

But to acknowledge. To be kind to ourselves and accept that it’s okay to be afraid. To worry about what might happen next. To think we might lose a loved one. To wonder about how we might pay our bills. To question whether we will get to watch our favourite sport ever again.

Here’s what we should be teaching ourselves and others.

To acknowledge our fear. To feel it. To experience it for what it is.

And to let it go. To let it bubble through our cells and swirl in our stomachs, then take a deep breath and know that it can’t kill us. It’s just a feeling. They’re just thoughts.

To think about the things we’re in control of and take whatever calm steps we can to minimise our risk, while accepting that we’re ultimately not in control of many things and refusing to panic about any of them.

We are all in this together. If nothing else, days like these are a stark reminder that we are more alike than recent times might have encouraged you to believe. We are all human. We are all flawed. We are all vulnerable.

And, perhaps more than anything else, we all need each other.

We live in world that seems to be slowly moving us away from what’s important. A world that wants us to believe that money and things are what we should be striving for.

Times like these give us opportunities. They allow us to reflect on what is really important in our lives. To remember that the things we collect are just that. Things. They aren’t love and connection. They aren’t hugs. They aren’t laughing with your friends until you cry. They aren’t those crazy messages you get from your mum or the rubbish jokes your dad tells you.

We might not be able to hug each other for a while, but all that will do is remind us how much we cherish a hug.

We might not be able to go out drinking with our friends for a few weeks or months, but imagine what it will be like when we can.

We might not watch a new game of our favourite sport for what feels like an eternity, but just imagine how good that first match back will be.

Times like these serve as a reminder of what’s really important. Times like these are an opportunity to tell those we love how much they mean to us. To share a joke, to sing a song, to dance in the kitchen.

To use our extra time to read that book we’ve been meaning to read, to watch that classic movie we’ve never seen or to start writing that sitcom we always knew was inside us but we never had the time. To play with our kids more. To walk the dog. To sit in silence and reflect on our lives.

To think about all of the ways in which the world falling apart can be a good thing. To look for the light in the darkness and to share that light with others.

It’s okay to be afraid. We’re all scared sometimes, no matter how big, old or ugly we get.

Feel the fear. Accept it for what it is. Take a deep breath. Let your shoulders relax. Be grateful for all of the good things in your life. Feel your heart swell with love as the faces of those dearest to you pass through your mind. Notice your skin tingle as the sound of your best friends laughing dances across the airwaves. Let the hair on your neck stand on end as the energy of millions of people around the world comes together for the first time in a generation, united as one. Feel your heart rate calm and an overwhelming peace flood your veins.

Allow an energy like no other to pass through every cell in your body, connecting you to the planet and to the rest of humanity in a way you’ve never experienced before.

We will survive. We will grow. We will learn. In love, in fear, in tears.

It’s all going to be okay.

© Paul Cope 2020