I wanted to title this blog “Fear” but I was afraid no one would read it :). There is so much fear in our world right now – who wants to read about more? I am not here to fan the fear or add to yours. Instead I hope to share what I am discovering about my own. It can be an unwelcome guest that I am learning to listen to in a new way.
A couple of weeks ago I was looking out the window and saw a small white pony run through our pasture. We don’t own a small white pony. My first thought was wow did one of our horses roll in something white? Then I thought no, that’s not one of ours – did someone drop off a pony? Is there a trailer in the drive way? Then wait, What?! That pony does not belong here. Our usually calm herd of horses were nervous as they tried to figure out what to make of this unwanted guest. There was mad galloping and nasty kicking and in the end, one of our horses pulled up lame for a few days. Like an intrusive thought, an unwanted feeling, this small pony made a mess of the boundary fence and caused unnecessary trouble. Meanwhile, I was on the other side of the gate unsure of what to do.
I am fortunate that I never knew fear as a child like those who live with war, trauma, and tragedy. I grew up with so many privileges, including safety. I am lucky and grateful. I had other childhood fears and ways of being fearless – like all kids and their unique mix of emotions. I understand that fear shows up to remind us of our needs and keep us safe. Gone reckless and wild, fear, like this bittersweet vine, becomes invasive and takes over.
Part of what makes me so conscientious is fear. Without fear, we would be dangerous. You will never catch me without a seat belt. I turn all pot handles inward while on the stove. I am constantly on the look out for possible tripping hazards. My everyday vigilance list is long. But when fear shows up for me, day after day, or unrelated to anything I can control, I want to lasso it like a rogue pony or rip it out like an aggressive weed.
To mask my fears I over think/process, take on too much work that isn’t mine, try to control my surroundings… to name a few unhelpful coping methods. I wonder what you do?
Fear can act as a great motivator or a massive road block. The trick for me has been deciphering what is useful fear and what is unnecessary anxiety. One of the reasons I haven’t touched this blog for so long is I was afraid I had nothing to say in light of all that has gone on in the world these past two years. What is my grief compared to all this? What do I even know that could be useful? Fear can make us helpless. I compare this to when I started this blog – alone, at midnight, new to Word Press technology, putting my vulnerable words out into the cyber world, I pushed the Post button – I felt pretty fearless.
So what’s changed? I think chronic anything (insert – grief, pain, illness, chaos) erodes our sense of self. The belief that things are out of control and out of our control, and things are for many of us, is kindling for fear. Road block! I have been afraid that writing about chronic physical pain is a story you are tired of (I know I am). I have been afraid that that my understanding of grief is based on a story you don’t want to hear anymore. The world is immersed in chronic pain and grief. What do I have to offer? But, how ridiculous of me to assume to know what you want to read? And who cares? You can close your computer or put down your phone. I am not busting through your electric fence or growing wild in your garden.
Recently I was taught to see my fearful thoughts as unwanted guests, and gently show them to the door, allowing other thoughts to run the show – thanks we won’t be needing you now. Like the visitors who would dump their fears in the hospice room, and I would kindly remind them that we are here, right now, and enjoying this moment. I can do the same with the fears that break into my mind. I can prune them back.
Some fears need to be invited in and listened to – just long enough to know if I can address them. Do they have something important to tell me? Is there real danger? Or do I need to drop to my knees and take a few deep breaths? I coach myself now – hey Caroline – what do you need to do today? Write? Walk? Call a sister? Be in silence?
This past week in particular, I have felt the constant thrum of fear. I know that the memories of the final days with Rachid are bittersweet berries on a creeping vine. They are painful memories woven deep into my being and seed fears for the future. But fear of loss as a driving force restricts our interaction with the world and our loved ones. From a place of fear I don’t make good decisions. From a place of love I make much better ones. The proof of this is loving again.
On the night before the anniversary of Rachid’s death (12/17) I had the dream I have about once a year. In this dream Rachid returns and is unware that I have remarried. Its a dream filled with sadness and guilt. It shows me that I am very much a work in progress. But, I shook it off this year because I know it is a fear based dream and is not actually happening. Thank you but all is well in this present and real moment, please close the door behind you, I’ve got it from here.
I wonder how fear shows up for you?