Monday, September 07, 2009

Facing the Fear

In the face of dire reports (and predictions) in the papers and on the news, I've been thinking about fear and how it drives us. There are things outside myself about which I’m apprehensive such as drunk drivers on the same stretch of road, manic people with guns and knives and a grudge, global weather changes. There are internal things – killer viruses, toothaches, the occasional return of the sciatica that once paralyzed me for months, a second kidney stone, the creeping physical threats of old age. There are personal, emotional hurts such as the loss of a partner and the inevitable deaths of people I love, or being old and alone and ill. But these seem to me normal fears, worries that all humans cart around in daylight hours or take to bed with them as food for nightmares.

When I was small, I feared the monsters that lurked at the back of my closet and under my bed. As a teen I worried about forgetting my locker number, getting a bad grade, or never being noticed by the hunky hall monitor who stood in front of my math class. As a young mother I was afraid for my children; what if they got sick, lost, stolen? What if their arms got broken or their hearts? As a single mother I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to support us all. As a single member of the baby boomer generation, I wonder if I’ll be able to support myself on my SS check.

Many of the things I’ve feared have come to pass and I am still alive and whole and willing to get up in the morning. Digging around in my psyche, I realize that it’s not the things that come at me that frighten me, it’s more the anxious concern about how I will handle things that gives me pause. Will I be generous enough, kind enough, tolerant enough? Will I ever stop worrying that there isn’t enough of everything long enough to see that there’s an abundance of everything I need? Will I ever learn to trust again, or to hold my judgments in check?

I‘m not afraid of the dark anymore, and as a friend laughingly put it, I’m not afraid to die; I’m more afraid I’ll have to come back and do it all again. FDR was right – the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Angst can be our undoing.

What scares you?


steven said...

hi pauline, cool post of course!!! your writing is always really good to read. it's interesting how you chronicle the arrival and passage of fear as it connects to your stage and place in life. i've experienced a layer that's deeper than that and i bet you have as well - what you're prepared to unpack that has gone before. the murky deep stuff that is about understanding who and why you are.
i laughed when you said "i'm more afraid i'll have to come back and do it all again." oh yeahhh!!! steven

PhilipH said...

Very few of us are fearless, or without a fear of something.

During part of the very cold war, when Russia kept parading all its military might and atomic bombs, I had a great fear of a nuclear bomb dropping on London, where I lived.

I had this nightmare for quite some time where I was running across London Bridge, with crowds of others, and saw my Dad running towards me with arms reaching out. A huge black bomber was flying low and slowly overhead, ready to release its deadly load.

Nowadays I think many of us fear old age and the awful illnesses that can occur. Alzheimer's is terrible of course, Parkinson's is bearable but most debilitating in its worst form.

However, it's of no use worrying about such things; it does no good whatsoever. No fear! That's the ticket.

Anonymous said...

Too many things to count.
I am a pathetic nervous nellie!
on an immediate level
being trapped underground
or in an enclosed space
see: subways and elevators

However, when one starts worrying about all the things which may never happen, it is better to take the dog for a walk!

Molly said...

I've just recently been thinking how I've gone through most of my life without too much fear.First, I was brought up in a secure environment knowing I was loved and that our parents would keep us safe. Then I married someone strong and capable, who always seems to see clearly exactly what needs to be done. But now that my children are grown, and out there in a sometimes cruel world, I fear for them, that life will make them bitter,that one bad relationship will sour them......I guess I should be glad that they're honest, compassionate, caring people and trust them to take life's lumps and learn and grow from them. After all "look at the birds of the air......"

riseoutofme said...

A thought provoking post Pauline ... Since I read it earlier today I've been thinking about fear in all its disguises ... I guess my greatest fear is of being buried alive ... Rational or what? Considering I've warned all the relevant bodies that I am to be burned ... Its interesting trying to figure out just WHY we are such fraideycats ...

Thank you for your kind comment.

Eleni said...

Gosh Pauline! Up til I read ur post I thought I wasn't afraid of much but , "come back & doing it all again"? Now I'm afraid!
I used 2 be full of fear when I was younger. (started 2 travel) Experience has thought me, not 2 fear, just believe that everything will be ok in the end. Guess what? It was always! ...I guess what I'm afraid of now, is 2 get old, like in my 70s or 80s.

Ruth D~ said...

Fear, worry, whatever... it wastes all the good time in the present, fearful of something that might--but probably won't--happen. Good reminder.

Pauline said...

Thanks, Steven - fear is a funny thing, motivating and paralyzing at the same time...

Philip - some very real fears and yet you're right, worry doesn't do a lot of good

ewix - I agree, get out there and walk the dog! Things always look better to me when I'm out of doors.

Molly - it's a good life you've led :)

hi rise - fears aren't always rational are they. That's what makes them fearsome!

eleni - no use fearing old age I suppose unless you know some way to dodge that bullet

I agree, Ruth - it's good to acknowledge fear but not so good to dwell in it

focusfinder said...

Very timely, thank you P. I'm just home from the dentist.

Land of shimp said...

The things I fear are too numerous to name. I suppose having fear is a simple indication of actually having something to lose.

When circumstances arise that bring a fear to pass, thus far I've always been able to face my fear and overcome it.

I do think I fear fewer things now than when I was younger. After all, proof of our own resilience tends to be found in our continued existence.

Fear can be good, it can help keep us safe. I think it is only truly bad, when it keeps us from moving forward.

Great post, by the way. I enjoyed it a great deal.

Meggie said...

An excellent post. I, too was afraid of the monster in the dark, who might lurk under my bed. My mother could never seem to understand where that fear came from... neither did I!
I try to remind myself that some of my greatest fears are never realised.