“Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Fear is a liar. It whispers in our ear that if we control that person, circumstance or situation, we’ll feel better. But fear lives inside not outside of us. So when your attempts to control outside events fail, it grows into a monster threatening to eat us alive. It cripples all aspects of our life, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, unless its faced. I know this from personal experience.
There have been times in my life when I made a choice based on fear’s advice. One instance was when, as a new college graduate, I took a job I knew in the pit of my stomach was not the right situation for me. Fear said, “Take the job. You might not get another offer. You need the money.” Foolishly I listened and for two years I worked for a toxic company. It was only when I nearly had a nervous breakdown, as we used to call them, that I woke up and faced my fear. Leaving that supposedly secure position was one of the best decisions of my life.
Elections are a prime time for politicians and commentators to spew fear. Natural disasters, war, or health threats are other times when fear whispers to those vulnerable to its call. Right now we’re in a vortex of events where, in my mind, Fear is rejoicing that there are so many people to feed upon. That’s a metaphor I chose on purpose. Fear feeds upon us.
I want to make it clear, we ALL feel fear from time-to-time. We can’t escape that fact. However, we can reduce or eliminate it with practice.
This is what I’ve learned in my process of facing fear. Its not strong. We think of fear as all powerful. Maybe because of the powerful emotions it evokes. But fear can’t stand up to scrutiny. When I’ve allowed myself to face my fear fully, then look beyond it to the myriad possibilities that fear is trying to hide from me, it dissolves. Not all at once, but the more I turn away from my fear, the more it shrinks.
There have been a number of times in my life when I know my family, and even some of my friends did not understand the choices I made. They thought I was crazy. Quitting my teaching job to become a writer, selling my house to fund a trip around the world, quitting that first job that was so toxic to get my Master’s in theatre. Oh, I’m sure many of my family members still shake their heads at the choices I’ve made.
But the thing is, it’s the people who look fear in the face that we admire. I admire Gabby Giffords, who was my Congresswoman, and now advocates for stricter gun regulations. Malala Yousafzai who promotes education for girls all over the world. The fearful tried to silence them by shooting them, but when they didn’t die, those two women became more powerful than ever before.
There are so many other people who’s names we don’t know, who are facing fear every day and winning. They are becoming powerful and doing great and creative things that contribute to all of humanity. We need them all if we’re going to create a new way to live that is more loving, more sustainable, more joyful.
We can’t control events outside ourselves. All we can control is our response to what happens to us. We can control our response to fear. Remember that when you go into the voting booth in a few weeks, or choose what to watch on TV or which pundits to listen too. Are they spreading fear, or hope?
It’s my prediction that the tide will turn away from fear. That we’ll take responsibility for embracing hope and love instead. That we’ll accept that life is unpredictable which makes living exciting. There can be a bright future ahead of us, if we choose it.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014