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Fear 21.5.800

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So I’m a little late to the game with Bindu’s 21.5.800 challenge. Truth is, I wanted to participate, but I don’t like to sign up for things and not do them. That goes against my grain and makes me feel terrible. And I knew I would not deliver on the five days of yoga. Then Bindu told me I could do savasana, which sounded an awful lot like Lianne’s advice to sink deeply into rest, and … well, here I am—a week late and at least a dollar short. Oh well. I’m here!

I found her suggestion to write about fear both daunting and inspiring. I am in a season that looks deceptively calm. My everyday life has ground to a halt and I’m finding myself with long swaths of unscheduled time (by which I mean hours, not more than that) unfurling in front of me in the most gorgeous way. But my emotional life is not as settled as the surface would suggest. It is this hidden turbulence in me, I suspect, that responded to Bindu’s suggestion to write about fear.

Fear. I am intimately familiar with fear, though often shy away from looking it right in the face. I have written a lot about my fears, mostly about my deep discomfort with uncertainty, and about how I grasp awkwardly for faith. Despite these lurching attempts I’ve mostly found my palm empty, but I’m beginning to suspect that may actually be faith, that empty palm.

When I think about fear the Carl Sandburg line about fog keeps coming to mind: “The fog comes on little cat feet.” Seems to me that’s mostly how fear arrives for me too. Creeping, gradually, quietly enough that I don’t realize it’s approaching until it has surrounded me. That’s the most insidious thing about fear, at least for me: it arrives without warning, and I am suddenly swamped by it, unprepared.

Now this is different from change, of course, whose arrival is always long in coming, deeply anxiety-producing. In fact, the way that I can anticipate change, and count down the moments until it comes produces the worst kind of fear for me. It seems incongruous that one of the things I fear most—change, and its cousin, uncertainty—has such a different pattern of arrival, such a distinct rhythm than the actual fear.

The other things I fear are more diffuse, less connected to facts (i.e. I am leaving my job. This is a change. I am afraid of change). These are the fears that arise, unbidden and unexpected, the fears that surround me like a fog I cannot escape. The old, familiar fears—I am not good enough, I will soon be revealed as the fraud I really am, I am all surface and no depth—jump out from behind corners of ordinary days, startling me into submission. This fear is all tangled up with my far too powerful (though not as simplistic as it initially seems) concern about what others think of me.

The deep fear that I will be abandoned; that those I love most will leave me animates the vaguely frantic sense that accompanies me some of the time, ebbing and flowing to the beat of an irregular and inscrutable metronome. I have a lot of friends but I have truly let in very few. And I live in fear that those beloved people will see all the things I fear about the heart of me and decide to leave.

There are a million other things I fear, small and big: aging, my own and my parents’, the fragility of my children’s health, the recurrence of my childhood friend’s cancer, not being able to sleep, trying new and intimidating foods, certain intimidating people, the pitch black, and roller coasters. I could probably write this list all day, and sadly it comes to mind as easily as did my list of things that make me very happy.  Something to think about during today’s savasana.


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