Fear or Love

By Elaine Gast Fawcett, TIWP Women’s Program

What am I so afraid of?

I’m afraid of getting to the end of life and feeling I’ve wasted it.

I’m afraid of suffering.

I’m afraid of losing those I love.

I’m afraid of bad things happening to my kids.

I’m afraid of annihilation.

I’m afraid of failing. Of disappointing others. Of feeling that I’m not enough.

I’m afraid of my own shame. Of being exposed.

I’m afraid that everything I believe about this life and afterlife might be wrong…and that it might be a bunch of nothingness after all. A big void. Meaningless.

I’m afraid of walking away from the work I’ve been doing for 20 years. Walking away and letting go of my identity in it. I’m afraid it was never me. I’m afraid of what I would do for money, a vocation, to feel like I belong and contribute.

I’m afraid of feeling like a failure.

I’m afraid what will happen after June. What if my husband doesn’t get a job? What if his business idea doesn’t work out? What will we do for health insurance, our mortgage?

Will we be okay?

Will any of us be okay?

I’m afraid this quarantine will last through the summer, and maybe the fall and winter.

Or it will let up, only for us to go on lockdown again, many times over.

A cycle of illness, death, and economic despair.

I’m afraid for people with no jobs or businesses to go back to, who will desperately try to feed their families and themselves.

I’m afraid of my own melancholy, and sometimes, my rage.

Where does all this fear come from? How does it follow me so?

C.S. Lewis once said “No one told me that grief felt so much like fear.”

If that’s true, is fear the wicked cousin of grief? Is fear simply grief disguised in a dark cloak?

We come into these bodies as pure innocence and light, but we bring with us a history. 

The burdens and blessings of our ancestors, those who worked and loved and suffered and bled and died with their own beliefs and life experiences and fears. Imprints.

Sure, some of my small-time fears are mine alone. They are part of my story, born of content I’ve created. I own these fears. Yet there are some that feel bigger than me—a heaviness I’ve been slogging around through lifetimes like dead weight. 15 years of therapy, thousands of hours of yoga, meditation, Tibetan Buddhism, shamanism, and 1500 self-help books and these fears still stick to me like tiny prickers after a walk through the woods. I can’t seem to shake them.

What would I do, who would I be, without those fears? 

What I know to be true is this. There will only ever be two choices: fear or love.

I can hold onto my fears, whether they are loud or the silent kind, or I can love myself fully, completely, within them. I can look at them straight for what they are—thoughts. And who was it who said “don’t believe everything you think?”

What if fear were my friend – a teacher, a messenger from the past, whispering to me:

“I will try to paralyze you—but it’s only so you can prevail.”

You don’t own me, fear. I’m choosing love.

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