Fear and Loathing, Gratitude and Grace

Amy Wilson, of the blog That Writer Broad, wrote an interesting post called Fear and Loafing in Las Vegas. Her writing and the topic has inspired me. I know it is the holiday season and we are all supposed to be in a celebratory spirit, but the theme of her post makes me think two things, why do I fear the things I do? How can I submerge myself in the gratitude I have that my life is free from the worst of my worst fears?
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The definition of fear is: having a distressing, negative sensation to a perceived threat. Fear is a foundational human response to a specific stimulus, pain, or threat. Fight or flight is the elemental human response to fear, but one can become paralyzed by fear and feel helpless in its lock.

When thinking about the definition of fear, I realize the need to be conscious that I am not confusing it with anxiety. Anxiety usually occurs without any external threat, it is more the "what if" of fear. I have many anxieties that have no real validity in my immediate future, but if I loosely use the definition of fear as the distressing and negative response to a threat, this is my list...

Homelessness- I relish in the comforts of home, the objects we have collected, the ability to lounge about and use the things that we enjoy in recreation and leisure, the communal meals, the memories embedded in this place of home. I acknowledge the thin line between the comforts of home and the loss of those comforts in the tenuous culture that we live in. About ten years ago, I definitely experienced the fear of homelessness and the burden of providing a safe and comfortable place for my children. Were we really skating that close to the edge of becoming homeless? Thankfully, no, but the threat of dropping a ball as I juggled work, grad school, and depression while trying to keep my chin up was daunting. What did I learn from facing this fear? I've learned the depth of my fortitude and that I am often amazed at the human ability to keep pushing despite that psychological sensation of being locked in, frozen in place.

Loss of life and routines as we know them- I won't go deeply into details out of respect to privacy, but a few years ago my family faced a traumatic event. A sibling had a serious accident, and we as family had to endure along with him, the uncertainty of the outcome, the pervasive sense of helplessness, the imagined pain of recovery, and the loss of independence as a possible consequence of the accident. I learned that prayer, positive thinking, and sharing the emotions we all felt helped us to be united in supporting him and each other. I experienced gratitude on so many levels, for the nursing staff, for moments when he was able to smile and show his strength of character in the first few days, for our unity as family, and for his amazing return to independence and mobility. I do believe in miracles, but I must also testify to the stubborn Irish gene that pushed him in his desire to have the best possible outcome. Perseverance and patience. And pride.

Living in a world devoid of creativity- this is probably more in the category of anxiety for most of you, but I do fear anything that might prevent me from being a maker of things. I often relish in the gifts I have been given that allow me to indulge in color, texture, fiber, and the operation of imagining, dreaming, and bringing to fruition a concept in my mind. I feel gratitude for the resources that allow me to buy good stuff, for the time I can devote to my creative outlet of the past four years, knitting, and for the interaction with others who inspire me and encourage me. What will I do if my creativity hits a drought? What would I do if I were no longer able to indulge myself in so much time devoted to needles, yarn, and the peace that knitting brings? I would hope that my stubborn Irish genes would be there to fall back upon until I find my way again.

Losing my drive, my desire, my sense of being a contributor- I have tasted this fear and hated the stupor it enveloped me with. Depression, be it mild or more serious, can stall you in your efforts to move forward. It steals your sense of purpose, it can rob you of your sense of having any effect on your world. I can recall the days where I felt like an automaton, moving through the routines of the day devoid of the high points of joy or bliss or general positive well being. I don't relish the thought of revisiting that place and have fears that I won't be able to find my way out again. I believe that this fear, as I define it, truly falls into the category of anxiety, because there is no immediate threat that this will happen again. But my memory of those times and the gratitude that I carry and reflect upon daily, help me to find joy in the small moments, help me to smile even when things might not be copacetic.

I now know that I am a survivor, I have the depths of belief and inner drive to keep pushing onward, stubbornly. As my dad always tells me, "Chin up kid". He has given me so much good advice, but I think that stalwart line underlies all that he has ever advised me; just keep plugging away, don't quit.

As Amy confessed in her post, I too apologize for length, for gravity of topic, and for exposing innermost thoughts, but for me, when I read posts like this, it inspires me, and moves me to keep pushing.  After reading Amy's entry, I felt a number of things. First was intrigue at her ability to drop the boundaries and let us view her fears. Second was the awareness of how far I have traveled down this road of life and how I have met some of my fears face on. And finally, I was thinking that if we are able to think about what we fear and have a plan for how we might react to that situation, it can be empowering.

Do you dare to share your fears, your anxieties, and how you have surmounted them?


Thanks for sharing. No need to apologize - it's your blog!
Patricia said…
What an excellent thought-provoking post, Erin! I have read that humans are the only species that can remember and consciously learn from their experience. I am a great believer in ruminating over the events of a day, week or life and sifting out the nuggets of growth. I identify with the sense of fear and anxiety. I think some of us grew up in cultures that have more "fatalism" than others..."when the bad times come, and they surely will..." and we continually prepare ourselves for the worst. Facing those fears as you did is very powerful and empowering!
Inky077 said…
I agree with Patricia. At my buddhist center where I go for formal meditation, Lama Yeshe our teacher says that our suffering is from our expectations. I think for me, this is true especially in my most anxious and fear-based moments. The thing is, at every moment change is inevitable, so anything is possible, from moment to moment. My goal is to make those moments as positive as possible. And though I fail horrbily on this front most of the time lol, I think I am gaining on it. :)

Very good post, Erin!
kiwiyarns said…
A sensitive and thoughtful post. I salute your ability to tackle this issue in a public space.

Just reflecting your sentiments, I think our fears do serve to drive our progress and push us forward. If were were too comfortable in life all the time, and had nothing to 'worry' about, I wonder if we'd accomplish as much?

Personally, I like having fears. They're my reality check-points.
Evelyn said…
I love this post, Erin. Thanks so much for "thinking out loud" and putting a voice to your internal thoughts. I've recently been having some fears myself -- it's a long-standing, emotional situation that I've had to cope with for many years and very much out of my control. But I find that having good, quality friends to talk with about my fears helps tremendously. It's true that our lives can change with very little notice so appreciating what we have is not a small thing. xo
AmyD said…
I love how you shared what you had learned from your fears. I almost did a post this morning about how we're (eventually) stronger when we face our fears, but maybe later in the week.

Anyway, great post!

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