Recently I saw a Facebook post where a sign outside a church read: F.E.A.R. with two possible ways to decipher the acronym.
One was: Forget Everything And Run and the other was: Face Everything And Rise.
We all have things we fear. Some of our fears are very personal and have developed over time based on events from our past. I don’t like heights and going fast. I’m not a fan of spiders. I am very afraid of snakes. I’m not sure how these fears came to be and I know that they’re there. That’s the case for most people – we might fear things that others don’t. Our fears are very real to us even if others can’t understand where they came from.
And there are some fears which we share. Some people worry about the future which they might see as bleak. They fear that their future will be one of scarcity: that they won’t have enough money to look after their basic needs for food, shelter, and safety. And, at this moment in time with a global pandemic causing so much havoc around the world, these fears are well founded for many. They have been laid off work, have run through any savings they might have had, have exhausted any social supports available to them. And so they question what will happen next. What will the future hold for them? How will they survive? I can understand how these thoughts could lead to feeling despair and anger. And I can understand that, eventually, these fears could lead to acts of desperation – protesting and demanding action from the leaders of our cities, provinces or states, and countries to fix things. We look to our leaders as we would to our parents and the lost child in each of us wants to be comforted and cared for. When we are most afraid, we want to be reassured that the sun will definitely come out tomorrow.
The longer situations like this go on, the greater our fears become. And in our desperation, we look for someone to blame for how we are feeling. We point our fingers at ‘them’ and believe that it’s all their fault and if they’d only go away or vanish, we’d feel alright again. And, as time passes, any fears we hold of ‘others’, whoever these others might be, increase and then we act out of these fears. We yell and protest and march and fight. We believe that we must protect what we have in order to have enough to survive. We hoard things and grab for things feeling that we will be safe if we are surrounded by stuff that we can see and touch. And we hoard our emotions and our energy in the belief that we must do so in order to continue. At a time when we most need to feel connected with people in the world, we drive others away. We hunker down in our emotional bunkers. We believe that the only people we can trust are ourselves.
So we don’t face things but, rather, we hide from them.
We are afraid that if we truly look at what’s happening in the outside world and inside ourselves we will lose everything. To face things will, we believe, render us unsafe in every way. And whether we physically remove ourselves from people and events or simply shut ourselves off from others, we run.
So for many of us, our first response is: Fear Everything And Run.
For me, I know that that is my first response. I worry that the world I know is collapsing and that, no matter what I do, I will no longer be safe anywhere. I’m scared that I’ll be vulnerable to disease and physical assault. And I worry that the human race is running out of control and that nothing will ever bring us back from the brink of a form of annihilation. I look around and can’t see anywhere to go to keep myself safe. So I find myself sitting in my apartment and staring at the TV and anaesthetizing myself with food.
And when things don’t work the way I want them to – my computer goes on the fritz or the fire alarm in my apartment goes off for no reason and keeps beeping incredibly loudly, I panic. I feel helpless. Things that worked suddenly don’t and I don’t know why they’ve stopped working or how to fix them. I find myself crying out,”Why me?” and defaulting to believing that everything that happens is a conspiracy perpetrated specifically against me.
Then, when I’m caught in the malaise of my fears, I do eventually stop and, although it sometimes takes emotional energy, I encourage myself to do things which I truly enjoy
– reading and writing and creating. And I keep in contact with friends and family so that I don’t feel disconnected from the company of people whose presence lights up my world. While I miss connecting with them in a more intimate way, just talking to them and seeing them via Skype or Facetime helps.
I become aware of my sensory responses to things. Recently, I was quite caught by just how luxurious the wool I was knitting with felt. And I take opportunities to go outside. I look at all the many greens that nature has created and the lilacs beside the roadway and the meadow flowers, and I listen to the wind and the rain. Then I am transported to a larger world that feels full of life and possibility.
And it’s then that I can look at my fears of things unknown and, even while I accept that they are there for me, I can choose to stay connected with others and with mySelf. And it’s then that I find myself rising above my fears and my inaction.
Our reactions and responses to events shape our future. And our willingness to grow shapes our future. So, in being willing to Face Everything And Rise, to move beyond despair to hope, to act proactively and with intent to create the world in which we want to live, we will shape our future and create that world.
We will not be held captive and we will be creators.
(Thanks to Naomi Irons.)