It is useful (and frankly, more fun) to maintain a brave face, and truly there are many layers of my being through which you can sift and discover nothing but love and gratitude and actual happiness.
And yet within these layers, great fears do lurk.
This fear is insidious and seemingly impossible to extract. It attacks my fundamental, heartfelt goodness with paranoid delusion and self-aggrandizing put-downs.
It drags me back and forth, showing me how I might be everything before banishing me to nothingness and I am left beaten, bruised, begging it to stop and it does, it does—just as soon as I’ve given entirely in, relinquished any lingering dignity and confessed to the essential inadequacy that is “this little me.”
I am afraid that I’ve never once pulled my own weight, that despite my best efforts, my very existence is a drag on the system.
Everyone else is so capable, and their consistency of effort is what creates the space for my laziness. I would like to help, in theory, but since I neglected, until now, to even notice that there was work to be done, I don’t know how, and thus my presence is more in-the-way than helpful. Therefore I will continue doing nothing. I believe I’ll have a beer in the meantime.
Sure, I have my moments. There are instances when I somehow stumble into a position of apparent usefulness, but I’m afraid that isn’t enough to make up for all the downtime in between. There are only seven sins and sloth is definitely one of them.
Sloth is a symptom of selfishness. I’m afraid I’m not as generous as I imagine.
I am afraid that it is actually possible to fall short—to fail and be finally defeated.
There is such a thing as unhappy endings. Things go wrong and don’t get fixed. Last-second redemption is exceedingly rare. People die in vain everyday. The thought of this terrifies me. Is that what it means for the terrorists to win?
All my friends, family and everyone I’ve ever met are fundamentally good-hearted people seeking peace and fulfillment, and yet bombs go off, cars explode, and flying robots rain down death upon the innocent.
I am afraid the terrorists are not who we think they are.
I am afraid of being trapped. Stories of the 1973 U.S.-sponsored coup in Chile provoke in me waking nightmares. Practically overnight, people went from living in a democracy to being herded to their mass murder in Santiago’s national stadium.
What is there to prevent such horrific scenes being replayed today? Precious little, I’m afraid.
I am most afraid of those who tell me how afraid I need to be. They typically wear tailored suits and accept grandiose, undocumented campaign donations. I’m afraid these criminals have conspired to erode our democratic republic and establish a government of, by and for international banks and corporations. Such a system is better known as fascism.
I’m afraid we won’t wake up in time. I’m afraid the good guys aren’t getting enough help. It is scary not to know who the good guys are. There are those who sew confusion, and it takes great discernment to know who is authentic, and who is disingenuous. With all the spinning disinformation, I’m afraid I’ll get turned around and unwittingly help the oppressors.
I am afraid I’ve been misled. I am afraid that my basic, loving trust and hopefulness can be manipulated into dangerous naiveté leading to ultimate betrayal. Have we, as a nation, been sold out? Am I complicit in the undermining of our fundamental rights and freedoms? How did this happen? I had nothing but the best intentions, but again, I’m afraid that’s not quite good enough.
I am afraid nothing is as it seems. I am afraid that everything is exactly as it seems!
I’m afraid all this makes me a paranoid delusional schizophrenic. I’m afraid I’m all alone in this.
I am petrified of fracking.
I am afraid of the vast impersonal power wielded over the population by corporations unbound by any moral law. I am afraid of those who are willing to violently impose policies that promote profits over people. I am very afraid that there are many people who are profoundly disconnected from their sense of a shared humanity, who suppress their natural compassion in pursuit of a stable paycheck.
I am afraid that evil is more rife now than ever before. Can that be true? Does anyone else notice how awfully evil it feels on this planet right now, precious as she is?
I’m afraid I’m too sensitive, too delicate, and therefore too weak to do anything to counteract all that I fear.
Are we more evil than before? Or are we only now noticing how badly we’ve behaved? Is evil greater? Or is it only our awareness that is growing, showing us things where we’d never dared look before?
Oh God, good thing goodness is exponential.
I am afraid of those who are Oh So Sure that anything is exactly as they believe it to be.
I am afraid of myself when, upon reflection, I see that I am one of these people who need so dearly to believe that what I believe is correct and others are just temporarily mistaken, confused until I can find the language to properly explain everything.
I’m afraid this language doesn’t exist.
I am afraid of people who don’t seem to be thinking for themselves, of people who operate primarily on pre-programmed, knee-jerk reactions. I am afraid a mob of these zombies will turn me in to the thought police for having extravagant ideas about freedom and worse, wielding the subversive vocabulary to express these wild ideas precisely.
Mostly, I am afraid that I may be incapable of fulfilling my personal potential, and afraid that this failure will have disastrous repercussions for our world. I’m afraid of big opportunities squandered due to minor miscalculations. I’m afraid even my best contributions are futile. I’m afraid my failures are meaningless and will go unnoticed.
But, in spite of all that, I am not afraid to pretend I’m not afraid.
In fact, I am becoming less and less afraid of feeling afraid. I am more and more comfortable with the discomfort of engaging directly with my many fears.
I’ve tried ignoring them, and that doesn’t work, for then they fester barely out of sight like some nasty tumor. Engaging with the fear merely feeds it; pushing back only escalates the fight, and more fighting is just cause for more fear.
As I become more comfortable, I am able to observe my fears without engaging. I say,
“Hello Fear, what shape are you taking today? Oh yeah? That’s interesting, sort of, but moving on, I’ve got lots of uplifting shit to do, so if you could please quiet down, that’d be greatly appreciated. Thanks.”
Fear is a strait jacket on a sane man. His squirming, desperate struggle to escape only confirms to an observer the need for his restraint.
Ultimately, release is available only through acceptance. Only calm abiding can convince the witness that these restraints no longer serve the person entangled within.
He will watch with blissful disbelief as his diligent surrender dissolves the ties that bind him. And the best is yet to come when he meets the gleeful welcoming party awaiting him beyond the shadowy walls which have limited his vision for so very long. The witness, previously perceived as the source of his torture, is revealed to be best friend and brother, true family who was anxiously awaiting the time when he would realize he could breathe, relax and be free.
There will be bafflement when he looks back to see that his confines were in fact quite illusory, an apparently impenetrable fortress perfectly permeable at any chosen moment. Like an adult who remembers the monstrous hill down which he would ride his bicycle, he’ll revisit his old neighborhood to see it’s nothing but a gentle little downslope.
Oh well. Now he knows.
Lastly, I am afraid this article won’t be well received, or worse…won’t get read at all. However, I’ve accepted that fear and published it anyway. Please accept this opening for what it is—a partial list.
We can help transmute and transcend the many fears we all encounter by directing the light of your attention in their direction. Fear is known to disappear in the light of loving-awareness.
What are you afraid of? How do you cope? How do you make use of your fear? Please share.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman