There are many different types of fear. Often they relate to personal histories, to past experiences of pain or discomfort. They can relate to general self-flagellation tendencies, our beating ourselves up because of an imagined sense of unworthiness. Fear can come from anxieties about failure, or even about success! For the most part, these are the types of fears that we deal with on a regular basis. Usually they are based in exaggerated or unfounded feelings. But sometimes, sometimes our fears are grounded. Sometimes they are a rightly directed survival instinct that we have to pay attention to.
I recently had to go to a doctor. This was not something that was planned. It was a response to a simple equation: something that happened + a little bit of Googling = "Get to a doctor." So, I took a deep breath and called a doctor, the first time I've done so since we moved to Poland last year. No disrespect meant to any who work in the medical field, but I don't like going to see doctors. I've had too many experiences when I went for very real complaints, only to be told there was "nothing wrong" with me. I don't like giving over control of my body. I don't like taking medicines. And I definitely don't like going to doctors in a foreign country. It just sort of multiplies the unknowns, ya know? Anyway, I sucked it up and went to the doctor, a very nice woman who spoke excellent English, and - she wants me to have a surgical procedure to figure out what is going on. I was very composed at the office. Trying to understand what I needed to do beforehand and where to go for what. I made my way home in a bit of a daze and then - the FEAR hit.
I felt queasy. I felt jittery and panicked. I was confronted by a huge wall of "what-if's" and got stuck in a mental loop of imagining the worst case scenarios. I felt a distinct sense of discomfort in what I was going to have to experience and give myself over to. This was a deep fear of the unknown. Over the course of the day I spoke to several family members, and while it was good to talk to them, it didn't make the fear go away. I collapsed on the couch and pulled out my journal. I'm a stress journalist. When I'm upset, confused, or just pissed-off, I write. It helps me to sort out emotions and to feel a bit clearer. But on this day, I opened my journal, stared at the blank page and - I had nothing. There were no words. So I simply wrote, "I feel numb." Then, a funny thing happened. I pulled out another notebook where I have been exploring writing ideas, and turning through last month's pages, I found this:
Sometimes the terror creeps up on me; an anxious little rat clawing at my gut, a voracious vermin that resides in the pit of my being, waiting for a tidbit of fear that it can latch on to. Then, with fear firmly in its maw, it feels emboldened to come and root through my garbage, digging out the tastiest morsels, bringing them into the light and feeding, feeding, feeding upon my soul, leaving nothing but empty husks behind.
What do we know of our future? We can plan and imagine all we like, but the unexpected flick of Destiny is always at our shoulder waiting for her moment to intervene. We think of Destiny as being a positive being. Someone who brings a gift from the God(s). But diamonds have to polished, right? That gift has to go through its own bit of chaos in order to reveal its beauty. So Destiny may be our BFF, but she's also a bit of a bitch.
Huh. Where did that bit of writing come from? This was from several weeks ago. Is it synchronicity? Perhaps. But regardless of whether this was just a bit of a coincidence or whether my muse is laying out shining pebbles in my path, it was an interesting bit of writing to stumble on to. First, it allowed me to take a step back and visualize my fear as something that was small. Yes, it was powerful and definitely opportunistic, but I don't have to feed it, and more importantly, it's not ME. Secondly, It allowed me to recognize that I don't know what is happening, but like many hard situations I have faced in my life, there is likely a gift that will come out of this whole thing. I was reminded of the Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert's Dune, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
How often do we let fear shut us down? How much is it feeding on us and taking away vital energy that is rightfully ours? My muse may be awesome, but does my fear make sense? Perhaps, it is definitely related to a future that is as yet unknown to me. It is definitely about a sense of discomfort with medical procedures. But, I am a firm believer that we are never faced with anything that we can't handle and that even the most desperate situations can help us to learn something.
So, after I read this I reflected on it a bit and spent a few minutes just breathing, in and out, counting from one to ten, and I focused on just letting it go. And you know what? I felt better.