Lately I've been thinking about fear and how it seems to have grown exponentially over the past few years. People live fear-based lives: someone wants to kill us; someone wants to commit a crime against us; someone wants to take what is ours; someone wants more than we think they deserve, and that will cut into the money and stuff we grasp in our needy fear-induced fists.
We load our children with fear using dying as a threat: don't do that, you could die; don't trust them, they might kill you; don't go there, it's too dangerous and it may mean death. We need more guns because there are people who want to harm us, so we have to be prepared to harm them first. Thus we enact stand-your-ground laws and defend cops who volley dozens of rounds into citizens, the citizens and cops alike claiming "I was afraid for my life." We have to limit where we go and what we do and who we associate with because, fear.
People live in anticipation of death, which I find incredibly sad, and that's what this is about.
I don't recall worrying much about death or letting fear guide my decisions throughout my life. That is not to say I've not been afraid of things, because I have. But aside from the basics, like something happening to my loved ones, my fears have been limited to two things. The first - and this will surprise those who know me (except my sisters) - until recently I have been afraid of the dark. Of course there's a reason, but this is not the place for that examination. Suffice it to say that mostly I was afraid of things I could not see. Things that go bump in the night. It's why I was no good at camping. Because walking at night in the absolute dark that is the woods I could hear things that I could not see, which meant having no control over my own safety. I have a vivid imagination and there is quite literally is nothing I cannot imagine (which is one reason I don't watch scary movies; and trust me, you do not want to know the things I've imagined in my life). I don't need the big screen to show me what my mind can conjure unbidden.
The second is love. I was always afraid of love. I was afraid I wouldn't be good enough, that I would make a mistake, that I would not have control, that I would trust the wrong person. Worst of all, I was afraid I would be hurt. I knew that if I invested 100% of me in that venture, the pain that would come should it not work would be deep, dark, and unending - like trying to measure the very end of nothing and everything.
Beyond these two fears, I wasn't really afraid of anything. Not of change, of moving, of cities, of strangers, of people in authority, of authority in general, of speaking up, of losing a job, of losing a friend, of being lost. People have always called me brave, but I don't see it as brave. It is simply that I am unafraid, and those are two very different things. What happens when you are unafraid is that you do not fear death. The fear of being killed or dying from a disease has no control over you, and you no longer let fear keep you from living.
Driving away from Seattle Tuesday I spent time considering these matters, and what occurred to me was something new that I've seen back there in the recesses of my mind in the past five months but no looked at, like seeing a box under the bed that you have to put effort into reaching, so you just leave it there until the time is right. When I opened the box and peered in, what I saw is that along with not being afraid of dying, I am now not afraid of anything at all. As I analyzed the contents of the box, what I realized is there is a connection between my newly found complete lack of fear and the fact that I was proven right about love. You see, someone convinced me that I didn't have to be afraid of love, that giving 100% of myself instead of my typical 85 - 95% was okay. I now know that it was in fact something that I was justified in fearing, but what has been confirmed for me as a result is that I can control that by simply not engaging. Love is something I never have to do again, so there is nothing more to fear.
And that brings us to my no longer existent fear of the dark. You see, once you've faced even one of your worst fears and lived through it, you no longer care about the other worst fear. Why? Because you care even less about dying than you did before. So if I'm out walking in the dark and a murderous raping orcvampwerezombie gets me, so be it. I will be dead.
This lack of fear is freeing, really. Does it mean I'm going to be careless and stupid? Of course not. Why? Because although I am not afraid of death, I also do like living, and I would like to see my grandchildren grow to adults and have children of their own. I would like to live long enough to see my work in areas of social justice make a difference.
As for things that go bump in the dark - bears, biting dogs, monsters (both human and imaginary), men, and all that other shit? Frankly my dear, just like my friend here, I don't give a shit.
However, I understand that the majority of people do in fact give a shit to the point of being afraid of so many things and possibilities, so here's what I would like to suggest. Perhaps you could start looking at your fears, one at a time, and begin unraveling them. Try to discover why you hold on fear. Is it founded? Now, ask yourself these questions: Can you control it? Can you address it without using fear as your primary approach? Will worrying incessantly make your fear go away? If you answered no to all of these, consider making change in how you view the world through a fear lens. What you might find when you let go of your fear is a lighter heart and mind, more freedom, and more opportunity.
Now, ask yourself this question: have I missed out on anything, or do I have any regrets because I let fear make my decision? If you answered yes to this, consider letting go of your fear so that you can begin to embrace life and discover those things you've been missing while hiding in your fear box.
What I see from here
I'm not sure what this blog is going to be about. It may be about something really silly, or about a recipe, or something that pisses me off, or about something I read or something I think about. I just don't know, because, well, that's how my mind works. What it will be is stuff that occurs to me whether I'm in my apartment in Portland, Oregon or driving around from one place to another, or sitting in a meeting letting my mind wander because the meeting is boring and/or stupid. So, our commonality is that neither of us knows what it will be about. But, hey, stick around for the ride, put on your seatbelt, and we'll see what happens. Oh, and p.s. there may be curse words. Deal. Peace ya'all.
February 12, 2015
You have a lot of power when you hold someone's heart in your hand. For them finding out that they are the only one in the relationship who is in love is a difficult truth to come to terms with. Be careful what you do when you are playing with love. Be ever mindful of the people you will harm.
February 9, 2015
Sometimes we have experiences that, quite honestly, make us say to ourselves "what the hell am I complaining about?" I embrace those moments because they remind me that my life has not been so bad and is in fact pretty damn good. Yes, I've had some bad things and sad things, along with 'why me and dammit this sucks out loud' things, and there have been things that, as a result of my lived experience, measured up as what I believed were fucking tragic. Yet, again, compared to real tragedy that others have lived through, these things were mostly nothing on the greater human experience scale.
Yesterday I had the honor and privilege of having a conversation with a woman who shared with me her experiences as a result of some severe medical conditions - conditions that arose because of one missed red light. She has gone through some really terrible painful times - things I've never ever had to face - and while all this was happening she pursued. She did some great work, advocated for herself and others, moved around for her job, pushed through pain that most of us would find unbearable, started graduate school, and entered a relationship. This woman's resilience, strength, and courage astound me, and I have tremendous respect for her.
So during my 4 hour drive home I had much to consider. I began by thinking of her, what an amazing person she is, and how she has risen above the stupidity, ignorance, and arrogance of others and followed her own goals and dreams in spite of them. Somehow though, I lost that bright, positive train of thought and my thinking turned toward my recent relationship loss and the deep-seated anger that remains for him. I devised a rich and long-lasting curse against him. I dug deep, and believe me when I say you do not want to know the details. My Crone friend reminded me and warned me about the universal consequences to me should I pursue that curse. The blackness that I would share in building and maintaining such a curse and how I would lessen my own life in any pursuit of his suffering.
I have spent a good portion of my life pursuing my dream of social justice and equity - a life intent on doing no harm. Most of my adult life has been one of standing up to injustice, advocating for those whose lives could be enriched and made better by my advocacy and intervention, striving toward improving the world and leaving it a better place. Even when others did not approve of my work; when others hated me and wanted to do me harm because I stood up; when I experienced backlash; when my jobs paid so little money my kids and I were in poverty; when my ex threatened to take full custody because of my work/travel schedule; when I lost relationships because men truly do not have the capacity to be with a strong woman who does not give a fuck what people think. Through all of this I have chased doing what was right: improving policies, organizations, and communities because if even one person could be saved or helped because of my work I would be satisfied and know that I had done the right thing. I have lived fearless because this is my path. I have been honored to be part of the sisterhood that stretches across a vast quilt of time and space, a quilt whose stitches represent women like me - some of whom have quite literally sacrificed their lives in pursuit of justice and equality. A sisterhood of women who have lived.
These two things are closely connected because thinking of my life and Tiffany's reminded me that I am not here to do harm. It is not mine to mete out justice, nor to dishonor my work through adding pain to an already pain-filled world. So today I closed my curse and opened the door wider toward focusing on the good things that are here and how I can use my gifts to undo the anger, fear, greed, and selfishness that have come to define our world. At the end of my days I want to say that I kept my mind and heart open, and that my work helped improve things instead of making them worse. I want to look out on the world and say that I brought good change instead of change that harmed. I want to be proud that I didn't choose to deny people of food, housing, education, healthcare, freedom, and choice, but that instead I participated in building a world where these things are built and preserved. I want to be a part of a movement where we humans can show that we cherish love and good life as an everlasting monument to humankind more than we value structures of steel, stone, blood, and money.
I am not a martyr by any stretch of the imagination, but if I've learned nothing else in this life it is that we can be better humans when we turn our thoughts to kindness, generosity, and compassion and away from anger, greed, and fear. At the end of my days I will have peace knowing that I strove toward things that improved life on this rock. While in my life I may suffer pain and despair and metaphorical broken bones, with my very last breath I will be able to say I lived.