Facing My Faith, Faithing My Face #6

In which I am scared.


What is fear? Why is fear? I’m scared of things that can hurt me physically, but why am I scared of things that can hurt me emotionally? Why do I do some things I’m scared of, but not others?

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” – Woody Allen

I think I’ve worked out I’m more scared by life than death. I want to face my fears, so this is a good thing, but it does sharpen the fact that stress is difficult to avoid.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” – Marianne Williamson

I am scared of not being enough – I don’t know why. I don’t want to let people down – family, friends, myself. I need to work out where those expectations come from – are they mine? Do I want them? Are they my parents, my teachers? I’m scared of being too much as well. Of overreaching myself, going too far, being too me. I don’t know how to do it, in a world so full of other people’s ideas and rules and expectations. The people I most admire and aspire to be like were all vilified and lived lives full of pain and suffering, as well as joy. Living like Jesus means living like an outcast, with little comforts, and having people misunderstand and seek to destroy you. So does living like Gandhi, or John Lennon, or Mother Theresa. What if I can’t handle it? I know the stories. Michael Jackson. Whitney Houston. Heath Ledger. Robin Williams. Peter Pan and Captain Hook. Alice in Wonderland. Frodo. Snow White. I’m not scared to shine, I’m scared of the heat, of the energy transmitted. I’m not scared of light and dark. I’m scared of temperature.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” – Mark Twain

This sounds morbid, but it’s basically the Scout Code. Be Prepared. Every religion ever: stay awake, be ready. This gives me strength when I’m in a low place. At one of my worst moments, I wrote a list of songs I’d want at my funeral. Then I thought that I don’t want to die leaving a mess, so I tidied my room, and then I felt lots better and had a good day. Just having a clean environment changed my mindset. I was freer to live the day, because I felt empowered by being readier to die. I think that’s a key to understanding depression and idealisation of death. It doesn’t have to be something that’s scary, it happens. Why don’t people like to talk about it?

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.” – Veronica Roth

Fear is a useful emotion, it’s a warning of danger. We can’t control emotions, or ask them to come and go at will. But I think directing emotion is possible. Sometimes my fear is useful, challenges help me grow. Fear drives me to do things I’m unsure of. It also drives me to do things I’m not proud of – so what I want to work on is my reaction to fear. I try to focus on the present moment and what I can do practically, instead of letting a mindspiral whirr off into the distance to do nothing but distress me. I hope with practice, this can become easier, and I can apply my fear to productive things. It’s what I’m trying to do now, talk about fear openly. Why should I be scared to show I am scared? Bravery is looking at fear and working with it, not not having fear, and not even necessarily overcoming, destroying, or fighting it.

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” – Harper Lee

I’ve been growing gradually shortsighted since I was about 12 – it seems to have stabilised now, but one thing I am highly aware of is the difference in what I see when I wear glasses and when I don’t. Not seeing things clearly is nice, when I want to block out the distance, but having clear vision is a gift, I’m scared of losing my ability to see colour, of losing my hearing, of losing my mobility. I need to dance, and balance, and hear music. I’m so thankful and lucky I can do those things. I want to get better at remembering that I should love breathing – it’s a gift. It should be something I fear to lose, so much more than anything material.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coehlo

This is why I write, and why I share things though I know they are silly and trite or contain spelling mistakes or are drawings on the back of scrap paper. Nothing that is an attempt at beauty and truth is a failure. Success is in trying.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections.” – John Lennon

Whatever love is, it fixes hurt. It solves and salves the world. I’ve learnt that being loving to myself helps me when I’m scared. I used to try to bully myself out of it (still do sometimes) but when I try to be a parent and friend to myself it works a lot better.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

The fears I don’t face stay and grow and fester. The fears I do face can come back, but only ever smaller.

“Time is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.”

– Henry van Dyke

It can be done. I won’t be scared to death.

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