I knew the short answer pretty much right away – no, I am not afraid – not right now – not for the past few weeks especially. I was sure about the short answer – and then a little surprised by my own certainty. I am not afraid – not for now – not really of anything…well two things only…
This is very new for me…
I was weaned on fear. It served me well as a child. I was afraid – and if I pretended that I wasn’t afraid, that enraged her more. As did crying. A quick study, I learned the art of silent terror. Swallow your fear so that you lose your voice, develop an ulcer and think a rustic summer overnight camp is the best. And going away to college – nirvana.
Swallow your fear and learn not to allow yourself to show much real feeling at all. And then wonder why you never really feel known. Why you never really feel loved. While you are choking on your own feelings…Wondering about the loneliness…
Fear was so much a part of my soul that I had no awareness that I was afraid. None.
Then wise teachers began to appear. I must have been ready, as the saying goes.
First I learned to give up on trying to control the people in my life – that’s what fear does – fear feeds rigidity and expectations and disappointments and blame. I remember the moment I let that one go – thank you Anne – for teaching me that trying to control was futile. I learned to focus on controlling myself – that was plenty.
Fear was so much a part of my soul that I never expected to really feel loved – the kind of deep soul love I had always silently mourned. Not expected – mourned. I expected to die feeling unloved.
And then somehow, magically, mystically, George and I fell in love – again – very differently. Love that neither of us had ever expected to experience – and certainly not with each other. Never. Can you believe this George asked me every single day – without fail.
Early on George challenged me to confront my fears – as I challenged him to do – I with less success – until the end. And at the same time Susan stepped in and taught me that love and fear were opposite sides of the same coin – and that there is only love and fear – and I got it – in a moment I got this too.
I, challenged and supported and loved, began to figure out my fear. I reunited with the little girl cowering on her bed – waiting for the rage. I began to conquer my fear – with one major nagging exception that I still regret – often. I was terrified of losing George – not to death – but to his own fears – to his own terrors – to his own flights from the reality of his terrors. And until close to the end, I was too afraid to not show fear when George struggled.
I was terrified of losing George – and as we began to figure that out – to understand the ways our remaining fears collided – and as we began, with deep love, to move beyond that place – George died. I lost him in a moment. I lost him not as I had feared or imagined losing him – but rather to a random intruder – a strep bacteria gone rogue. I lost him in a way I had never worried about – never imagined. Never could have imagined. I watched him silently, slowly, so quickly die – killed by a random intruder.
And when George was dead I came home from the hospital gripped by a toxic terror that I could not shake – and could not begin to control. I had expected to feel sad and I did. I had not expected to be so terrified that I barely breathed…for more than a year closer to two I held my breathe in sheer terror. Numb, I moved through the hours and days and weeks and months and more than a year…cornered in a netherworld in which I did not see in color for 18 months; in which I could not read for two years; and in which I could not really grieve George dying for two and a half years.
And this fall, more than two and a half years after George died I realized in a much deeper way that he was really gone – and that no matter how much I worked and exercised and dated that I might not find my way through. How, I wondered, after so much of doing all of the right things, could I be in such a deep dark not-bearable place.
And now, thankfully, I am finding my way through to peace and no fear…to peace and love…to peace and hope…
Just two fears remaining (I didn’t lie – I just didn’t know until I thought hard about this)…my fears are of the people I love feeling pain…and of dying alone…
I am mostly not afraid.