Breaking the Bonds of Fear

Crowds danced in the streets Sunday night. 

While I didn’t feel like dancing, I understand the sentiment.

In the light of the next day I heard more measured observations.  Gratitude for those who serve.  Compassion for those who have suffered.  Thoughtful assessment of the road ahead.

Here’s what I think about that explosion of celebration.  The cheering & singing we saw Sunday was a national, collective sigh of relief.  It reminded me of the Munchkins’ song when Dorothy’s house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East.

We are a nation that’s been held captive by fear.  Some of it is real – we’ve experienced the loss of loved ones, jobs, homes and dreams.  Some of it is manufactured.  When the real losses are compounded by worst-case imaginings, fear can be crippling.  Left unattended, it multiplies.

I’m reminded this week that we can’t live fully when we’re haunted by fear.  Given practical limitations, I can’t speed my neighbor’s return from Iraq or hasten the economic recovery, I’m noticing what I can do to minimize the collective fear by dealing with my own.  This is what’s working for me today.

  • First, I have to realize it’s there.  When the fear is indistinct and non-immediate, the self-protective instinct is to distract ourselves.  The down side is that the distraction can cause harm.  That leftover Easter candy isn’t going to make me safer; neither is arguing with my husband or gossiping about a colleague.  Today, I renew my commitment to face whatever discomfort I’m feeling instead of running from it.
  • Next, a reality check is critical.  Am I certain the fear I’m feeling is coming from something that poses danger or real harm?  Initially, my mind screams, “Yes!”  But often, the fear is about something that might, but in fact hasn’t happened.  When I can see the projected fears, I can make a choice about whether to give them energy or not.
  • I do my best to keep my mind where my feet are.  This moment is the only place I have any real influence.  It’s the only place I can feel joy, the only place I can solve problems, the only place I can truly live.  It’s also a lot less scary than worrying about the future or the past.
  • Finally, I can choose to take action where it’s appropriate.  Sometimes that means I treat myself and the people around me to an extra dose of kindness.  Compassion is a balm that never fails me.  Sometimes it means I volunteer for the local food bank or cancer center.  Sometimes it’s letting those with absent loved ones know they’re not alone.  And when I don’t get it right, I try to cut myself some slack.

This is my activist call.  Let’s toss the fear that’s not based in reality and find compassion for each other as we deal with the rest.

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