I am afraid of lots of little things. Old, creaky houses. Bugs that fly. Birds (terror, really). Getting my period wearing white pants. Failing the people closest to me. Bad hair in pictures. It could go on and on, really.
But those are just minor things. Embarrassing moments. Blips on the radar of life.
Real fear? Big, true fear?
First, to borrow a quote from my favorite book of all time, Tuesdays with Morrie. If you haven't read it, click right out of this post right now and buy it. It's a spectacular read.
For those of you who haven't read it - the book is about a man in his 30s who go back to visit with his college professor, who is slowly dying of ALS. In his weekly "lessons" with Morrie, he learns some of the greatest lessons on how to live and love.
Easier said than done, right?
"Fear. There were horrifying times, and his first emotions were horror, fear, and anxiety. But once he recognized the feel of those emotions, he was able to say, “Okay. This is fear. Step away from it. Step away." I thought about how often this was needed in everyday life. How we feel lonely, sometimes to the point of tears, but we don’t let those tears come because we are not supposed to cry. Or how we feel a surge of love for a partner but we don’t say anything because we’re frozen with the fear of what those words might do to the relationship. Morrie’s approach was exactly the opposite. Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with the emotion. It won’t hurt you. It will only help. If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself – All right, it’s just fear. I don’t have to let it control me."
My fear is easy. I don't have to think about it, or wonder if I'm really more afraid of birds than of tornadoes flattening my home.
My fear is of losing someone I love. Or maybe even just a friend or acquaintance. Sometimes, the death of a near-stranger hurts almost more than someone you've grown to love - because the possibility is gone. You'll never know how she laughed when her guard was down or if she liked her ice cream straight from the carton. You'll just never know.
And although some ways I feel like I've lived it a thousand times, luckily it's only been once for me.
But when you lose someone, you start to count the negatives. The what-never-happened. Wedding dress shopping, meeting my future-husband, watching me become a mom, meeting her grandkids, being proud of me as an adult, becoming more of a friend than a parent, telling me about when she found out she was pregnant with me, little details of family history, gone forever. I could go on for pages.
For me, the important thing about fear is not that it's there - because in my life, it's ever-present.
The important part about fear is what it does to you. Does it make you live life differently?
For me, it means taking one more photo, even when I'm grumpy and tired and my makeup wore off hours ago. Always saying yes to ice cream - or margaritas, pizza, booze - whatever it is that calls your people together. That time together is worth it's weight in gold, not calories.
It's hard to understand someone else's, and impossible to separate from your own.