Saturday, March 19, 2011

(No) Fear Factor

In the wake of the devastation in Japan, I read in the newspaper the real risk to these broken people is worse than radiation. It’s the fear and anxiety associated with radiation.

I’m staying in prayer this week for the people of Japan and their neighbors, and I’m contemplating fear.  What do you fear the most?

Me, I’m a recovering scare-dy cat. For as long as I can remember, my personal fear factor jumped off the charts. Everything from closet-dwelling monsters to geometry to the crippling dread that my children might be snatched right under my nose …you name it; I feared it.

Most of my fears never materialized. I’ll give you just one example. Before the babies came along, an employer required passing a killer test I just knew I was destined to fail. Who did I think I was to take on this kind of job? I was terrified. I studied like a madwoman on double shot espresso and was certain, certain I'd to fail. Leave in tears with my scare-dy cat tail tucked.

Not only did I pass the test; I earned the highest score in the class.

I can’t say I learned from that experience right away. I could tell you so many stories like it.  I tip toed through my life, certain the sky was falling.  I didn't take risks for fear of failure; but I didn't learn much either.  Until I was forced into it.

Then, a few years ago, the bottom dropped, for real.  Don't want to go into detail here … but what I can tell you is this. I endured stomach wrenching, immobilizing, searing fear. It brought me to my knees, and made everything else I feared seem innocuous by comparison.  It knocked me down hard… for a season.

Funny thing about meeting up face to face with fear. You emerge... so. much. stronger. Once you stare fear straight in the eye, walk over its coals, heal and recover; well, you can allow the callouses that form to represent strength and mercy.  I'm not the anxiety - ridden person I once was.  But I'm stronger, and softer, at once.

Fear is empowering.  Facing it is a necessary component to growth, to success.  A wise woman once told me to do that which you fear most.  It works.

Now, I'm free from the constant need to protect myself against the shoe dropping.  Because it will.  But I don’t have to ruin today until that happens.

I still experience fear, but now I spank it, tell it to go to its room and think for awhile.  I can’t dwell in the house of fear anymore; I’ve got a life to live.

I don’t know how I would respond to sudden, seismic, cataclysmic fear, such as surviving the crushing events endured by the people of Japan. (Or losing a child, or facing my own mortality.) My prayer is they emerge with a renewed strength and vigor. And, that we each help in some small way. (Text Japan to 80888 and donate $10 to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts.) But I can draw inspiration from survivors. We are far more resilient than we realize.

The biggest fear I’ve got going? Traveling for a solid week in a tricked out, gas guzzling R.V. (did you see that movie?) with three lively, squabbling kids. We’re going to DISNEY! I can’t wait to get to the happiest place on earth. I'll let you know if I face my fear of driving that big rig.

Quote: A woman is like a teabag; you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water. -Eleanor Roosevelt

Dear Lord, You are my fortress and my shield. Dwell within me; help me to walk with confidence, compassion, kindness and strength.  Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This one is for me! :) As I am sure every woman in here is thinking. I grew up with small challenges; a broken family...whose isn't? Moving and changing schools quite often. Many close friends passing away when I was only a teen. But somehow I always had this thought in mind and I remember telling it to my mom when I was 17...Love life for the challenges it brings us. I realize now that there was not a challenge in the world that would prepare me for the fear I face today.

    I am definitely on a roller coaster, struggling with MS. There are good times when I am ticking up the hill with the anticipation of fear. There are times I want to scream, I can only scream, like swooshing down the hill. But there are still the fun, laughing corners to turn where I am not even thinking about the monstrous hill ahead.

    If I had not gone through what I have been through, I don't think that I would realize just how strong a woman is. It almost seems surreal to think back to my most trying times, losing my sight or losing mobility on the right side of my body. I still even shudder at the thought and think, "Wow! I made it through that?"

    If you are not failing, then you are not trying. This is what I tell my kids. Don't be afraid to fail, it will make you afraid to try and if you never try, then you will never know!

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan!

    And Diane, I want to thank you for this topic as I recently am struggling with yet another episode of MS and find myself in that fear of the unknown. Remembering what I have made it through and realizing what others will make it through has been a very encouraging thought tonight.