Some jots and thoughts from my caravan…
A friend asked me the other day if I was fearful. I had to think for a few minutes. I can feel fear, sometimes wearing a scary face like the Joker, sometimes sort of see through like a ghost, sometimes like a kid throwing mud pies, dirty and messy.
So, I can feel fear and see it walking along side me and sense it hovering and yet, I am not fearful. I used to be. Now, after living for a long time (75 years) I have figured it out to a certain extent. I’m still respectful like I am respectful of the unpredictability of the ocean and a tornado and forest fires.
Now I have tools.
But listen, I think we have to talk about the different kinds of fear because I might have some fears and you might have others. In these times maybe there are lots of fears stacked on top of each other like those rocks in the Great Wall of China going on and on and on. A defense against certainty and freedom and peace of mind.
There are certainly financial fears. Big, scary and full of teeth. How will the mortgage or the rent get paid? How we will make the car payment? Fear is a phone call away or a knock on the door.
I fear for people I love and care about. Family and friends and coworkers and people I have never even met and people I see in the grocery store or standing at the intersection asking for money or work. Yep, that is a firestorm of hot fear for sure.
Some people fear for their health. It is a wracking, ongoing, energy depleting kind of fear that we hate, don’t want, wish it would get washed away with a sea of hope. Hate it for ourselves and hate it for those who have to care for us.
Fear for our mental state is another one of those monsters under the bed fears which can attack us at random if we aren’t standing guard. Sometimes we can hide from it with alcohol or drugs or over-eating. Doesn’t help in the long run. It knows where we live. It knows our name.
And there are fears like “what the hell am I doing with my life? What have I done to make it a better place for people I care about? Am I just supposed to get old and become invisible?” In the middle of the night fears when you wake up and can’t get back to sleep. Lonely fears.
A common one right now is fear of the future surrounded by a whole pack of anxiety. Now that’s a WTF in your face, holy crap kind of fear. This is a whole new ballgame folks.
I was taking with some friends who have relatives in their nineties who lived in Europe and remembered WWII and were asked if this felt something like that time. Uncertainty, anxiety, suspicion, rumors, distrust. Packing punches. In some ways yes, but in other important ways no.
Yes, it was a time of fear and uncertainty and loss, great loss. But they knew who the enemy was, and they knew there were people fighting for them. They knew when they were winning and losing, and they sometimes had an idea of why the fighting was going on and other times not so much. But they knew something. Some people could get away by train or boat or on foot.
The enemy today cannot be seen. It seems like your friend and hangs around for days just watching and waiting. And it is everywhere, not just on the battlefield or in this city or that country. It doesn’t follow the rules. It doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care if you have enough masks or beds or ventilators. It just wants more and more and more.
Listen good people, we are smart (well, not so sure about some people) and we have skills and we can start using them even if we are skeptical. Even if we would never tell people at work, even if we get laughed at.
Here are a few that work for me and millions of others too.
Turn off the bloody news. NOW. The news channels are in a feeding frenzy of fear. Fear sells. Scare the crap out of people is their motto. They are appealing to the reptilian part of our brain that still thinks the tigers are going to leap out of the bush and eat us. Nope, ain’t going to happen.
Breathe. Not the kind that your body does for you minute by minute but the kind where you actually show up and participate. Nice slow breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 4 and in for a count of five and out for a count of five. When you breath slow and easy for, say 10 times then the guard duty guy, in your head, who is trying to keep you safe from those tigers, says “Oh. They are calm, they are feeling okay, I can stop it with the cannon blasts of fear.” And believe it or not friends, you bloody well stop feeling so anxious and fearful. Hang in there. Breathe.
There is also meditation which I highly recommend. It doesn’t have to be the woo woo kind either. There are a ton of good, guided meditations online that last from 10-20 minutes and will also work on that breathing business. Go for it.
Gratitude is another great fear chaser. And along with fear the anxiety makes an exit too. Shrivels up. Start writing a list of things you are grateful for. Stop rolling your eyes. This has also been proven to work to calm the guard duty guy. He has really been out of control lately. Don’t make it a big deal. I am grateful that spring is here. I am grateful that I have wonderful friends, I am grateful that I love to read, I am grateful for that great dinner Karen cooked for me. See? Not so difficult. Write down 10 a day. Beat that fear and anxiety with a heavy gratitude stick.
And hey, where are you with self care. SELF, not shelf or health but SELF care. Done by you for you. Yes, you deserve it. Say that a few times a day. I deserve it. Plenty of sleep, shut off those electronics one hour before bed, sleep in a darkened room, cool, comfortable. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Yep, you will pee more. If it is yellow drink more water until it isn’t. Do nothing. Stare out the window. Pet your dog or cat. Eat good food. Food that isn’t full of stuff you can’t pronounce and that the second ingredient is sugar. Anxiety and fear love sugar. Do not feed it. Call a friend, check on a neighbor. You are wonderful.
See you on the other side of this nightmare.