Here are a few things I’ve learned about fear.*
- In a two year period: I sat with my father while he prepared to die and at the very moment that he did; I slipped over the brink of menopause; I lost my job and got no calls; I fell off my colt and broke my arm; and I tore myself from my beloved home. From this recipe, or one like it, in mysterious proportion, fear may be conceived.
- Fear sneaks in and sets up in your spare room. You can hint that it’s not welcome, you can put away the breakfast things just as it appears of a morning, you can yell and threaten and throw its things outside, but it doesn’t care.
- It smells like metal.
- It makes you clumsy, it saps your competence. With fear there, you are forgetful, stupid.
- Fear whispers incessantly about the past and the future, especially the future.
- It weighs you down and also prevents your feet from planting on the earth.
- It ruins everything.
- Fear comes close to winning by sheer, tedious ubiquity.
- But if you try very hard, and you put on clean clothes, and you keep going outside, and you are civil to fear, and you don’t listen to it much, one day it forgets to wake up before you. You find you are outside and getting on your horse before fear gets out of bed. You think first of what might be done instead of what could happen. You start to remember about joy, you are interested. Fear looks shrunken, a little grey. You tell it to go to its room and it does. This is very good.
*I have no right to say any of this. I live in a first world setting, lounging in the top 10% of income earners, in robust good health. I don’t know what it means to live in threat. Maybe I need a new word here, for the existential, self-regarding kind of overwhelming timidity I’ve been host to. I don’t know what that word would be, my creativity fails me. Please imagine I came up with a word other than fear and used it here, so that those who truly know fear can keep that word and be the ones who know what it is, while I admit that I don’t.