I remember a conversation had with my children a number of times through the years. It would take place following a frightening experience in one of their little lives; nightmares, something in a movie or on television that frightened them, bumps in the night. Once hearts and minds were soothed the little question would come, “Mommy, what are you afraid of?”
Always my mind would race for a moment because I didn’t want anything I said next to bring up fear in them again. I also wanted to appear strong and brave and as if I could save them from anything in the world. So in order to soothe not only them but myself I would say, “I am afraid of anything happening to you, my babies.” Maybe soothing isn’t the right word there. When I look at it now, I can’t think of a more terrifying thing to say to a child. When I said it then, I felt strong and brave by simply daring to glance in the direction of my greatest fear and thinking that because I had, it could never possibly, actually, happen, this… “anything.” I also felt like I was explaining to them in some way why I would forever become a bit neurotic every time they left the house and until they were safe again at home.
What I didn’t realize, because I looked away so quickly, is that in that moment it started to size me up, take measurements. It started imagining the renovations and how its own stuff would look in the hollowed out spaces once it got rid of mine.
Now when I look in the mirror, it looks back at the awkward fit and I don’t recognize this odd outfit… it is stiflingly tight, it pokes me, it makes me squirm with discomfort and I can’t take it off. Each time I see it, it looks a little more like my own skin and I turn away in defeat. My waking moments and my dreams alike are spent face to face, eye to eye, and toe to toe with my greatest fear and I cannot ever again look away.
Once your greatest imaginable fear has been realized, what’s left to fear? Death? Certainly not! So, I look over my list of gnarly candidates for Grand Fear Poobah. Death, having been stricken from the running, leaves pain, people, failure, judgment, humiliation, and success… and there’s another one whose nametag I can’t quite read from where I’m sitting. I didn’t see that one come in. The quiet one.
Spending some time with these candidates, I got to know them each a little better. As we chatted over coffee, I realized all of them know each other. They’ve all slept with each other and each other’s significant others. They’ve all lied under oath, they’ve all embezzled millions from innocent people. They’ve even murdered, raped, pillaged, and been merciless dictatorial leaders. They’ve also been holy and righteous, they’ve all acted in the name of their individual Gods. They’ve all donned sheep’s clothing. They have even taken candy from babies. All of them except the quiet one at the end of the table.
I soon began to realize this group had a couple more things in common. They’ve all tried to convert me to their ways time and time again and they were all with me in the moment my previous Grand Poobah was dethroned. They all saw it all. Even the quiet one.
Suddenly, I realized I was actually chatting over coffee with only a single candidate. And, where did the quiet one go? Where did the others go? The name tag on the one I see now reads, “Hello, my name is… The Great Unknown.”
As I look around for the others, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the coffee pot and I look more closely. Despite the odd, tight outfit that’s becoming my skin, I see a glimmer of something there, in my eyes… the quiet one.
Turns out, it wasn’t a list of gnarly candidates or anything else… it’s just fear… all of it; in flashy wannabe Grand Poobah robes.
Poofbah! Stricken from the running.
Many times I’ve heard the words, “Fear Not… Fear Not… Fear Not…” and no matter where or when I’ve heard them they’ve always been followed by a message of Love.
The quiet one.
I took a break from blogging as many of you noticed. “Once your greatest imaginable fear has been realized, what’s left to fear?” I asked myself this question as I made the difficult decision to retire from a successful twelve-plus year career as a licensed massage therapist in order to regain my physical and emotional strength following my daughter’s death as well as to follow the direction in which I believe Love is calling me … overcoming fear.
I decided to conquer something many fear more than death; public speaking. My first attempt was rough and challenging. I’ve never done this before. But I did it. And I’ll do it again.