What are you afraid of, anyway? And why? Should you trust your fear to keep you safe, or break it as shackles that are holding you back? When does your fear teach you not to throw your life away, and when does it prevent you from living? How can you tell?

You fear losing yourself, your identity, your independence. Committing to this degree of integration, of interdependence, of connectedness, is frightening because it presents real dangers. Dangers taught to you by your experience. No one has loved you, for you, like this, maybe ever. You may have loved someone like that, but then they left. Or were taken. How could you not be afraid that this, now, is nothing other than the empty promise those words have always been before? How can you believe in something that’s never been real, even though it seemed so at the time?

You fear the unknown; of flying without a net. You have no life experience to guide you how to do this, because your experience only tells you to not do this, because it isn’t real. It can’t be real, because it never has been. What has been has, often, frankly, sucked. That’s real, but is it all that is? Can things be real, even though we’ve never seen or experienced them before? Can this time really be different?

I fear being alone, certainly, but even more I think I fear being with someone while not really being with them. Someone who’s not all the way “in.” The arms-length, “I have to be fine without you because I can’t count on you.” I fear waking up one morning to be told, the positives no longer outweigh the negatives. You did your best, but it wasn’t good enough. The work is no longer worth the benefit. Experience taught me that people leave, for reasons that seem to come out of nowhere, or for no reason. That what was enough can become not enough without warning. They can be fine one day, and dead or gone the next. They can love you yesterday, but not today. You can do everything in your power to hold on to someone, and they can still leave. Or be taken.

But that’s the thing. They can end up going, either way. Whether they are “all in” or “hold back.” Whether they say they’ll love you forever or not. They can still end up gone. There are no guarantees. Maybe I fear being alone more than I fear being left. But, “I have no control here, either way.”

People flying in machines was never real, until it was. A single man leading his people with nonviolence to overthrow an empire was never real, until it was. And once it had been real, it could be done again, and again and again. A Catholic or an African-American President, or a female Prime Minister, was never thought possible. Until it was reality. These kind of limits aren’t laws of physics (and even some of those turned out to have loopholes). These are limits proscribed by fear.

You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been.
A place that has to be believed to be seen.

Still, this is what fools do. Romantics. Dreamers. Believe in the unseen, the unexperienced. And we know that

All romantics meet the same fate someday,
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café

Trust your gut, and it might tell you to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” But more likely your gut says, step back from the edge; don’t risk everything for something that probably doesn’t exist anyway. That’s your gut’s job—to keep you alive, in that fight or flight, prehistoric sense.

But what keeps us alive in the cave or on the battlefield won’t show us how we could live. It won’t show us what’s possible. Fight or flight was not what kept Gandhi’s followers still and nonviolent, as the canes struck them over and over.

Police Roughing-up the Satyagrahis

We can never have what we don’t believe we can have. We can never be something we don’t think we can be.

You can help me reach past what I fear; dream beyond what I can imagine, and by dreaming it, make it possible. I will do the same for you, if you let me. But when the time comes, we each have to decide when to listen to our fear and when to push it aside. Neither of us can choose for the other. We can’t make each other leap over the side. We can only each decide, alone, to do it, together. We have to trust that the hand we hold as we leap will still be holding on when we land, even though it might not. We have to love today, without the assurance we will be loved today, tomorrow or ever. We have to choose to be present in each moment, knowing either of us could be absent the next.

(Until just now, I’d never watched the official video for this song, so I didn’t know the video shows a widower. Thanks, Coldplay.)

2 Responses to “Learning from Fear”

  1. Charlena says:

    Love this…
    ‘People flying in machines was never real, until it was. A single man leading his people with nonviolence to overthrow an empire was never real, until it was…

    You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been. A place that has to be believed to be seen.’

    It reminds me why the path can seem solitary, why faith can seem like a fool’s game, but onward I go. Thank you.

    • Jay says:

      Thank you Charlena. Our paths may be solitary, but you are one of the best guides around.

      Onward we go, indeed.

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