As always, something in life propels an idea to the forefront of my mind . . . then I ruminate over it for days. I’ve always been interested in the idea of fear and anxiety, partially because I’ve suffered from anxiety, at least in the past, and I’ve worked with many patients with anxiety disorders.
The first thing that brought this to my mind this week was a pro-Trump friend describing their despair over the election. They listed what was going to happen under a Biden administration, including the following; 1) America becoming communist, 2) the economy going down the drain, 3) disbanding all police departments and anarchy running wild, 4) the government coming for their guns, and the list goes on. To be fair, I heard similar things from some anti-Trump friends over the past four years, about the destruction of America and western civilization under Trump’s reign. The problem with both of these . . . is that they are simply not based in reality. It is not real.
Real fear is a gift. It keeps us safe and alive. I was watching a rabbit in Rosario Beach area yesterday. They are so high strung with eyes switching to the right and left and sudden, jerky moves. Chipmunks are the same or more. Just watch how a squirrel or rabbit crosses a busy road. Their “nervousness” is their defense mechanism. To escape possible harm . . . or death.
But unreal fear, does us more harm than good. It is, however, difficult at times to tell the difference. Unreal fear is usually based in physical harm, or the fear of being unliked (socially).
I will give a personal case in point. When I started to become ill, now almost two years ago, my symptoms were subtle at first. A twitch here, a twitch there. Was it nerves? I thought . . . more like hoped so. I reduced my caffeine. My mother had just passed away and my siblings had her funeral before I could get there. Incredibly painful. That was stressful on two fronts. My first twitches started when I went home to Tennessee to say goodbye to my mom at her gravesite. Denise and Amy were with me. So, it was reasonable to me that the twitches were not real but a function the fear during that painful period.
But then the twitches got worse. By Thanksgiving (2018) I knew something was wrong with me. Twitches throughout my body. It is hard to explain but I hesitated going to see doctor because, 1) I was afraid that he would think it was just mental and 2) the only disease that I could imagine I had was ALS . . . a certain death sentence. Till this day, none of my doctors have ever seen the fasciculation syndrome that I suffer, we presume, as a result of living in renal failure for months with no other symptoms. I decided to make the holidays as good for my family as I could by not seeing a physician until Christmas was over. I didn’t want my diagnosis of ALS to ruin their Christmas.
By the time I saw my physician, the first thing he said, “The twitch is just stress.” So my fears of his judgement were realized. But I knew he was wrong.
But back to the big concept. I’ve witnessed the ruin of many lives, due to the fear of the unreal. With my previous tendency toward fear, I know that many unreal but fearful things have ruined my moments of joy. Having faced death, my anxiety is much less than it was before. It is hard to explain, but it is like my worst fear, getting incurable cancer, has been realized, so what could be worse? Nothing.
While I do not fear death, I don’t welcome a premature death. But I do fear suffering, having tasted it brutally in 2019. As I said before, I never knew how isolating suffering can make you. It is a dark place, much worse that I had imagined. But if I were to die in my sleep, helping me to avoid months of such suffering, I would count that as a blessing . . . but just not yet. I still have too many things to do on this earth.
The difference between Fear (without merit) and Real (things that should scare us into acting) is sometimes hard. It is a little like the Serenity Prayer. Discernment. For the Fears, we need to set it to prayer or some would chose mindfulness, living in the moment and not what might be.
Side Bar, On Writing: In a shallow segue, I will say that I have no fears about my writing because I know the reality of it. With that said, I completed my first writer’s workshop yesterday. While I’ve taken many writing courses, this was the first workshop with successful fiction writers. While each of the session leaders had written many novels, and some have won prestigious awards, none of them are financially successful from their books. That’s one of the reasons they teach, both at universities and colleges, and such workshops. But I felt I held my own with the group. I had a fear that I would come into the roomful of professionals like a literary kluts.
When I look back on each completed book, I always have some regret. But that’s a good thing. I think if I were to start Ristretto Rain today, I could write it much better. That is because I’m constantly learning and growing as a writer. My Retribution is nearing the “beta reading” by two very kind friends. I just can’t wait to make the next draft, much, much better.