This post will take a bit to read. Plan accordingly.
Earlier this week a friend sent me an excerpt from a book. She wrote, “Hey M: God asked me to send the excerpt below to you!” and later, after I had thanked her, “This article popped up and I immediately got the strong feeling that I must send it to you!”
The kicker, though, is the one line that leapt out at me, where it was discussing how to “dismantle a thought system based on fear and replace it with a thought system based on love.” With all the political conversation swirling around and all of the sales marketing that precedes the whirlwind of HalloweenThanksgivingChristmasNewYears, I’ve become fed up with fear.
As a child I read a book called Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard: the main character was Much Afraid (okay, disclaimer, the book was an allegory stylistically similar to Pilgrim’s Progress.) Much Afraid’s family in the valley, the Fearings, has decided that she will marry her cousin, Craven Fear, and an encounter with him finally motivates her to action. While I loved the book, I never quite saw how it strongly paralleled my life.
It permeated my high school years: in JROTC, the motivator for memorization was fear of embarrassment, fear of disappointing Sgt. Miles; in Wind Ensemble, I practiced because I loved music, but really, it was for those same 2 reasons with Mr. Griffin, a retired Marine Corps Band trumpeter. I cut articles from Self and Women’s Health and any magazine with exercises in them: the articles were pasted into a “journal” and I’d create routines from them, exercising for hours into the night—my room was in the basement, and so my family didn’t know. I was afraid. Afraid of what would happen if I stopped, if I just was, if I let go of control for even a moment. I took 8 classes each year, with no break for lunch, and I filled my hours after school with church activities, jobs, and homework.
My college years, in many ways, perpetuated fear as a motivator. Who triple majors and takes 21 credits per semester simultaneous with holding jobs, working on a newspaper and a literary magazine, assisting a professor with a research project, and participating in numerous other activities? Someone who’s afraid to breathe. Someone who’s afraid that there won’t be enough time to squeeze it all in or that she, on her own, without all the activity, won’t be deserving or worthy of attention.
Now let me be clear: I was unaware of how strongly fear lived in my being. I did not see how fear colored my perspective and shut me off from accepting compliments. I could not step outside the hustle and bustle, the constant stimulation. Even retreats and quiet space were approached with a plan of attack.
See, the thing about fear though, is that it eventually freezes you, from the inside out. It stops your heartbeat and holds you captive. My dance with fear spiraled from 2007-2009. Three deaths of family in the span of 4 weeks accelerated the dance. 2008-2009 held the sickness of my grandfather, the toxicity of a work environment that killed, my only failure ever at an academic project (and subsequent non-graduation), my grandfather’s death, my quitting of said job, two apartment moves, and a cobbling together of new jobs. I was so frozen and so familiar with fear that I didn’t see when I killed off the communities that I had built. I was blind to the withdrawal. All that mattered was that I was safe.
And in my safety I was alone.
2011 brought new sparklings into my life: children who love unconditionally and provide immediate feedback coupled with brutal vulnerability; time to just be with my youngest brother, Jonathan, with no expectations or demands placed on me; growing relationships and love. And it all crashed hard, 9 months into the year. In the span of 3 weeks, I crashed two cars, stopped feeling anything, and truly withdrew. For 4 months, I hibernated: September 2011-January 2012: safe cocooning together with incredible acupuncture, my amazing brother, and some steady friends, helped crystallize a shift, and slowly, my lifetime of freezing began to thaw.
Come back tomorrow to hear more about love—it merits its own attention.