When we’re young, there are so many things we fear. A noise in the night, a raised voice, the deep end. As we get older, we learn to conquer our fears by tapping into the more easily accessible emotions, like indignation, irritation, and the lowest hanging fruit on the emotional tree—anger.
Fear leaves us feeling weak.
Anger makes us strong.
Fear makes us feel vulnerable.
Anger empowers us.
Fear is confusing.
Anger is decisive.
Weak. Vulnerable. Confused.
Strong. Empowered. Decisive.
It’s no wonder we are drawn to express anger over feeling fear.
Fear keeps us quiet when we need to listen. It gives us strength when we need to fight. And, it can cripple us both physically and emotionally when we don’t acknowledge its existence.
Fear will not be ignored. It squats in our bodies long after we exhaust ourselves with work, exercise, and over-consumption. Like a toddler who won’t rest until they get your undivided attention, fear will not be assuaged by distraction.
Fear wants us to accept it for what it is, instead of making it into something else. Fear wants us to say its name, look it in the eyes and not be afraid. Fear wants us to embrace it and let it go.
Fear my blood tests would send me home. Fear I would be kept waiting hours for my chemo to start. Fear the nurse wouldn’t find a vein. Fear I wouldn’t get well.
At first, I’d be angry at the admitting nurse when I was told it would be two hours. I’d be angry at the young nurse who was clearly incompetent at finding veins. And I’d be angry at all those other sick people in the room with me.
And then a funny thing happened.
I started helping the tea trolley ladies in the waiting room. I suggested to the young nurse that my veins were tough bastards that needed an experienced hand to make them cooperate. And I smiled and nodded at the very young woman across from me who was getting chemo for lung cancer and wouldn’t stop talking.
I said hello to my fear and while we never became friends per se, we learned to accept and respect one another, shaking metaphorical hands until we met again.
Fear gave me the strength to face the unknown, and now, every time I get that prickly feeling across my shoulders and up my neck, I say, “Hello there, it’s been a while.”
For Sherrie, who is facing the unknown with dignity and grace.