The Space Between

Facing fear

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.

Fifteen years ago, every time I walked into the cancer ward I was filled with fear.

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.

In October 2012, I drove 6,800 kms with my artist husband, Ric Kokotovich (www.rickokotovich.com), and my dog Iggy, to spend 6 months in our adopted city of Merida. Leaving the fast paced world of Calgary behind, I packed my books, art and entrepreneurial spirit, and set off to explore what lay beyond the borders that had become my life. In October 2013 we hit the road south again, hoping to find out what ‘living the dream’ really means. This is my adventure.

12 comments on “Facing fear

  1. Cherie Pittillo

    Beautifully written after being fearful and now using that wisdom to help others.

  2. Sue Hutch

    Thanks Alison. Fear is something we all know yet rarely admit and discuss. And of course the dedication to Sherrie is beautiful. Good work. Keep on,

  3. Robertjwillson

    I feel fear first in my heart.sudden It sits there. Heavy. then it races through my veins up and down my arms. It tightens my chest. it’s hard to breathe. My face hurts as my muscles tighten. Frowning. I have a fear of how that feels

  4. lino catalano

    wonderfully written Alison. facing our fears takes courage, you’re a strong woman
    🙂

  5. rick Merrell

    That’s so real Alison I could feel most of them and envision the rest. I went through the cancer as an observer, and the fear left me speechless too often. Fight or flight or freeze. Stay safe, hug when possible.
    Rick Merrell

    • So nice to hear from you Rick. I think being a compassionate observer to a loved one with cancer is almost more difficult at times. Stay well my primo, and best in 2021 🌈💕

  6. Angelique de Pennart

    Thank you Alison for this beautiful riding. All the best for you and Rick. Love XO Angelique

  7. Manju Hertzig

    Beautifully expressed. Accepting fear helped you overcome it.

  8. Wonderfully written Alison. I admire your choice to be positive in the face of the negative C. This shows your true character – loving, kind, insightful and real. Thanks for sharing friend.

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