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Rejecting Fear

Posted in: Blog by admin on July 29, 2011

Many of us sail through the days busily, hurriedly and unaware.  We are unaware of the devastation that occurs in our world; we are unaware of the fragility of life; we are unaware of the pain that our neighbors are experiencing. And, thankfully, we are unaware, for could you imagine living life full of dread and fear?  The truth is, we go about our business maybe happily or even numbly until something happens that opens our eyes to our vulnerability — something that smacks us in the face and leaves us with no other choice but to feel temporarily consumed with heartache and angst.

Last week, a boy drowned at a nearby overnight camp.  It was a horrible accident, a devastating tragedy.  And, it happened to occur at the camp where my daughter is currently a camper, and it is the camp that is run by a very close friend of mine.  The whole Northshore has been weeping for the family; they have been wondering how this could happen; they have been worrying about their own campers who are currently at various camps across the country.  But, the reality is, terrible accidents happen all of the time.  Yes, they may leave your world forever altered.  Or, in the case of this boy’s family, they may splash the canvas of your life with a bucket of black paint.  It is devastating.  It is terrifying.  It is beyond upsetting.  Yet the fact is:  We are all susceptible to life’s unforeseen (and often unfair) twists and turns.

Many people have needed to talk about this tragedy.  They’ve needed to cry.  They’ve needed to express their fears.  And, they’ve needed to be angry.  The anger initially surprised me.  Some wanted to immediately blame.  They wanted to presume (before knowing any details) that someone made a bad decision or that, somehow, this was preventable.  The hard-to-swallow truth:  This could have happened to our son.  This could have happened to our granddaughter.  This could have happened at one in the afternoon.  This could have happened at eight at night.  This could have happened at our beach house in Lake Geneva.  This could have happened at the pool in our own backyard.

And, that, I believe, is why the anger seeps in and overtakes some of us.  Anger is easier to manage then fear.  Anger is a proactive kind of feeling while fear is a reactive one.  I realized, even though I was frustrated by some parents’ expressed anger, that it is their way of dealing; it is their way of responding to the news; it is their way to maybe even sleep more easily at night.  Being angry and assigning blame alleviates us of the one feeling we all go to great lengths to avoid: vulnerability.

This human response, which we see so frequently, is really just a self-protective measure — it’s a response that enables us to go through our days unburdened by the certainty that life is scarily fragile.  It reminds me of the reactions of people when they hear someone is getting divorced.  “Did someone have an affair?” “Did he hit her?”  These answers could quell the fear within many.  If something tangible occurred, then we can feel less exposed.  It’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that a marriage may simply not work or that a feeling between two people can dissipate.  It’s, again, much easier to assign blame to a partner as that helps to relieve us of our own inherent risks in our own marriages.  I witness people’s similar attempt at absolving themselves of their own fears when they hear that my dad died at 52 of a heart attack.  Some will ask if he ate poorly or was heavy.  People don’t ask if he got dealt an unfair hand or if his genetic make-up was such that this was his fate.  That is something that is out of our control.  That is something unavoidable.  That is something that keeps our minds racing and crashing into walls.  Fear.  Vulnerability.  Anxiety.  We tell ourselves stories to avoid these emotions at all costs.

But, what if we just accepted the facts that we know to be true?  What if we believed that my dad dropped dead because life can simply be unfair?  What if we believed that marriages sometimes ended because feelings changed?  What if we believed that this tragic accident occurred at the overnight camp because, as my friend who is a family doctor pointed out, accidents are the number one leading cause of death amongst children?  What if we embraced all of these truths?  Sure, it would cause us a lot of angst as it is further proof that we can’t control the world.  However, we could use that reality to remind ourselves that we must embrace today.  We must embrace our children.  We must embrace each other.  We must embrace the moments.

That is all we have; that is what is right in front of us.  We have our moments of beauty.  Our moments of joy.  Our moments of truth.  Instead of feeling vulnerable, afraid, weak and angry, let’s take advantage of today.  Let’s love a bit bigger and hug a bit tighter and laugh a bit harder.  This is what we have.  We have our moments.  Run with them with full abandon.



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5 Responses to “Rejecting Fear”

  1. rabbi Steve says:

    thanks

  2. Sue love says:

    Once again a very inspirational and moving blog by you my friend!!

    Xo

  3. Judy Kaplan says:

    Thanks for a great WAKE UP and THINK ABOUT IT kind of moment! How true!

  4. melissa fleisher says:

    You are a wonderful and thought provoking writer. I enjoy reading your blogs. Please add me to your email list.
    Thanks,
    Melissa

  5. Stacy Litow says:

    Amy,
    Once again, thank you for your sharing your thoughts. Beautifully written and full of insight.
    You are wise and thoughtful and I’ll read anything you write!

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