After Thanksgiving, it seems like the year wraps up pretty quickly. A few weeks ago I posted about our Thanksgiving here in Franconia. The event in itself was something I am thankful for but really the year has been full of blessings, large and small. My fellow blogger and new friend Adriana wrote a post, with beautiful photos I might add, about our Thanksgiving celebration. You can read it here.
The end of the year brings contemplation, especially I think, as we get older. It’s difficult not to think about what we learned or what we are going to do better. We talk about the best times, what we are thankful for, the status of our families, our countries and our world.
This year I learned tons of things. Here are a few silly ones:
1: Aioli is really just a fancy term for garlicky mayonaise
2: There are numerous words in German that sound alike. Mixing them up can get you into trouble. When you read the following words, remember that V and F sound the same in German…
(Voegel-birds, voegeln-fuck, folgen-follow)
Think about what happens when you tell someone you’d like to Follow them except you don’t pronounce it right…oh lord!
On a more serious note, one thing has become abundantly clear this year– Fear is a strong and mostly negative force in our world. There are of course instances of good fear–times in life when you felt afraid so you decided not to do something risky and you ended up saving your skin. But I’d call that less fear and more gut instinct.
For the most part, I have found fear to be a driver that doesn’t take us anywhere good. Fear is a roadblock and almost always a thief. I wrote about terrorists a few weeks ago as thieves, stealing our joy, but Fear and the spreading of fear is really what terror is all about.
As a young dancer I was told by a potential teacher that I did not have what it took to continue in ballet. In a few words, she pretty much dashed my dreams and left me with no alternatives.
A decade or so later, I was preparing to take a ballet class at a new studio, only to find out at the last minute that this same woman would be the teacher. My brain went on full alert, “Run!” I thought.
But seconds before the class started, another thought entered my head. “No Fear.” If I left the class, I let fear decide for me. And I knew that whether she was teaching or not, I should never miss an opportunity because of fear.
That was my first encounter with fear trying to steal experience from me.
In the past few years I’ve started to notice fear in smaller places–hiding out in the crevices of our lives, destroying us from the inside or at least ruining our day.
For example, think back over an argument you’ve had. Any kind–professional, personal, whatever. Think about how you felt. Think about what was at stake. It could be any variety of things– but when you peer into the heart of the argument, when you look deep into yourself, I bet you’ll see that you were afraid of something. Most often it’s the threat of losing something. Or maybe you were afraid that the other person was right. Whatever it is, when I stop and look, I can find fear at the heart of every argument I’ve had. So, first fear tried to steal an experience from me. In the case of an argument, fear is trying to steal your peace of mind and ruin your relationships.
Now I’m a mom. And my little one is just a pip-squeak, not even a toddler yet. Sometimes she cries and doesn’t want to go to sleep. Sometimes she whines. I have to admit, that as beautiful her voice is, sometimes…she’s kind of annoying. Sometimes I get very frustrated and think, “oh come on! Just go to sleep!” And then I look closely at myself and I realize that mostly my frustration is based on a bunch of tiny fears. Fear that she is actually hungry and that she can’t sleep. Fear that something unimaginable is wrong with her. Fear that I’ve spoiled her. Fear that the whole day will be ruined. Or my favorite, fear that this is a new phase and the future will be terrible. All of these examples are a little dramatic and a perfect example of how irrational fear is.
The frustration is usually fleeting and mostly because on that day things are not going how I thought that they would go. Here is fear trying to steal my ability to be in the moment and let things happen the way they will.
This issue with fear is bigger than our every day activities. It’s bigger than us as individuals. A lot of tiny fears can add up to big ones if we don’t stay rational and keep them in check. And if we listen to fear, if we listen to the people who are preaching fear, then fear has stolen our ability to make a rational decision for ourselves.
If we let fear live in us, we can end up practicing daily thinking that is dictated by fear. Keeping fear in check is paramount to living fruitful lives, to being our best selves, to having the best society.
And there are a lot of people on this earth. When a lot of people with a lot of tiny fears get together it can add up to a powerful group. Fear is like a snow ball rolling down hill. It has no planned direction, it takes our imaginations with it. It’s only growing in force and size and it can be wildly destructive. It’s exciteable but not rational. Actions and words that are charged with fear are not the same as actions and words that are charged with love or wisdom.
The next time you get angry or frustrated. Check your fear. See what you are afraid of and maybe you can save the energy you would’ve used in a fight.
The next time you make a blanket statement about a group of people, check your fear, check your sources, check your feelings and what the fear is motivating you to do. Take a step back and ask yourself if that is the kind of person you want to be.
We are the world, we are the people. The way we live our lives, the way we deal with people is the way we create the world we live in. It is up to us.