The Power of Fear

My hubby was raised in a home where everything was perfect, to the outside world. What happened behind closed doors well, that was another thing altogether. I knew a bit of the true underbelly as his sister Suzie and I were friends from a young age. However, what she lived and what he lived are two different stories from two different era’s. After dating my husband for awhile I became increasingly uncomfortable with his family and the general air whenever we would visit. Which was quite often. It was after marriage that I had greater insight into his childhood and what he had endured. It took years for him to open up about things although there were signs along the way. I was determined that these childrearing techniques would not be allowed into my life or those of my children. But the damage done to my husband lasted a lifetime. During one of our last walks he summed it up quite well for me. He spent his life walking on eggshells. Always looking over his shoulder. Ready to flee at a moments notice. Always afraid of what was to come. The fear used to control a small child had overtaken a mans life.

Fear can destroy people. That’s why it is used so often in the media. By politicians. Advertisers. Everyone. When you use a person’s fear against them you can control them. Keep them in line. That is why people use the term sheeple. Which by the way, isn’t cute. It’s mean and also used to control people. Sheep are kept in line by the collie nipping at their heels. The term is used by both sides of any argument to insult the other side. But the word play makes sense. Fear of what might happen if you don’t follow the rules and stay in line. The problem is, who makes the rules? Well, we give that power to people and trust that the rules they create will be the best for us. Rules change. Always have and always will. Because the world keeps changing. As time passes though it seems that the rules are more and more encompassing because there are more and more people whose egocentric arrogance believe we should all do as they do. Or live. Hmmm. Can you end a sentence with an auxiliary verb? Whatever. So then, what do we do? Follow them or fight back. Fighting back seems like a lot of work. Putting your neck on the line for a belief. What will people think? Will they judge me? How much do I care about this particular thing that has me up in arms? Maybe we should just go whine to our friends on Facebook. Send some Memes that show our displeasure. But maybe we need to first find out what our friends think. You know that saying? Know your audience. What if people don’t agree with me at all. Will they respond in a mean way or discuss it in a mature manner? Looks like people can just police themselves. Because they are so afraid of what people might think? The sad part of this entire situation is that no one is thinking about you. No one. We are all wrapped up in our own little worlds. Any time we really think about others it is in a more abstract way. We lump those against us all together. And remember if you aren’t with me, you are against me. It is almost like having one of those electric dog barriers around us. If we step out of line we get a zap. So we stay in line. Sadly the barrier isn’t real. It is a place in our minds that we use to control ourselves based on fear. Fear! It is so insidious.

I was born in 1961. The Cuban missile crisis occurred when I was about a year and a half old. Obviously I grew up hearing about it but I never really knew what happened. Didn’t care. Flash forward to 1984. I am reading while my husband watches TV. There is a clip about it on the news and I casually mention that I don’t know anything about those two months in 1962. So, my Political Science Degree husband proceeds to school me! From that moment on I was deathly afraid of nuclear war. He scared the hell out of me. In time it passed and I had other things to worry about. Now almost fourty years down the road I am doing okay. No bombs dropped on my head. I came to the conclusion early on that there are people highly trained and paid to keep me safe. I decided to trust them. On August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait which led to the now famous Desert storm. It coincided with my Fathers birthday which lands close to the August long weekend. For years my entire family, or those living close by would go on a camping weekend together. There we were, blissfully unaware of the world events as we ate, swam and played for three days. My news junkie husband was shaking from withdrawal by the time we headed for home. We heard the news on the car radio and it was then and there I decided that from that moment on, I hoped to hear of the end of the world three days after it happened. Because we had no access to news reports we had not spent the weekend discussing Kuwait. Nothing we could do. We escaped fear of the unknown. It was quite a learning thing. One election that had me gripped with fear was when Ronald Regan was elected. I had recently attained the age to vote and I was suddenly interested in politics. The news had portrayed old Ronnie as a scary war monger and I was afraid. Looking back the main thing I remember about his time in office is Nancy’s famous line “Just say no.” I use that a lot. Not about drugs but in every situation where I need to convince others I don’t want to do something. I just quote Nancy!

I had very little fear as a small child. One of the things that scared me the most was losing my Mom. Usually life was full and I had little time for fear but at night under the covers in the dark, I would sometimes think about death. Mainly my Mom. So I would pad off to her room where she would lift back the covers to let me into her bed. She would hold me as she reassured me she wouldn’t die for a long, long time. Safe and snug in my Mom’s arms I would drift of to sleep and in the morning the bad thoughts were gone. I was 54 years old when she died. I got a lot of years with her and I feel blessed. When my husband was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer of the pancreas, I was shocked but it passed as the day to day took over. I didn’t believe the Doctors I guess and I never really gave up hope. As a result, I wasn’t prepared when it happened. It was 18 hours before he died that I realized what was happening. My daughter had read so much about what would transpire as time went on. Thank God for that as she was a comfort. All the literature the Cancer Clinic sent home stayed safely tucked away. I didn’t fill out any forms. I didn’t read anything. I just spent time with him and tried to make him comfortable. I didn’t feel the fear really because in my blissful denial I thought he would beat all odds and live. Afterwards, shock and confusion took over so fear never came into it. In time, I went through the stages. I am still nowhere near “okay”, but better. And yet, no fear. I think once the worst that can happen, happens… there is nothing to be afraid of. The joy component has diminished somewhat but it is coming back. Hopefully the fear factor doesn’t. There is such a freedom knowing life happens whether you worry or not. No idea what life holds for me now but I am certainly not afraid and more to the point, my attitude is returning but in a different way. When Rene’ was sick I had a conversation with my oldest daughter. I was weary from the overwhelming demands of the world around me. When someone is terminal, everyone comes out of the woodwork to visit. Plus the appointments and tests and Doctor visits are exhausting. As an introvert my space was being overtaken. My energy wasn’t being restored. I smudged so often. Meditation wasn’t helping and the lack of sleep and exercise was making me feel ill. There was no time to rejuvenate. After sharing my feelings, Britt asked me “What happened to your Fuck You attitude Mom?” To which I responded “But you hate that!” Her reply… “Well maybe its time to get it back.” Well just between you and me, it is back. Full force. The difference now is I don’t feel the need to show it with words. Now I just walk away. Looks like I may be growing up.

Evolution shows that the fight or flight response was necessary for survival. Today our survival isn’t really based on the same dangers as we faced eons ago. Not much chance a wild animal is going to eat me unless I place myself in that habitat. There is still danger from the two legged animals but we are smarter now. Don’t wander down dark alleys in the middle of the night. Lock your doors. Laws, traffic rules. You name it. All designed to make us safe. Or at least safer. Today we actually are stressed by the same historical things. Sudden noises. People coming up behind us. In fact we create movies which cause fear. Our brains don’t know the movie isn’t real so our sympathetic nervous system still causes us to jump when startled in a movie theatre. Our hearts race, blood pumps, breathing increases. All signs our body is getting ready for danger. However the after affects can actually be damaging to our bodies. I used to ride my bike to work and there was a pathway along the river that took me straight downtown. It is paved and has the solid line down the middle to keep us safe. There are bridges that cross the river over to the island which houses the Zoo. It is at these points that the pathway dips and turns and quite often you can’t see what is ahead. One morning I was coming downhill towards one of these turns when I saw two cyclists coming towards me. One was slower but the other was passing him at great speed. In my lane. My body reacted. I got an adrenaline rush. There is little room for three bicycles abreast but at high speed it is even more treacherous. I immediately moved farther right to avoid collision but there is limited space due to a chain link fence keeping us out of that part of the zoo. Unfortunately I got a little close and the right handle bar clipped the fence. The bike stopped immediately. I did not. As the other bikers disappeared down the path, I got up and dusted myself off. Grabbing my bike I saw the handle bar was a little turned and the wheel was bent a bit. As I stood up it hit me. The adrenaline come down. I was dizzy. Lightheaded. My heart was racing and I felt like I was going to faint. I pulled the bike off the path and sat down. After a few minutes I threw up. I was sweating and scared. As I closed my eyes I tried to focus on my breathing. It took about ten minutes for the adrenaline to start to wear off and when I trusted my feet I walked to the rivers edge and splashed some water in my face. It took me quite some time to get going and I had to push my bike the rest of the way. It was good though as the walk helped me to calm down. I was however, an hour and a half late for work.

So this is what fear is for. Danger. Staying alive kind of stuff. How did we get to this crazy time where we are afraid of something so ridiculous as what people think of us? Fear causes stress. Excess stress causes disease. And then we die. Years ago, my husbands sister in law told me she was afraid to wear red because she was afraid someone would judge her. She changed from the young gal I first met years ago. There isn’t a carefree bone in her body. Everything she wears is conservative or some shade of beige, black or white. Her home doesn’t look lived in. Everything is perfect. Everything! Except her life. On a whim one day I bought her a beautiful hand carved wood bracelet which was mainly beige but had some subtle red circles in the design. I just thought it was pretty. Years later we were out somewhere and she showed me she was wearing the bracelet. She was proud that she had found the nerve to wear red. She hugged me and thanked me. She looked so happy. I felt so sad. Her fear of rejection was so strong that she lived life for the eyes of others. Fear can completely consume us and it can kill us. To be honest with you I would rather have the rush of fear when I realize the parachute isn’t going to open. Its fast and over fairly quickly.

I believe the anxiety that followed my husband contributed to his death. Fear of failure was drummed into him at a young age. Showing a perfect life to the outside world was more important than being happy and content. Being married to me was stressful at times. Our home was less than perfect. In fact it was always a mess. We were late for everything. There was no consistency. No routines. No supper on the table at five. He kept his own life orderly and on time. Kids chose their own clothes so… interesting looks. But behind closed doors, our doors, was peace. A place where we learned in time to care what we thought of each other No one else. We compromised. We argued. Sometimes we fought like mad. In the end I was the person he could share his deep dark secrets with. The things that to him showed weakness. Or weirdness. Because I could accept almost anything. Except when he did something because he was afraid of family judgement. I had a lot of trouble with that. Our early years had him on a tightrope between his old life and our life. A foot in each world. It was such a balancing act which made him even more stressed. In time we developed our own ways. The outside influence diminished from the in-laws and he became more and more content. In fact he often was my source of sanity as he would talk me down from sadness or anger. He learned a great lesson while his body gave out. Nothing really matters. Does it?

We have a Persian wool rug which was an over the moon indulgence which my hubby never understood. I love it. However, if you spend lots of money on something it is the thing that gets wrecked. I can’t tell you how many grandchildren have run naked in my home and then peed on my rug. All while their parents stand by and chuckle. Wine is spilled. Chocolate dropped and then smeared in by little fingers. My kids always glance quickly at my husband when an incidence occurs. It was hard for him to see but he eventually learned to just look away. The meds and THC my husband took while ill helped with pain but also caused us some really funny times. We were having tea in the living room one day and his hands were shaking a bit. A bit of tea sloshed out of the cup and dropped to the rug in front of him. As I got up to go get a cloth, he said to me “You know, it doesn’t really matter does it?” As I waited for the wise words I thought were coming next, he unexpectedly tipped the cup and poured the rest of his tea on to the carpet. Gosh he laughed. I rolled my eyes and grabbed a towel. As I knelt before him blotting the tea, I mentioned that even though it didn’t mater, I was the one who had to clean up the tea. He laughed some more and I couldn’t help but join in.

After he passed away, I ended up buying yet another beautiful rug for the dining room. From the same store and the same man. Also wool. Also too much money. But this one is a mishmash of colour and design. Last weekend four grandkids had a sleep over and a good time was had by all. A few days later I was getting something out of the buffet and felt something crunchy under my bare feet. On the new rug. As I bent down I saw there were tons of tomatoe seeds. Everywhere. And bits of dried tomatoe pulp. I had bowls of tomatoes sitting on the buffet that I harvested from the garden before the last frost. The two year old twins had handed me many of these while they were here. I didn’t think anything of it. Apparently lots were dropped on the floor as well. As I settled in to flick the dried seeds off of my rug I found the big spot where a cherry tomatoe had been squished in nice and deep. It was dry. And crunchy. I laughed and I laughed as I sat there on the floor. Baptism by tomatoe. As I vaccummed up the bits I decided to leave the dried stain alone. You couldn’t see it. You could only feel it if you walked on it. And besides, somebody taught me once a most valuable lesson. It doesn’t really matter! Does it.

Over thinking, overanalyzing, worrying about what might happen. Fear of exposure, repercussions, backlash. These are the wild animals out to get us in this day and age. When the real dangers to our safety aren’t there we seem to fill the void with imaginary dangers. Stress and anxiety are silent killers. They make us sick. They ruin our lives in so many ways. The hamster wheel of getting and consuming and being better than others moves faster and faster. We sometimes place more importance on our things than we do our children. The most precious part of our lives. Children become charms we wear on our bracelets for others to admire. Their accomplishments. Their designer clothes. We dress them up like dolls to put on display so people will praise us. Be jealous of us. Jealous of our lives. Or at least the one they see. But it’s the one they don’t see that is destructive. Sometimes when my husband would make a mistake he would berate himself. Call himself stupid. Come completely unglued. But I didn’t see that. I saw a little boy who was so afraid of making a mistake that he punished self even when there was no one there to see it. Some say we need to look to God for strength. Others feel we need to find contentment within ourselves. I am not sure about the answer but I do know until you stop worrying about what people think, you will live a life of fear. I don’t know about you but I don’t think its worth it. Because I know the truth. I have always told this to my kids. And I will share it with you now. No one is thinking about you! They are wrapped up in themselves. I guess I really didn’t need to ramble on like this as I did mention this quite a few paragraphs ago. But it simply is so true. And even if they judge you now and again who cares? They don’t usually tell you. Besides those people probably are jealous. But if you create a life to make others envious, that is messed up. Go ahead. Do well. Strive to succeed. In whatever way you feel you need. Surround yourself with nice things. Enjoy beauty. Always do your best. But do it for you… no one else. And if you have to start small, start small. Like wearing a red bracelet. You’ll be amazed how good self love and no fear can make you feel. And you just might live a longer and healthier life!

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