During a lunch meeting with friends today someone spoke of past states of generalized anxiety which professionals often tried, unsuccessfully, to pin down – fear of flying, fear of social situations, “What are you afraid of?”
That didn’t work.
Then, my friend recounted, while sitting with people she didn’t know she blurted out her frustrations with a list of fears that she could not articulate to the satisfaction of people paid to understand these things.
“Oh,” said the stranger next to her, “that’s the fear” by which he meant, and she identified with, most everyone in the room had probably experienced – however long-term or short-term it was.
As I heard that today, speaking of fear – not as some sort of Jell-O-on-the-wall feeling but as a noun, a state of being – really resonated with me. Something like “I’ve caught the cold.”
The first psychiatrist I ever visited asked me one day to talk about my fear(s).
He might as well have been speaking in his native eastern European language.
“Oh,” I bull-shitted, “well I really don’t know that I have any fears, but,” I offered, “I have faith that just about everything that can go wrong in my life will go wrong!”
Hmm…I don’t think I could have been more honest. In fact, as I look back over my life it sometimes seems as though I did an end-run around the fear state (conscious or otherwise) by seeing any number of misfortunes as proof of the theory about my fears – how could I fear anything if I imagined, or even lived out, the worst case scenarios?
Like AIDS. It was going to kill me, just as surely as it had killed my friends – only I would die sooner. No fear, so I thought, so long as I was accepting of this.
I have been proven wrong, so far, about this which in addition to f#%king with my mind has graced me with a dose of humility as in, “I don’t know when, or how , even whether…so just keep moving!”
It was ‘the fear’, present with me for as long as I can remember, which hid behind my early masks of self-appointed family comedian – since my horrible feelings at school made “class clown” seem out of the question most of the time. I was quite the impressionist – Tarzan yells and Granny Clampett’s screams being my specialties.
‘The fear’ was so pervasive when I was with kids my own age (and the threats this represented), and yet I can remember trying to endear myself to a couple of Craig’s high school friends with those imitations. (I was successful with the girls, not so much with Craig at that moment.)
So, yes, I now can speak of ‘the fear’ – rather than the apparently more difficult “fear”.
"The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty." (Anne Lamott)