Sunday, March 30, 2014

FIghting Fear with Purpose


“Where fear is, happiness is not.”

Seneca

“He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

Dostoyevsky


I just finished a book called Keep Going – The Art of Perseverance.  Obviously I liked the title, since I use those words, Keep Going, in most of my blogs.  The author, Joseph M. Marshall III, wrote a lot about troubles and storms, about defeats and setbacks, and I felt like quitting at times.  I don’t like to think about problems. In one passage, the wisdom giver tells his adult grandson, “I would be lost without your grandmother.”  I fear the same.  I fear that I would be lost without my Muse.  That is my greatest fear.
Yet, what I fear more than that is that I would feel the fear and the sadness for the rest of my life.   Reality has shown me otherwise.  First, I’m not going to lose my Muse.  She will always be here for me as long as I am always here for her.  This is why I write so much – to keep my Muse close.  The other issue, that I will leave with fear and sadness for the rest of my life, is also not reality. 
Like everyone, I have faced loss, disappointment, failure and tragedy.  I live with these, but they are not part of my daily life.  I have either let them go or I have used them as lessons for others and for myself.  Yes, I have grieved, even bitterly, over losses and pain, but eventually, sometimes slowly but always eventually, I recover. 
I don’t like the idea that life is hard.  I would prefer to ignore that truth.  What I’ve told myself is that once certain things happen, whether personally, professionally, spiritually or financially, then all my troubles will end and that I’ll never have another problem.  In addition, I will never be sad or afraid again.  My life will be perfect. 
This misguided optimism is really another form of fear.  If I tell myself everything will be perfect one day, I’m not only hiding from the truth, but I’m hiding from inevitable difficulties.  People hide because they are afraid.  Hiding usually means that one can’t move forward in life.   Occasionally a news story tells of someone who had committed a crime decades previously and tried to then live a “normal” life.  When they were finally caught, they no longer were able to hide and were forced to move forward, many back to prison.  At least, however, they no longer had to hide.  They could now move forward.
Fear can keep us from moving forward, even if it’s fear about fear.  Sometimes we are paralyzed, like a rabbit seen by a snake.  Action and movement are needed to fight fear.  That’s not to say that the fear goes away immediately, but I’ve found that action does seem to take it away eventually.   Even if I’m still in a place of fear, I Keep Going.  I also do what I can to fight the fear.  More than anything I want the fear, the sadness, or the anger to go away.  I’ve mentioned the power of prayer before.  That has helped me through many troubling times.  So has wise counsel. 
As the song Happy by Pharrell Williams goes, “Happiness is the truth.”  So are love, joy, and peace.   These feelings tell us how life should be lived and how we should think and believe.  Fear is almost always a lie.  For example, ending a conversation with a friend is often the hardest part.  I become afraid that I won’t be able to talk to him or her again for a long time.  Then I am afraid that I will be miserable and lonely or miss my friend too much to want to do anything else.  The truth becomes something different.  I find something to do, some work or task or diversion, and I’m fine.  Fear was a lie.
Incidentally, I’m not talking about common sense or instinct.  Not putting my hand on a hot stove is not fear; it is common sense.  I don’t need to invite pain needlessly.   In addition, sometimes I have instincts about doing or not doing something.  This is also not fear, but a message meant to guide me on a correct course.  When I have trusted and obeyed these instincts I have not regretted it. When I haven’t, I have always regretted it.
So what does all this have to do with Purpose?  If fear takes over, it interferes with my Purpose.  It’s that simple.  So when I become afraid, I need to do whatever I can to get out of that fear.  Fear, like many emotions, is a choice, but in the midst of it, it seems like we have no choice at all.  It feels like an inescapable prison.  It isn’t.  We can be free.  We can get back into Purpose.  We just have to Get Started and Keep Going.