Living in Fear

I have been living in fear. I am afraid of my public life. I am afraid of what it might mean to be known for what I do and recognized. I am afraid of what it might mean to not be known for what I do and not recognized. As I age, I am afraid of being called on to take care of my husband in ways I don’t know how, and I’m afraid he may be the one taking care of me, and that I don’t know how to surrender to that either.

Combine this with fantasies of simpler times, fantasies in which life is easy and manageable and I know what to do. Sometimes I pass a house and I think, would life in that house be easier? Maybe there would be a dishwasher, more counter space, a spice rack that makes sense. Maybe it would have a better place to write. Maybe I wouldn’t be afraid in that house, or that one, or that one.

And then the other morning, after praying over my constricting heart, while lying in bed in half sleep I suddenly felt myself to be a giant. It wasn’t unpleasant. The fact is it was kind of nice. I was the same as I am now, only very, very large. I felt the weight of my huge head on the pillow. I felt the curl of my body on the mattress, big and solid and strong.

I’m a giant, I thought. This is interesting. I like it. I like feeling this big and strong. I knew if I stood up I would tower. I knew I could not be knocked down. I knew I wasn’t just “okay” – that reassuring little back-pat of a word – “You’ll be ‘okay.'” Instead of okay, I was strong and solid and firm and without a doubt I was a giant. I would not wobble.

And then I started shrinking again. Not terribly. I never got smaller than I am now. But I was normal and I wanted to be a giant again. So the giant feeling came back, and then left again, and came back, and left, and by the time I got up I understood something I hadn’t understood before. I understood that I’d built a big life for myself – one that includes a lover, and a home, and soup, and writing books, and teaching, and friends, and being known and recognized sometimes, and unknown and unrecognized other times, and a church, and a river, and herons, and otters, and beavers, and energy work, and over one thousand Facebook friends, and that in many, many ways I’d built this big-ass life and yet I was shrinking from it. I was scared to occupy it.

And finally I understand how small-minded that is. And finally I understand what a ride life is. And finally I understand that I need to make my spirit bigger. My giant dream showed me that. I need to live in my big life. I need to fully occupy it. I felt solid and strong as a giant, but the pillow was just as soft, the bed just as comforting.

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6 Responses to Living in Fear

  1. Cat says:

    I do this. Growing large and then shrinking like Alice in Wonderland. I’ve worked hard all my life with goals in front of me and I am astounded as to where I am. And then, I’m out there. In public, albeit not in front as large an audience as you, but still visible. I vascillate between owning up to where/who I am then cower when someone trots out hate, negativity, fear. Then I lie there in bed or sit quietly in front of my computer and think–I need not be small or large. I just need to be as I am, solid, but still malleable to learning, new things, stepping up to my goals as ever. I find I waffle daily on this small act of courage and I’ve learned that’s okay, too.

    • Nancy says:

      Hi Cat – Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. I expand and shrink too, but am more conscious of it these days than I used to me. I used to just freak out and try and undo everything I’d built. Now I try to notice that feeling and remind myself this might be a time to bring on some “giant” energy. Wishing you the very best! Nancy

  2. Sheridan says:

    Wow. What a great comment on the double edged fear of being seen and not seen, and the desire for safety that so catalyzes this crazy making push to reveal ourselves and stay hidden. Thanks so much for your honest vulnerability. It is perfect timing since I have been asked to share my poetry once more for a group of women and am encountering once again the fear of being seen and heard. Yet it seems I have no choice as something deeper is propulsing me to throw my arms out and use my voice once more after a long respite. Ironically I just discovered the Alice in Wonderland book “Through the Looking Glass” which I don’t recall buying and don’t believe I have ever read, but intend to share with my seven year old granddaughter. After reading your piece I was captivated by a CD that began to play from my stereo. It was Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” given to me by a friend several years ago. The instrumental was staggeringly beautiful and I thought “What if this had not been created? And even worse, if it had been carried but never brought to the world? When I went to check the song title, it was “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” Thanks for shining so brightly.

    • Nancy says:

      Sheridan – Thank you so much. I’m going to listen to that song today. It’s wonderful when these strands of thought and communication come together. I believe it happens more often than we are aware of. Nancy

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