There’s no denying that times are very strange at the moment, as we’re coming into the second week of lockdown here in the UK. Emotions are running high, we’ve had movements restricted for the greater good. It reminds me of stories my Nan would tell about the ‘war effort’, except this time we’re fighting a germ rather than each other.
I’ve seen people be angry, anxious and afraid for so many things, and I have to say have shared in this too. But I have also seen great compassion, understanding, generosity and humour.
This week I have been reflecting on how fear has taken seat differently in people. It seems to be one of those emotions that we have less control over, which got me thinking. I know I’m lucky in as much that I am not afraid of the virus per se, and I feel that my loved ones are in a position to be able to take the necessary steps to remain well. Some may call me naive and they may be right, but I am lucky in that I am not afraid.
I find myself feeling great empathy for those who are, and wanting to offer some words of comfort. It’s not that there’s nothing to be afraid of – so what can we do?
In searching for wiser words than mine, I have found these offerings from these souls who’s skill is to comfort people.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt, I believe, was the longest serving First Lady, not that I’m an expert in these things you understand. She served four terms in office from 1933 to 1945, during what was clearly a terrifying time for the world at large. This is her version of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, but what I like about it is that this brings knowledge that you are stronger to the forefront of your mind. I survived this, therefore I know I am going to be ok next time. It seems like a shield you can consiously take into the next battle, rather than passively finding out that things are bouncing off you.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”Nelson Mandela
I found that this doused my fears immediately when reading it. It’s like hope and fear are forwards and backwards, light and dark. Whilst both exist, one turns the other off. I have huge respect for Nelson Mandela and what he did with his life. He’s one of those people that always makes me stop and reflect, whether in the end you agree with a specific sentiment or not. And I feel that’s a good thing.
If the cause of the fear cannot be removed, be aware that fear arises from cravings about the past or the future. Try to be present in the moment and let go of those worries, just for a short time. This at least gives us respite.The Buddha
I’m paraphrasing here, but as I understand it, the Buddhist teachings on overcoming fear are many fold. This one suggests that, the most obvious thing to do is to remove the thing that is causing you fear. If that is not possible, trying to give yourself a break from worrying about it is the next best thing. I just love the banal logic there. The skill is in achieving that, which I believe will be different for each person. Meditation is a go to practice in not only the Buddhist world, but others too now. But you will know the things that distract or comfort you. A phone call to that friend, favourite book or TV show. Giving yourself respite is a valuable tool in self-care, let’s give it a try. What works for you?
“I tasted sunlight as my fear came clear to me,Joni Mitchell
I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones or sinking sand”
Lyrics from ‘I Think I Understand’, on the album ‘Clouds’.
She goes on to describe how a glass of wine with friends help sooth her anxiety, and she forgets her fears, but does not disregard them. Fear after all is a completely natural human emotion, and I’m sure necessary for the survival of the species. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for being afraid, but how can we use it to help us?
Joni has comforted the masses on subjects of loss and heartache. I found this point of view interesting that she feels relief when she understands her fears. I don’t know how many of you feel this too, but now that I think about it, sometimes I’m not exactly sure what I’m afraid of. Or I misunderstand my fears. By distilling that cloudy, dark emotion, we can at least begin to get clarity. I think she’s saying that allowing fear to occupy your mind for too long, is like standing on quick sand. It stops you moving forward. Understanding your fears can stop you sinking. That’s what it says to me anyway.
“Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay.”Maya Angelou
And again the wise words of Maya Angelou, American poet and playwright. An idea followed by a choice. I’m going to invite hope to stay.
I hope that this message finds you well, and that you find some comfort in these words.
Lots of love, stay safe, have a great week.