Being Afraid

Dear Albert,

I hope your latest employment venture is going well and you are finding joy and purpose in your work. Employment is a double-edged sword. The money we earn allows us to dream about all the fabulous things we can do with it, the job often wittingly interrupts those dreams.

I am feeling terribly guilty that I haven’t written in a while, I was ready to excuse my derelict ways with a cheeky message about my husband hijacking the computer to finish this year’s taxes, but that would have been a lie. Deep down I think I was waiting for that instagramable event to write about, or that morsel of profound wisdom I could share. Alas, my life these past few weeks has been very vanilla.

So where to get the inspiration to blog amidst a hum drum life? I suspect that the key to finding the jewels among the everyday trash heap is to be observant. I have recently been making a concerted effort to be more present and aware of my surroundings. This is a challenge for me. It’s a lot easier to succumb to my tendencies to skim over conversations or tasks that I find tedious or uncomfortable. By paying closer attention I might be forced to grapple with underlying themes and feelings that are sometimes frightening. This inattentiveness is a filter. For example, if I really paid attention to tv commercials and took the advertiser’s message at face value I would live in a constant state of fear or at the very least severe anxiety. I am already nervous enough as it is just from watching the news. Granted, commercials seem like a pretty trite thing to ponder since most insult even my dog Lola’s intelligence, however, the same message repeated over and over eventually sinks in to our national and cultural psyche. The pharma commercials alone are doing a good job making one contemplate; do I have thinning eyelashes? If it’s good enough for Brooke Shields then its good enough for me. But then what if I get permanent dark patches on my iris from the medicine? Whether it’s certain disease, the plaintiff lawyers protecting you from imminent danger or the horror of living with large pores, our minds are permeated by fear and fear is a powerful manipulator.

My mother is an excellent example how fear can cause unnecessary stress and limit one’s actions and conceptions. She’s a naturally nervous person. If you call past 8:00 at night she answers with “What happened? What’s wrong?” Geez, I was just calling to see about buying some Tide pods for me at Costco tomorrow. Last week she called worried that I had not fixed the lock on my daughter’s car door. I needed to do so urgently because the number of rapes on campus had skyrocketed. First, rape is a serious concern and warnings regarding safety should never be disregarded, however, as with all information, it’s important to keep some perspective. There were 3 rapes on campus in the last two years. In the scheme of things this is not something I worry about too much and thankfully this news doesn’t automatically bring to mind how my procrastination is putting my daughter in danger. At least on this matter.

Having lived through her share of emotional crisis and physical trauma my mother has been consumed with intangible fears and expectations of the worst possible outcomes since I can remember. Memories of her ominous predictions that I would choke on my lollypop if I ran with it or face some kind of peril if I stayed out because “nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” ring loudly in my head. It has had such a significant impact on me that I routinely find myself making a conscious choice to shut off her voice in my mind. I fight back the urge to imagine the terrible scenario I am already racing to conjure up.

I don’t think I would resent these tendencies as much if I really had conquered my fears. I have known since I was 18 that I have MS. For years, I barely acknowledged to myself that fact that I had MS and did everything I could to suppress my fears related to this disease. I suppose I felt that if I wasn’t scared of it, somehow, I could overcome it. It worked for a while. I was able to ignore it for many years, but like everything else that you ignore, it eventually catches up to you. In the back of my mind I have always been terrified that one day I would be in a wheelchair. Now that today is that day, I am more annoyed than scared. I am certain that my fear did not either delay or precipitate my dependence on the chair or the progression of my disease. What I do think, is that time being afraid, is time wasted. Bad shit will happen, to me and to those I love. I know that. Being afraid or worrying about it won’t stop it from happening. Fear is the background noise that stops me from dealing with the present-day problems. Fear is my excuse to be weak. Fear is my self-doubt. Fear is also a reality that will always lurk, hopefully in the background, creating uncertainty and anxiety.

I mentioned the importance of perspective in maintaining focus. These conversations have provided me with a prism for introspection. I am looking closer at my reflection in the mirror. The person looking back at me is not scared!

Warmest regards,

Sophia

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