I’ve wanted to write about fear for a long time, but I haven’t felt clear-headed enough. I’m not sure that I’m all THAT clear now, but it’s Friday and a post is due.
Another blogger writes about all the excuses people make up to avoid taking giant risks, like quitting their jobs to travel, even when they say they want to. At the heart of the matter is fear, he says. That’s been my experience, too, except that people will often come right out and say, “Oh, I’d love to do that, but I’m too afraid.” And, I suspect, most people really don’t want to do this. It just sounds romantic at the moment. Honestly, I think there’s wisdom in recognizing your limits–and comfort zones can be kinda cozy.
The kind of fear that I think is more common, damaging, and a bigger handicap is the free-floating, unspecific fears of all the bad stuff “out there.” This is what causes people to sleep with guns and to triple-bolt their doors and to advise people like me not to leave home—because, you know, it’s dangerous “out there.”
For me—and I don’t think this applies to other travellers, who seem more intrepid than I—fear has been a familiar companion. It’s like a low-grade fever. A tightness in the pit of the stomach. Usually, I get anxious about things like driving in unfamiliar places. (A GPS eased that considerably.) I get anxious about running out of (choose one): money, gas, battery power, water. Thus, I check my gauges frequently, rarely let my gas tank get below the three-quarter mark; and I economize obsessively.
I’m not as afraid of harm from other people as I am about harm from accident or injury. Thus, I try to be prepared, to carry enough water, to watch where I put my clumsy feet, and to stay on the trail. My children can tell you that I drive like a grandma. (And so I am.) I would be an exemplary Boy Scout.
Some of this is simply prudence. I don’t like to be lost, stranded, hurt, or in trouble. I don’t want to mess up my vehicle or my equipment. But some of it is fear.
I know that I will inevitably find myself in uncomfortable circumstances. I already have, several times. Comes with the territory.
Fear, whether of what’s “out there” or of running out of money, is an encumbrance. It’s unnecessary. What’s more, it’s faithless, and I claim to be a person of faith. How can I believe in a God “who guides me in all my ways,” who is “my life’s refuge,” and then, when I set out to experience His creation, greet it with timidity and fear?
What I find most discouraging about fear is that it wrings the joy out of an experience. It constricts the ebulience,
the spontaneity, the childlike awe that is the only sane response to this creation. Fear expects that bad things will happen and so it secures the perimeters and triple-bolts the doors. Life ends up looking a lot like a prison, except that the lock is on the inside.
“Embrace everything” is the advice of this travel blogger, and it’s excellent advice. That’s the approach I want to adopt–to embrace everything I encounter, the awesome and magical and the uncomfortable and scary, with the same equanimity and fearlessness.
The world is not a scary place. I believe that with all my heart. This world is full of mystery and beauty and wonder and silly quirks. It’s a cornucopia of delight. Eden is still buried in there somewhere. My vision is flawed, that’s all, and I am determined to see more clearly.
Now, if only I could remember that.