Over the course of my life (especially in the past few years) I have learned that fear is a very powerful, raw, and overwhelming feeling. Fear makes you do things you wouldn't normally do; it makes you say things you wouldn't normally say; it makes you lash out at the ones you love; it makes you feel incredibly lonely; it is absolutely paralyzing.
When Z was in Iraq for a year I experienced true fear for the very first time. There was not a day that went by during the entire year of 2004 that I wasn't fearful. I had fear every day that this was the day uniformed officers would knock on my door to give me the bad news. I had fear every time I talked to Z online that this was going to be the last time we would be able to say "I love you". I had fear that something would happen to Z. That he would be killed, that he would be injured and become disabled. I had fear that he would come back to me a changed man. I had fear that after spending a year apart that we would have grown apart from each other and wouldn't feel the same love we felt for each other before he left. I was fearful of leaving town for the weekend (what if I miss a phonecall or an email from him?); I was fearful of having fun (why should I have fun when the person I love most in this world is in a war zone?). In short - during that year, I was fearful of EVERYTHING. The fear was so intense, so paralyzing. I was even afraid of my fear.
I am ashamed to say that during that year, I let my fear totally overtake my life. I made decisions (or didn't make decisions) based on my fear. I put my life on hold during this time - hoping that if I did that, then I wouldn't be different when Z got back. But, of course, the fear changed me instead. Because of this intense fear, I now look at the world differently than I did before. I view God and my spirituality differently than I did before. I view our political leaders differently than I did before.
I now know that fear CANNOT rule my life. It cannot be a determining factor in how I make decisions. I now know what I am passionate about and am not afraid to express it. I know what issues (and what people) are important to me. And I am no longer afraid to "go against the grain" a little bit.
Fear can be an incredible motivator at times. It is all about how we choose to express our fears and whether or not we choose to admit our fears. I learned that I wasn't really afraid of specific things - if I knew what was going to happen I could deal with it. I was afraid of the UNKNOWN. How do you prepare for something if you don't know what you're up against?
So, the best way to fight fear is with education. I learned I had to admit my fears; spell them out. What EXACTLY am I afraid of? When I know what those fears are - then I can deal with them. If I know exactly what I'm afraid of, I can do research; look it up, educate myself, and find other people who have had to deal with those same things. I learned that I could no longer live in fear, or in blissful ignorance.
I challenge anyone else who is fearful of anything to vocalize your fears - spell them out. Know exactly what it is that you're afraid of. Then - educate yourself about your fears. Maybe you'll find out there is nothing to be fearful of afterall...