My thoughts on fear are varied and unscientific. I have written short stories about people facing their fears, seemingly defeating them, only to have that same fear resurface in a different event later in the story. Fear is a bully. Fear can be used as a tool by anyone in our life that feels the need or desire to control us. Fear is a formidable foe if we allow it to incapacitate us. I say “allow it to incapacitate us” because fear cannot control you if you incapacitate it first.
I grew up with fear in my home. The most laughable fear (now I can laugh) that controlled me as a child started when my sister forced me to stay up with her and watch a horror movie. I had never seen anything like that before. It was a graphically pitiful movie about a “crawling hand” that murdered people. But I was just a 6 or 7 year-old kid curled up on a cold, vinyl couch with a blanket over my head, covering my eyes. My sister was a teenager at that time, so how in the world was an incapacitated 6-year-old supposed to help her teenage sister during a horror movie? What was she thinking? Ha! Fear had her too. I was psychologically scarred from that movie and became the slave of fear for many years. I had nightmares (when I could sleep) about that murderous hand.
Here is the catch: when I was sent to live with the abusive relative in another state, I believed that I would be safe from the hand finding me for about the first year that I was staying there. In my mind, that hand started looking around for me after I watched its movie. When I moved to another state, I could sleep for a while at night because the hand had to turn around and creep along the side of a road or through ditches to find me — and that would take some time (Oh, how the brain seeks out ways to grapple with fear. In my situation, elaborate, mental tunnels for escape were built to keep from facing and eradicating fear). Sometime into the second year of my hellish existence, living in a new place with an abusive alcoholic, I believed the hand was probably close to finding me, and I became a walking zombie due to an inability to sleep at night. The fear robbed me of rest, which in turn caused my grades in school to plummet. It became a rough patch coupled with the abuse that was now perpetrated upon me.
It took me several years to shake the fearful idea that a crawling hand was stalking me. This is when I came to realize that fear is a bully. It mentally beats you into submission which can beat you up physically. It is a terrible cycle, but it can be broken. I slowly came to recognize that I had authority over my thoughts, including fear-based thoughts. I control what I believe. I may not be able to control a situation, but the beauty is that I can remain peaceful and fearless regardless of what I am facing. It has taken me a few decades (sadly, too long) to realize the power that I have over ridiculous thoughts and feelings, but freedom is a refreshing path, and it opens new adventures that begin with fearless thoughts.
I was astonished at how little it took for me to become irritated and exhausted while walking through a loud, populated city. The noise was beyond what I was used to and I had to wear ear buds just to keep my focus away from all the clamor. I hoped to find a quiet atmosphere in the park, in the middle of the city, but it was almost as loud with all the music and videos streaming on people’s devices. It struck me that people might be afraid to walk around without noise emanating from them and surrounding them. The movie, A Quiet Place directed by John Krasinski, had not been released yet. The noise was a huge distraction.
Early on in the trip, my energy was wasted on trying to find calming atmospheres instead of refreshing myself creatively. I eventually ended up spending most of my time in the museums which was a happy bonus in so many ways.
In the article, “Four Secrets to Creativity” in Psychology Today, Mary Diduch writes, “A bit of background noise can enhance creativity, reports a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research. But don’t blast the television just yet: Too much noise impairs our ability to process information. To promote abstract thinking, we need just the right amount of distraction—about the volume level you would find in a café.”
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
Take a breath! Walk slowly through a park with fragrant, spring flowers. Go to a library or bookstore and pick a random book to flip through. Stare at the sky and admire the shapes of clouds. Drive past houses and pick out features that you like. Purposefully slow yourself down and allow yourself to breathe. Life is alive with color, personality, tenacity, flavor, and hope. Moments of hope keep the heart beating. Everything is not terrible. Everything is not frantic. Everything is not falling apart. Today is the first day of the rest of your amazing life.