Fear and Loathing
Actually, not so much the loathing, but definitely, the fear…
Today I went to my spine doctor, to get the results of the latest MRI and try to figure out what is going on with this leg weakness and pain, and whether or not I need another spinal surgery. And as usual, I left his office, got in my car, and started crying.
I wish I had a dash-cam on me, as I was choking out the words “Its… gonna… be okay… Everything’s… gonna… be okay,” over and over, in between sobs. I am pretty sure that footage would have had comedic value someday.
And as I’m sitting there in the parking lot, trying to regain composure, so that my red eyes will return to white, so I can go in to work, I cannot pinpoint why I am crying. I didn’t receive the worst news, nothing happened or is in the works that I have not been preparing for and expecting. So why can’t I stop crying?
Fear. All I can come up with is, fear.
Fear of what?
I do not think it is fear so much of the actual surgery, or fear of being in pain, or fear of this leg weakness being permanent. It’s more fear of the larger, broader impacts. It’s a fear of not being able to work in the only type of job my degree qualifies me for, a degree I have had for just under 2 years, a degree for which I am over 50K in debt. It’s a fear of being trapped in my current job, which I can no longer do effectively, and can only handle working reduced load and hours, because I can’t get another job due to lifting restrictions. It’s a fear of falling between the cracks, in not quite qualifying for disability, but not being able to pay my bills with either my current job part-time or a less skilled, less demanding job. It’s a fear of not being able to keep my boat, keep my beloved life living aboard a boat. Not that my boat payment and slip rental is any more than a typical apartment (and probably less), but between it and the student loans, it might end up losing out.
And perhaps if I am honest, more than anything, it’s a fear that I won’t be able to keep up with him. That man I love. That he’ll leave, as planned, sailing away, and I won’t be able to follow. I won’t be able to financially make my boat seaworthy enough to follow him south, or I won’t be able to physically handle the demands of sailing it. Or I won’t be able to afford, in either time or money, to even go visit him on his boat, wherever he should be, if he should ever invite me. And he will just drift away, as will any future we may have had or hoped for.
It is a fear of not knowing what, at all, my future, immediate or otherwise, holds.
It is a fear of the unknown.
Fear is a funny thing. How much of our minute behaviors, daily routines, and even global events does it control? How much of it resides, how much of its influence exists, beyond the sphere of our awareness?
Afraid of being late, we push the speedometer a little higher. Afraid of someone thinking we’re ugly or incompetent, we put on makeup and scrutinize an outfit. Afraid of getting fat, we count calories. Afraid of what the neighbors think, we clean the house and prune the bushes. Afraid of dying from cancer, we eat broccoli. Or acai berries. Or whatever the latest superfood is. Afraid of getting old and forgetful, we cut the crossword puzzle out of the newspaper each week. Afraid of losing someone we love, we don’t show our true selves. We don’t forget to shave our legs. Afraid of making the wrong decision, we fret, we freeze. Afraid of life not turning out the way we want it to or think it should, we turn into monsters. We turn inside out. Or we turn away and stop trying altogether.
But underneath this, I believe, is the fear of the unknown; it is the common thread. Are we afraid of losing what we hold dear? Or just afraid of not knowing what our lives will be like without that home, without that person? Afraid of not knowing whether we will achieve that same level of happiness, contentment, and love, in another situation? Are we afraid of losing our job? Or just afraid of losing a comfortable, predictable routine? Or having to dig to unknown depths to find out what else we are capable of? Afraid of not knowing whether this change, this next alteration of course, this next path, will lead to bad or good? Will fail or succeed? Or what about the ultimate unknown…. What happens after we die?
All of these things are reflected in society at large. Fear of change, fear of loss, fear of missing out on the promise of a “heaven.” Fear of the unknown. This fear drives our wars. This fear drives our politics. This fear drives our economy. This fear influences development of products and technology, and controls, even inhibits, progress. Will changing our healthcare system be bad or good? Will changing our reliance on fossil fuels to renewable sources be something to regret? If the government doesn’t regulate this or that, will all hell break loose? Fear of losing it all in this economy, fear of the “perfect storm” brewing in it, yet still we resist change. Because the known is less frightening than the unknown. We feel more comfortable and confident when we can use our knowledge of the known to predict things. We feel inept and scared when we cannot. And so we resist, and so we keep our broken systems. And cry over our broken backs.
So what do we do? How do we overcome this? Is it possible to live without fear? Or is it, being genetically wired for self-preservation, something we must learn to live with? How then, do we not let it color every decision, every behavior?