Yesterday, a man opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. I am not sure why. I believe it may be because he was afraid. Afraid of something he didn’t understand and couldn’t control. Fear is a powerful and destructive emotion.
As I dig more deeply into my own psyche, endeavoring to learn what makes me tick and what I might need to change moving forward, I am discovering that I am plagued by fear.
Fear of the produce department at HEB Market Street.
Fear of enormous roaches.
Fear of obesity.
Fear of crowds.
Fear of failure.
Fear of betrayal.
I used to be afraid of being alone at home. When we were younger, I remember sometimes crawling around the house checking windows and doors in the dark, thinking I had heard someone trying to break in. One time when we were first married I ran pellmell out the back door of our apartment, fleeing from what I was sure was an intruder coming in the front door. I drove to the restaurant where Trav worked and sat for hours, terrified to go home until he could come with me. I finally stopped circling the house in the dark about five years ago. I am not sure what changed, maybe I just decided I am too old to be of any allure to a rapist and I don’t have any possessions worth stealing.
I guess my fear is a natural result of living in a precarious house. Sexually abused by a neighbor and shunned by all the children and parents in my neighborhood at the age of six. A mom who hit my dad, burned his face with cigarettes, cut her own wrists, and had to be lifted back onto the couch, passed out cold from overdose by me, her twelve year old daughter. A father made powerless by the weight of his wife and family. Teased by classmates for being filthy and wearing the same clothes day after day as a child. Hidden from my violent mother by friends, employers, and police. Shamefully dirty bug-infested homes. When this is how your childhood is, it’s hard to grow up confident. It’s hard to be brave because there is really no safety net.
As an adult, I have worked to create that safety net for my husband and kids. My greatest dream was not fame nor wealth, it was a great do-over. I wanted to erase the painful memories of my own childhood and replace them with sunny memories of a husband who adored me and children who were joyously secure in the nurture of their family. Guess what? I think I did it. I have done about two hundred scrap book pages this summer, and I have dug through twenty five years of photos and mementos. The five of us: Travis, Kim, Hilary, Travis Austin, and Libby have had some super times! Baseball games, dance recitals, birthday parties, play time, trips, faire, church, shows, and so much more have woven a tapestry of indestructible love.
I didn’t do it alone, that is absolutely certain. There have been extended family members, beloved friends, coaches, directors, and teachers who have shared in creating this family, this refuge.
But, there is an unexpected wrinkle, one I could not possibly have foreseen: the kids are grown. That security blanket, the one that I wrapped myself in every time I cuddled with my babies at bedtime, is gone. They are, as they should be, becoming independent. And Trav cannot and should not be that security. It’s not fair to him. No, it’s time to face my fears.
What tools do I have?
1. God. Now, don’t start jumping up and down, Dorothy and Celeste. I am still not ready for church. Probably not even the Bible. But I think it’s time to start conversing with the Divine again.
2. Exercise. It’s the best stress relief I know, and it keeps me from becoming overweight. I remember the self hate my mom had when she was heavy. Not going there, no sir.
3. Yoga. I don’t count this one as exercise. When it comes to yoga, it’s all about the mental benefits for me. The physical are a sideline.
4. Games. I have to find the path back to joy in my career. Though it seems counterintuitive, I need to spend less time creating the competitive actors and techies and more time encouraging the creative spirits and friendships in my students.
5. Sleep. I know that I need to be rested to keep that demon of fear at bay. That means adequate exercise, medicine, and a glass of wine each evening. It may also mean meditation.
I can have an exterminator help keep the house bug free, and I avoid HEB at almost all costs (much to Travis’ chagrin). Trav has learned to let me hold his hand in a crowd, and when that’s not possible I have learned to use my yoga breathing.
I vow to face my fears. To learn that failure is part of the bargain of risk-taking, but that it is well worth it. That betrayal and disappointment are part of the bargain of loving, but that life without love is useless.
Blessings on those who lost loved ones yesterday in yet another horrific shooting.