Fear in disguise…

I’m a big fan of breakdown, ugly crying. Big fan. If I don’t end up in a crumpled mess on the floor at least once a week, the level of my “ick” is happy to get “icky-er”. And then a pandemic hit and brought with it a tsunami of tears. My weekly ugly cry has become a daily practice.

I’ve planned to write about fear for a while. Last August, I wrote “Fear is a liar” and just let it sit in the idea column. I revisited it at the end of October; wasn’t ready yet. Mid-February of this year, I thought I was close to ready. Really close. Nope. Then bring on March – “It’s time!”

When COVID brought the world to a screeching halt, I didn’t find myself fearful for my health. Keeping my loved ones, in the “at risk” category, healthy and safe was certainly something I wanted to do, but I wasn’t worried about getting sick. I wasn’t fearful for our finances and hoped those who were would find their fear to be brief and help made available to them. I wasn’t fearful of running out of food or toilet paper. I wasn’t fearful of not having all the answers or which news outlets and leaders to believe because I know smart people who I can trust for answers when I have questions.

Fear of this disease is what we were being peddled so if I wasn’t afraid of it, where was the new level of emotional mess coming from? Why did every morning include staying in bed as long as I could, sob until my eyes were swollen and my nose raw, and only get up because a daily visit to My Fave’s mama required doing so. Most days I didn’t even bother taking a shower; brushing my teeth was a victory; washing my hair didn’t happen more than once a week. When My Fave would get home from work, I’d have to force myself to even want to be around him. With golf courses gratefully still open, so the boys were gone a good part of the day, too. I should have been thrilled to see other humans and I wasn’t. I craved friends reaching out and wanted to reach out to them but dreaded having to answer “How are you holding up?” What in the heck was wrong with me?

Here’s the thing about asking (or demanding) God to explain what you don’t understand and begging (or, again, demanding) He make it stop: He will give you some sense of understanding – the stopping of it all has more to do with you than Him.

April 2nd marked 15 years since the death of Pope John Paul II and, while not a practicing Catholic any longer, I remembered he was synonymous with courage. A quick Google search offered plenty of his thoughts on the subject. His thoughts on the “unknown” seemed appropriate.

“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.” Pope John Paul II

The next day was Good Friday. The Lenten season wasn’t the time of reflection it usually is for me, so I decided to ditch social media over the Easter weekend and limit checking the news to just once a day. In those quiet places for 3 days, the understanding I’d been demanding arrived. I was afraid, beyond afraid. My fear of the virus was what it exposed in me. I was afraid of myself.

When Stay at Home happened, there were pictures all over social media of game and movie nights, family meals, outings to parks or trails and families walking their dogs then gathering around their fire pit. There were lesson plans and “school” schedules everywhere. Parents asking about AP tests and ACT test retakes. Students engaging with each other and teachers online. Talk of spring cleaning and trying new recipes. People getting stuff done. Also, people enjoying downtime – reading book after book, sharing their Netflix binges and taking long walks alone. The news offered to feed fear of the virus or to give tips for surviving stay at home restrictions and mud slinging over who was to blame for all of it.

Shame. Embarrassment. Failure. Chronic pain. Kids who don’t seem to enjoy school; who aren’t going to be the “post a video” or “join a Google chat” kids. Being the Mama of kids who don’t love school and aren’t posting videos or doing work outs and aren’t showing up for optional Google chats or reaching out to teachers during office hours. Depression. Quiet. Isolation. Downtime. Stillness. Not being busy. Not being unbusy enough. Laziness.

Afraid. And tired. And angry. And lonely. And ashamed. And feeling inadequate. And disconnected. And jealous. Social media and the news are both more than happy to feed all of that and then some. I’ve found myself going down more rabbit holes than I care to admit on social media and at home. Being aware, having an understanding of where it comes from, is after all only half the battle. The “stopping it” part is definitely the more challenging half of the equation and I stink at math which should tell you how that’s working out for me.

Judah Smith from Churchome is one of my go to podcasts. With church services on hiatus, I’ve listened more often. (Side note: The Church isn’t a building; I might have gone down a couple of rabbit holes on that subject). Like many, he’s spending some time on the subject of fear. I’m not as good as I could be about taking notes during a sermon, usually because it’s sometimes just serving as background noise (see Quiet above). But I grabbed this gem one day: Fear dictates decisions – do not make decisions when filled with emotion. Total common sense and I’m certain we all have plenty of examples of epic failures that resulted from springing into action based on emotion. Despite its obviousness, it struck me.

My daily ugly cry is more of a purge now. It’s purpose is to expel fear and anger, shame, loneliness before they have an opportunity to own me, and my actions. I do hope I am making some progress toward not being sucked into rabbit holes or exacerbating a situation based on emotion. I’m sure some would say a daily, ugly cry is a sign of weakness. Cue the post Judah Smith podcast providing some noise in the background while I did some final edits to this post. This gem was just two words and the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

Guess I’m in good company.

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