I am a great believer in nature, instinct, and the world around me. While I have faith in some higher being, mostly I believe that he is a benevolent father watching and waiting patiently for us. Because my faith requires me to believe that while there is a higher being, he is not directly involved in my life, I also believe there are other forces forming us and defining us. If you think about it, there are thousands of things in this world that we ascribe to a God’s kindness, but have actually been developed by nature herself. Don’t worry I am not about to get in a lecture about Religion and Science…that debate is just silly.
Instead I think about life lessons. Let’s take fear. The first and second caveman ever to walk this earth developed fear as a means to survive. (Okay, that bear ate my friend, I should probably stay away from it). Simple. But like everything else in our world fear has evolved and changed through time. Children who were forced to walk to school everyday, have a much different expectation of nature and those wild animals, then those today who just have to ride the bus – which is a little bit of a ridiculous example, but go with me.
I have a fear of snakes. It actually doesn’t make any sense that I have a fear of snakes. I have never been bitten by one, I have never seen on actually attack a human, and really there is no visual danger when you see most of them – they don’t even have arms for heaven’s sakes. But I can’t even visit the snake exhibit at a zoo, when I know without a doubt that there is a 6-inch plate-glass window between me and the snake.
I have actually tried to overcome this fear. Reading about the creatures, and I even went and petted one during a demonstration once. But still the fear is there. The old adage about fight or flight has shown me each and every time I come in contact with a snake that no matter what, I will always fly.
There are other fears. When I was young I fell in love with a man who was later killed. It was traumatic and stressful, and I spent years learning to deal with it. On my wedding day, I literally broke down in soul-destroying sobs when I found out that my future husband had made it to the church. Through nightmares and fear, I had convinced myself that he would not be able to make it, and instead he would be killed as well. When he wasn’t, it felt like the greatest cathartic release of all time. Fear did that.
And then there are the fears that we can’t talk about. Those nebulous ideas that live within us, that we try not to think about and we never talk about. Those fears that I can’t even talk about here, in some irrational belief that if I do, the fates will try to show me a different lesson. Those fears that are greater than a snake in the grass, that won’t allow fight or flight, and those fears that you literally bury so deeply in the vain hope that you can survive.
I believe that each of us have that one fear. And the ability to survive it, is uncertain.
I was watching a show today that asked the question, what would you do if you loss that one thing that makes you, you? In the show they were talking about the character’s job; a job that she used to define herself. I am lucky in that a couple of years ago I was forced to learn that your job isn’t that important – no matter what you do. At least not as important as other things in your life. And by defining yourself as a job, you were completely missing all the real and important things. It was a tough lesson for me, but one I am glad I learned.
However, the question remains – what would you do if your greatest fear came true? Fear is not the subject of the question, but that thing that is defined by your fear. What would be your next step? What would be the first step that you would take after it happened? Would you survive? Would you ever be the same as you are sitting here reading these words? Great fears inspire the hard questions.
I still won’t talk about my greatest fear, but I know that without a shadow of a doubt, that I wouldn’t survive my greatest fear. Granted even saying those words I am daring the Gods, but I also have to hope that by saying the words, they will understand the depth of my recognition of that truth. I won’t even try to survive my greatest fear coming true.
How do we cope with this knowledge? How do we deal with the knowledge that there is a truth out there that can destroy us? Destroy our sanity, destroy our soul, and rip from us the very foundation in which we are forced to stand? Do we simply ignore it, because the alternative isn’t possible? Do we understand that we are talking about our own life and death and therefore, there is no need for the questions?
If my greatest fear comes true, my life will be over. Not in a melodramatic way, not in a “finally she went over the deep end” but in a quiet and maybe even calm way. There is incredible power in the knowledge that there is a single thing that can destroy everything that you are. Love, while many believe is life altering, can’t really do this. Loss can, but gain never can. Yet that fear lives within us. That fear to some extent controls us. And we silently and completely have to live and die with that knowledge.
This fear will not disappear with practice. This fear will never abate, or loosen the hold it has on you. This fear can’t be forgiven, helped, held, or loss. It is stronger than the hope you hold, and the joy you can feel. And like the monsters in the night, it will hunt you until the day you die.