For my Granny it was water. No swimming, no bridges, no getting near a pond. Think about how huge this fear was in living in a city built below sea level. She rarely insisted on anything, but she insisted that she and my Granddaddy buy a slot in the mausoleum – the HIGHEST that they could get --- so that if New Orleans ever had a serious flood they wouldn’t “drown.” There was no use in explaining that they would already be dead at that point. And as much as we laughed about the choice of slots at the mausoleum, and the potential for her to stay high and dry once she was IN the mausoleum, for her the fear of water was literally worse than the fear of death itself.
In the end, the joke was on us. Nearly ten years after Granny died, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Devastation was pervasive, as we all know. The city was underwater. And, yes, it was too much for many cemeteries. The already structurally challenged plots saw caskets unearthed in the deluge. But my forward-thinking, always resourceful Granny? She and my Granddaddy stayed high and dry. The water level never reached their final resting place. Her fear had been real. We had dismissed it. We had laughed at it. In the end she found herself a solution to put her mind at ease.
Maybe you’re afraid to be alone, to live alone, to die alone. Maybe being alone with your thoughts for too long is too much to bear. Maybe you’re afraid of failure, so much so that you won’t attempt new things. Maybe for you it’s fear of getting close to people. You’ve been hurt again and again and have no inclination to risk that pain once more. Perhaps you feel inadequate. Maybe anxiety is a function of the medicine you take or a disease you endure. In other words, maybe there are perfectly rational reasons for our irrational thoughts. Maybe so many shoes have fallen in your life that you imagine yourself a centipede, too many blindsides to count, so you expect and fear the worst at all times. Unlike me, maybe you are fearless.
Grace happens in the moment between thought and action. It’s that pause, a cosmic hand over the mouth, so that we don’t instantly react to what another person is feeling or saying. It’s a moment when BEING RIGHT is less important than DOING RIGHT. It’s so EASY to tell someone why his irrational thought is irrational. It’s a greater act of Lovingkindness to help him find solutions. However, this requires a sacrifice of Time because we must stop and listen, and it’s much easier and quicker to tell someone they have no reason to fear.
In my mind the opposite of Fear is Love. Some may argue that point. Love requires the precious commodity and intimacy of Time. And that is the one currency that once it is spent, it can never be refunded. When someone expresses fear it is the ultimate moment of vulnerability. Those on the Side of the GOOD will recognize it as an opportunity for Grace, and in that moment of dismissing or listening, they will choose to DO right instead of BEING right.. They will help ease the burden by taking a moment and finding solutions.