‘We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.’ Plato
Fear is a strange thing. Sometimes you’re not even aware that you’re feeling it. It can sit there, under the surface, leaving you distracted or a little on edge. Maybe you’re not even conscious that the feeling is fear, but its dull presence has a hold over you.
At other times, it’s loud and alarming, as it was for Chris and I recently while holidaying in Vietnam.
Within a few days of arriving, Chris became quite ill with an eye infection and we weren’t sure if he’d lose his sight in one eye.
We made several trips to the international hospital in Hanoi and eventually insisted that we see an eye specialist. My instincts told me we were dealing with a serious issue. It was a pretty frightening experience when the specialist examined Chris’ eye and shook his head. ‘Very, very bad,’ was his prognosis. More alarming for Chris was finding out he would need four injections, directly into his eye.
I realised in that moment, how little prepared we are to deal with genuine fear
In Western culture where life is regulated, controlled and orderly, we’re protected from fear in so many ways. We anticipate cures for our illnesses, order on our roads, safety nets for our finances and procedures at work to keep us from harm. We are kept safe from risk and danger and while it’s a privilege to experience life in this way, I also wonder whether it inhibits our capacity for resilience.
When I was a child I climbed trees to great heights and rode motorbikes fast across wide open paddocks and dived from the edge of our boat into unknown waters. Those were the days when kids were more fearless.
We raised our own girls with much more trepidation and I’m not sure it was always a good thing. Keeping a watchful eye when they are genuinely at risk is imperative but being overly vigilant sends a message that life is something to be terrified of.
As it turned out, Chris had the injections and within half an hour, the doctor offered a new prognosis. ‘Much better,’ he said, smiling widely. That’s a week ago now and Chris still can’t see clearly from the affected eye, but his sight is markedly improved. We talked about what we’d do if he did lose sight in the eye and couldn’t work. It worried us for a while, but with time, I became aware of a deep sense of trust within me and I knew that somehow, we’d work things out.
Life unfolds in unexpected ways
Wonderful things happen and at times, some terrible ones do too. The things that we worry about are rarely the troubles that eventuate so living in constant fear is wasted energy.
Vietnam reminded me that whatever life throws your way, somehow you deal with. We’re more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Deep within each of us, we have a hidden strength and the courage and capacity to pull through all of life’s adversities.
Notice the fear if you have it within you. Feel it in your body, name it, be aware of it, but make a choice to believe that you have what it takes to deal with whatever is thrown your way. Open up to a sense of trust. Be courageous. Feel free. Make daring choices. Jump into the river of life and go with the flow of it. You have nothing to be afraid of because you’re actually stronger than you think you are.
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