Today has been a good one so far, in that I’ve been busy and fairly productive. Yet even the good days are difficult now, because right below the surface runs this undercurrent of perpetual fear. This fear takes many guises, panic, sadness, anger, all manifestations of the same root cause. It’s such that even the bright spots are fraught. When we see friends from a social distance, it’s challenging; everyone is a “suspect.” And this is a terrible feeling, but one that we will simply have to learn to navigate. We will have to continue to take precautions that seem extreme but aren’t.
I think of the things I feared as a kid, lightening storms striking the oak tree in my backyard and sending it crashing into the house; cars spontaneously catching fire; daddy long legs spiders (I know they’re not technically in the arachnid family, but still); and whatever unseen entity loomed in our basement and attic. These are fears that make “sense” to a child, though my reactions to them were certainly disproportionate to the actual threats.
This fear is different, though. I can’t imagine how it must feel to children. I know that several of my friends who are moms to school-age kids are having an increasingly difficult time with it all. The thing about this is that it’s hard to really comfort anyone. In the aftermath of 9-11, one could explain “bad people” and that most people are not like them. How do you explain a situation in which absolutely no one is truly safe?
I’ve hesitated to put my deepest fears into words lest some malevolent higher power (as my shrink calls it) decides to have a little fun. I think of Natalie Wood and her apparent lifelong fear of drowning in dark water. This is very different from my friend Brian, who grew up in Chicago and now lives in Brooklyn and has, or used to have, a visceral fear of alligators. Or Sandy and her fear of Big Foot. Those may sound like childhood fears writ large, and yet they make perfect sense. Our “boogeymen” are probably stand-ins for things too frightening to speak of.
So what do we do with our justifiable fear now? What can we do? We can take precautions that may seem extreme to some but are absolutely the right things to do. We can keep our minds and bodies occupied as productive distraction. And we can connect with one another in meaningful ways so that, just as fear is a perpetual undercurrent, so too are love and gratitude.
I hope you all had a decent day.
[post script] Title of this post is from the song “Dire Wolf” by the Grateful Dead. Would it be good for me to contextualize these titles or will you just Google if you’re curious? They’re all lines from songs that somehow relate to these posts. [/end post script]
[post post script] Photo from an afternoon in New Orleans when I had the door open a bit and one of the many NOLA strays wandered in, realized he was in the wrong place, bid adieu and left. Southern gentleman. [/end post post script]