You’re afraid, I’m afraid, let’s talk about it over the apples

My daughter Lillian and I often share our fears.

We do it by text these days as she lives in Seattle and I’m in Colorado (for new readers, my girl is 25 and launched into her first career in pediatric mental health). We used to do in the car, where kids often talk to their parents. I remember one day on the way to high school when she said in this tiny voice, “Mommy, I’m so just so afraid.”

Oh how much my heart clutched. I reached out and grabbed her hand with mine, and I said, “Oh honey, me too. I’m afraid almost every single day.”

Lilly and I often wonder: why is it we talk so little about being afraid? I’m lucky enough to hang out with friends who are very open about their fears. Bob and I can talk about how afraid we are about doing a presentation or writing something or even doing a trail race.

But other friends, students, and clients have told me, “Nope, I could never talk about being afraid at work or with my friends. They would think I’m weird.”

Why is that? Fear is hard wired into all humans. It doesn’t have to, and often doesn’t, make logical sense. But that doesn’t mean it is not shaping our choices and interactions.

I’d love to go to the grocery store and overhear someone ask a friend, “How are you?” and hear, “Kind of terrified.” Maybe they hug and then one picks up the rosemary bread and the other person grabs some apples, and off they go about their day.

Fear seen, fear shared is fear that can move.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the people running for President in the U.S. talked about how they deal with their fears of running a giant country that’s fraught with division? How they imagine handling going to war, dealing with white supremacy, having to make life and death decisions?

I would respect that so much. And maybe somebody has and I missed it!

Openness – and sharing of how we settle ourselves down when we are afraid – could help us banish our shame of being afraid. Fear feeds on itself when it remains in the dark. Fear and shame collude to keep us disconnected from each other, in believing we are separate. It’s so easy to believe you’re the only adult who avoids going alone to parties or the only woman in the world who’s afraid she’s not smart enough to re-enter the workforce or the only writer whose work sucks.

But it’s so not true.

So here is what I’m afraid of in this moment: putting a lot of money into self-publishing and promoting my new book and having it tank. That people will hate it. I’m afraid of not doing enough to halt the climate crisis. I’m afraid of not helping my students in the way they need. I’m afraid of developing Alzheimer’s like my mom.

Hi fears, I see you. I feel you without being overwhelmed or defined by you. I am bigger than my fears. What is met can move.

Let’s normalize fear. Let’s express when we are afraid and let’s share – without giving preachy advice (please!) – what we do to remember our goodness, our okayness, our resourcefulness, our shining hearts – no matter what.

Why not change how we do business, how we talk to our kids, how our politicians talk about the crises of our time by being honest?

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Alison Luterman - October 9, 2019

This is so timely and perfect for me, Jen! Thanks for sharing. Right now I’m terrified about going to Kenya next month, that the musical I’ve spent so much time working on will suck, that I’ll be broke and homeless when I’m old, that my husband will die suddenly of a heart. attack. And that’s a very partial list!!

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Jenni Clarke - October 23, 2019

I have recently recognized my fear of getting it wrong as a block to rewriting first drafts. Recognizing it is helping me to move forward, slowly.

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