Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Only Thing To Fear...

Lately, I've been having lots of conversations with my husband and best girlfriends about fear. There isn't any impending doom, at least not that I know of, but then that's what makes us fearful, right? That we don't recognize the doom we're about to face, that doom will blindside us, which is usually how it works. Since I'm a spiritual person, I feel I should be above fear somehow, beyond it in a been-there-done-that kind of way, but the truth is, I'm not above it. Sometimes, I'm wallowing around in it, just me and fear. Fear likes to grip me around 2:00 AM. Often he doesn't let go until 4:30 or so.

This blog post doesn't offer any answers on dealing with fear, and I seriously doubt even the kindest suggestions will alter my fears in any real way. Perhaps the only thing those of us who suffer fear can do is garden. Yep. This is my solution for a good many things. If all else fails, buy something and stick it in the ground. Water it some. Pick off the dead leaves. Cut it back before winter. Watch it bloom and flourish in spring. Or die. That happens, too, in the garden.

Last winter's bitter cold did a real number on my hydrangeas. One single bloom on the bottom, a lonely little guy, and that was it. These are Endless Summer hydrangeas, too. They are supposed to bloom on old and new wood. I did feel bad for the little guy who showed up, though. In hindsight I should've cut him and put him in a bouquet. Perhaps plant personification is a sign you're starting to lose it?

There are medications you can take for fear. I haven't tried that yet. My fears seem to disappear with daylight. At times I simply get up and start working on something, except that I'm tired the next day if I use this tactic. The other night I just lay there and didn't allow myself to move. This seemed to work okay, especially since I combined it with prayer. Not a real prayer, just the "Help!" kind. I think God knows when we're too paralyzed to offer a thoughtful prayer because the next thing I knew it was 6:00 AM. Thank you for that, by the way.

Part of this fear thing is aging, and truth be told, this is probably what I am fearing most. Not the wrinkles so much as the poor health or dementia or the loss of loved ones—children moving far away, husband dying, friends getting too old to travel.

Um, hello? You are fifty, not eighty. This is what I tell myself, though I know the fates don't really care how old (or young) we are. Bad things happen at any age. Bad things can happen, have happened, to you and me. Bad things will happen again. It's irrational to think otherwise.

But I am tired of basing too many decisions on fear. Whether it's purchasing the wrong rug for the basement (that can be returned anyway, so who cares?) or changing jobs or trying something new (skydiving anyone?) or taking a trip or (even worse!) allowing your children to take risks (sleep-away camp, graduate school on the other side of the country!), life is one big risk. No one gets out alive, as they say.

A harsh winter can zap all your summer blooms. Nasty old Japanese beetles might chew you to bits. For the record, I detest JB's.

I'm a reader, and a couple of years ago I read Joan Didion's book Blue Nights. Talk about things to fear. In a span of eighteen months this woman lost both husband and daughter. And yet, she writes. She goes on. The pressing question in Blue Nights, at least the question I got was this: Did you enjoy it enough? Did you enjoy the children and the husband (if you have them)? Did you enjoy the morning coffee and the lunch with a good girlfriend? Did you enjoy creating that blog post even if no one commented? Did you enjoy the garden? Did you plant the flowers? Cook the chicken dinner? Raise the children one slow yet heartbreakingly fast minute at a time? Did you tell them often enough how much you love them?

Did you enjoy it enough? This means, I suppose it means, we need to stop and see and smell and touch and taste. Deep down I know THIS is what keeps me awake at night. I want to savor it all. I want to enjoy it enough. And I want dumb old stupid useless fear to leave me alone while I live this life. But sometimes I fail at keeping fear and all that accompanies it at bay.

On this beautiful, everyday, regular Wednesday in summer, I offer this passage from Thornton Wilder.

Goodbye to clocks ticking…and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

P.S. While writing this post the dog has peed all over the Oriental rug fringe, and the plumber is here to fix not one but TWO leaks. He will also open the ceiling above my kitchen sink so it can "air out." I guess if I'm going to practice what I'm preaching here, I need to "enjoy" these experiences, too.


  1. Oh my gosh, did you enjoy them enough...I'm stopped in my tracks by that question! That's pretty profound!! I'm a worrying fearful person too. Not sleeping at night is not unusual. The thing that I often realize is that my fears in the night are not rational. Sometimes they are goofy thoughts that are much worse because I'm sleepy. Does that make sense? I think the point is to not be looking back at all the things of life but to soak them in. I'm going to work on that.

  2. I was feeling like you a few years ago and finally talked with my dr. about it. She prescribed a mild antidepressant and those fears packed up and left! I know this is not the answer for everyone but for me it was a life changer! And, there were no side effects with such a mild dose. Just a thought.

  3. I can so relate to this post Suzanne...I worry about things too! It always seems to hit me in the middle of the night too, and by the time daylight comes my worries vanish. I guess they were not to pertinent otherwise the worry wouldn't go away right?!? On a happy note your gardens look absolutely beautiful!!

  4. Thanks for sharing this post. It really spoke to me. I do think our fears become larger as we age and face different seasons of life. I often repeat to myself, "When I am afraid I will trust in Thee (God)". This seems to help refocus my thinking though some days it takes longer. Love your gardens. They are so pretty to look at.

  5. Hi Suzanne. I don't know you very well, but I feel like I do a little better after this post. I think you are just perfectly human. We all fear something and the bad thoughts come to us at different times. Mine come at all times by just hearing a word or experiencing a memory out of the blue. I try not to force it down in a dark corner that I can forget, but to really dissect and look at it right then and there. It almost always takes me to the good memories , and if we really think about them they are numerous and they push away those sad and dark feelings. I have had a lot of illness and loss in my long life time (I have a few years on you) but this seems to work for me. Also, I have to agree with Diane (above). When my daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, it took a large tole on her, mentally, and her doc prescribed a mild sedative for her and it really works. Your garden is absolutely beautiful and no matter what it says to you, I can tell it is a place that shines. Take Care, Judy

  6. Suzanne, I read this post the other day but was rushing around and didn't get a chance to comment. Then today while commenting on your morning post, I remembered this one. I can totally relate to the night fears. I am usually fine during the day but sometimes I wake up at night and can't get to sleep for hours. I think the fears escalate then because there is no one to talk to at that hour unless I wake up my husband to calm me down. I usually feel much better in the morning too. With me it tends to be hormonal or food related. If I accidentally have too much caffeine late in the day or don't eat as healthy as I normally do for a few days then the fears creep up on me. When it is happening I feel like I am never going to feel better again. It really is the worst feeling. I wish I had some advice to give you!
    Take care, Shelley

  7. I am new to your blog. I have been lost in it for 2 hours. You and your children are beautiful. I started reading this post and I can so relate. We lost our 17 year old son to brain cancer. He was in Children's Hospital in Loma Linda, California for 11 months. It was, to say the least, the scariest time of my life and the hardest. Since his passing. I have lived in fear. Like you, I fear at night. I have talked to our priest about it and he just told me to pray. So, pray I do. I have good nights and bad. It is just a journey that no parent, or sister ever thinks they will ever go through. I guess that old saying, " that will never happen to my child" is so not true.

    I live for today. I let the Good Lord take care of tomorrow. Something my dad always taught us. It works.

    Life is short or it is long. You have to enjoy the day you are given to the fullest. I believe that doing things that make me happy. I love working in the garden too. It is just amazing what grows. Summer is my favorite season. But, spring makes me happy. It is like the birth of new life. I love watching all the flowers bloom.

    I hope your fears turn to sweet dreams. I can't wait to read more of your blog. There are a few that I am devoted too. I think yours will become one too. Can't wait to read more.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...