Tuesday, 21 April 2009

On Fear and Feeling ...

There were several interesting responses to Ann of Annarchy's post on fear. Some people quoted others ("I learn by going where I have to go." Roethke). Others expressed their own thoughts. One of my favourites was this one: "The things that scare me the most often lead the way into a deepening of my heart." Hiro Boga

Fear seems to be a popular topic these days. In her latest blog entry, Marta wrote about fear in quite a different way. She focused on what she realized when she was terrified that she might lose everything; that her life might be over. That was when she understood that there was just one thing that really mattered. For her it was that she must tell the stories of the disappeared.

I want to think about these ideas. It will be a bit of ramble. Be forewarned.

I know that I too " learn by going where I have to go." One of the benefits of "just saying yes" is that you grow through the experiences by facing your fear of the unknown. Maybe I do have to just jump in instead of assuming I can't do that any more. I used to be that kind of person.

Building this house marked a turning point for me. It has been the experience that made me afraid of being alone because self reliance is sometimes just plain impossible here if you are no longer young or you do not have lots of money or you lack the practical skills necessary. Maybe it was the confluence of growing old at the same time as embarking on a young person's project.

I need to do some more thinking about Boga's comment. It rings true on a gut level but I think I need to get into that quiet place where I face my own worst fear and allow myself to follow the thread to the truth that one's heart deepens; that one doesn't simply grow intellectually or psychologically by experiencing difficulty. I am too accustomed to thinking about things. I need to learn better how to feel.

Maybe the movement from writing to painting will help me get there.

In the past I have taken baby steps toward that place ... often helped by children.

Many of the things I experienced while living in Africa taught me empathy ... that unspoken sense of kinship that transcends intellectual awareness. There were all the children who needed to go to school. There were the people I met who needed medical help to survive. There were all those unnecessary deaths. But perhaps the closest I came to experiencing the pain and poverty of others was when I held an African child in my arms while a nurse used a bent safety pin to dig parasitic worms out of his fingers and toes. The tears that flowed down his cheeks made my throat ache.

Here in Canada holding small grandchildren against my heart has opened my heart in a way that goes beyond intellect. Their hearts beating against my own have dried tears ... theirs and my own. Their heart beats have led me into places where words disappear, become irrelevant.

A few years ago I was very frightened. I was suffering from depression and felt very alone. It didn't matter that I was surrounded by people who cared about me. One of the worst things about depression is that you are absolutely alone in the most crowded and loving places.

During that period I went to a house concert at the home of Mud Mama and Papa Pan. The Wild Thing was an infant at the time. I spent the evening rocking him and drawing strength from his warm little body against my own. We communicated through heartbeats and inarticulate sounds. We didn't need language to love.

Fear, like love, is inarticulate, and I am sure that it too can deepen my heart. I think I just have to open my heart to its teaching.

As for Marta's realization that was a gift of fear ... I need to explore that as well. Most of the time I find myself just thinking that there is nothing I really want to do still; that death would be a relief from the fear. But that may be the result of having stopped exploring. Maybe the writing door has closed and another door has opened. Maybe I need to explore other things like painting. Or maybe the writing door will be re-opened by going to the Great Blue Heron workshop.

Paul McCartney said, "Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to common belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young."

Maybe I have to start exercising my imagination again and taking chances by just saying yes. Maybe by exposing myself to new worlds and new fears my heart will deepen and I will learn by going where I have to go. And maybe I have to be near children again in order to experience these things. Maybe I have to re-think my hermit's life and open up to the possibility of living closer to people who love me.

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