Loving Kindness for FEAR
(I wrote this a month ago but couldn’t post it as I moved house and I’m in transition to move my whole blog to a new site. But I figured I should’t let this one collect dust… as the message still applies today)
The pandemic ebbed and now is hitting it’s second wave.
We found a house and sold our own in three weeks.
My son finally received a diagnosis of Autism. (More on this in another post)
My daughter has started at a new school as she recognized (as did we) the need for space from her brother at home.
My son actually WENT to school today for two hours and received glowing reports from his EA (Educational Assistant).
Today I’m grounded in the realization that I’ve come a long way, weathered through much — all the while learning to temper the feeling of fear that have sat within me for as long as I can remember — more memories of it being there with me than of ones where I couldn’t feel it.
My dear EA sent me a story this morning about “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” after I had reported to her I was feeling nervous about today and yet hopeful. After reading the short story I surprised myself when I could feel the familiar “knot” in my stomach tighten after reading how the 75 year old grandmother in the story declared to two young girls “So be afraid and do it anyway!”
I totally understand the story’s message: that we don’t have to be “fearless” to do something that scares us. And yet I felt called to share with my EA how there’s also a call in our world today to acknowledge what the fear is trying to say. Feeling fear is a warning system — and after overriding it’s message and “doing it anyway” all my life, I’ve come to know it’s serious cost. Depression. Loss of sense/maintenance of personal boundaries. Repeated trauma and conflict in relationships from the lack of boundaries.
So I took a big breath and kindly replied (in a text message):
I hear your care in sending the story. I definitely know all too well personally of “feeling fear and doing it anyway”… except for me it was done in an environment where I was told to ignore it or downplay it or that it didn’t matter (what mattered more was the doing) I’ve since learned part of doing that in a healthy way is to feel fear and accept it with loving kindness as the fear is also sending a message that wants to be met. Ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing meant I was ignoring a part of me that had a message: signalling a need for a boundary. However I do trust you to hold Magnus in his fear with that loving kindness within the boundaries of his capacity atm. Every time he stretches that capacity a little bit more.
I was pleased to report how “well” my son had done on his first day — even daring to raise his hand to ask a question.
And yet literally two minutes later after picking him up in the car he proceeded to have a massive meltdown — upset that I had forgotten to pack snacks. Instead of trying to justify my way out of his upset (I’ll pack more tomorrow!) I found myself apologizing instead — acknowledging that when he feels scared, food is one of the ways that helps him settle. I let him have his upset for the next hour — going in and out of what I imagine was the pent up fear that he had skillfully contained but now needed an outlet.
And on the other side of it I took a moment to also acknowledge to him: “I know how much that was hard and scary feeling AND I saw how you did manage to get through that. I’m sorry if it was hard because you didn’t have a snack.”
This is not meant for me to be “the fixer” of this situation — I wanted him to know that I FELT him there in his fear AND that he had made it through. To only focus on the “positive” would make the fear “stuck”…only to arise in another anxiety of some other form later. Once again — better to FEEL in connection in order to heal.
So if your own child comes home today and inexplicably melts down after a supposed “good day”… perhaps it might be a “knot” of fear that was there at the outset. And the only way to undo it is to send it loving kindness for being there — signalling the edges of our comfort boundaries and also celebrating the win of coming to the other side.
When I’m 75 — I hope to remind my own grand children to: “…LOVE the fear AND do it anyway.”