Five, four, three, two, one…It seems as though I am in countdown mode these days. Counting down the last days of 2014, the last days of this blog (again), the last days of work before the holiday break, the last days working with a wonderful group of people. Counting down. I will write more about this in the days ahead, whether here in Lessons in Gratitude or in my other blog, “Consider This.”
For this evening I am in the throes of various countdowns without the energy to write a coherent post of any depth of meaning or value. So I decided to spin the Random Number Generator wheel to see what options presented themselves. I was pleased to land on an interesting post on fear that I wrote nearly three years ago. As I prepare to transition to a new institution in a new place I do not find myself frozen in a place of fear, though god knows I’ve been there often enough. Re-reading this post reminded me of what I went through to get to the place of relative calm and equanimity I’ve managed to arrive at in this moment. I am grateful for the lessons I learned and am grateful to be able to continue to share them with you. Please enjoy this post from Day 211, written in January of 2012:
Tonight I want to talk a little bit more about fear, about the F. E. A. R.–False Evidence Appearing Real that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. This morning I woke early in the predawn darkness, my limbs warm with a kind of nervous energy and the touch of fear that sparks it. I tried praying, offering lovingkindness meditation, and just letting my thoughts run randomly. Nothing really seemed to calm me down, so I eventually got up. As I started into my morning ablutions, I once again began thinking about fear and I recognized that familiar feeling of being a fraud. It’s about the image that I present to the world of being at ease, of having things relatively under control, or at the very least remaining calm in the midst of the storm. Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror this morning I chided myself by saying, “The reality is that you’re scared all the time.” Even as soon as the words came out of my mouth (and yes, I did say them aloud), I realized that they were not entirely true.
Over the course of past year and in the last several months in particular, I have been on a journey of grieving, struggling, healing, persevering and moving (I hope) toward overcoming the loss and pain of 2011. I have not wanted to be defined by the upheaval that occurred last year, so I set about actively working to overcome depression, self-doubt and a myriad of obstacles and hindrances that threatened at times to rob me of any sense of wellbeing and optimism that things could get better. This has been an act of will. And part of this process has been my determination to speak as positively and optimistically as I could about the situation in which I found myself. This process of putting one foot in front of the other and moving intentionally toward improving my attitude about everything included taking several actions, one of which was focusing on and documenting those things in my life for which I am grateful. Yes I had suffered a number of significant losses, but I still had many blessings in my life. Over the months as I’ve written this blog and started volunteering and interacted with people, I have been told many times how courageous and inspiring I’ve been. And there’s where the fraud thing comes in.
Sometimes I honestly don’t what it is that gets me out of bed in the morning. I don’t know why people tell me I’m brave when much of the time I feel quivering, anxious, and at times quite terrified about what’s going to happen to me. I’m not sure how I can be considered courageous when the magnitude of suffering I’ve endured is so minimal in comparison to what so many others bear. And while part of me (a rather large part) has no wish to see any further hardship come my way, I am well aware that there are millions of people who would happily switch places to have my problems. My son taught me the expression, “first world problems,” and he’s right. Much of what I’m dealing with are first world problems. In the scheme of things, while life has been challenging, I am still blessed in many, many ways. And in spite of the tone of what I’ve just written, I am also not belittling the struggles that I had through much of 2011. Times have been difficult; but this is also true: I know they are going to get better.
So how does gratitude factor into this equation? I think that practicing gratitude, living my life with a sense of appreciation for the richness that is present in some form every day keeps me grounded and gives me something to hold onto when False Evidence Appearing Real takes hold of me. I experience fear in some measure just about every day, if not literally every day. Gratitude provides the balance I need to keep fear from sweeping me away. Something inside of me rests in total calm and certainty that I have the means to handle whatever comes my way. There’s a sense of peace and equanimity there that I get glimpses of periodically and the lets me know that all shall be well. I am grateful for that, even as I am awed and humbled by it. It isn’t my own courage that I rest on; it’s the grace of a loving God that keeps me in “perfect peace” when nothing else seems to make sense. For that I am deeply grateful.