“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” my favorite president once said.
Even when we know this in our head, why it so terribly hard to let go of the fear? Over and over again?
It was a bad day for me yesterday (hence no blog post). I read too many political commentaries on Facebook. I accidentally watched the news a little. I worried about a big doctor’s appointment my parent had today (that turned out quite well by the way).
By the time I went to bed the voices of fear were raging hard in my mind.
As if to illustrate the point of how bad everything was and how dangerous and tenuous the future remained, the wind blew at my house last night.
And by blowing I mean gusting and rushing and sheering hard enough to knock over trash cans, break branches, and rattle windows.
I lay in bed trying to do my deep breathing, but the fear just wouldn’t let up. All I could see in my mind’s eye was some tree part crashing through the window beside my head or coming down from the roof above me.
Eventually it was too much. My fear got the best of me and I got up out of bed and hid in the back of the closet with our dogs.
A small word of explanation. A while back in order to keep our dogs from playing fruit basket turnover in all our beds all night long, we created a cushy dog den in the back of our largish closet and seal it off each night with a baby gate. The dogs can see us, smell us, hear us. This seems to satisfy their need for nighttime closeness. Plus they get to shed all over my clean clothes.
The unforeseen bonus of the closet dog den is that it became the safe haven of the house. When the children have bad dreams or otherwise get scared in the night, they no longer come to our bed, but sneak into the closet to sleep with the dogs. It works for us.
But last night I was the one inching the baby gate open to lay my fear torn head with my furry ones. And let me just say they are very gracious night time hosts.They don’t mind scooting over so you can have enough room or sharing their pillows and blankets.
I think in a dog’s mind the more bodies to snuggle while sleeping, the better.
After I got settled in our closet dog den (and closed the door a little more to keep out the tree limbs), I noticed something.
Even though I had been terrified, the dogs weren’t scared at all.
They were happy, relaxed, and glad to see me. Once they readjusted a little, they sighed and began to drift back off to sleep.
Now let me tell you something. Dogs aren’t stupid. They can hear the wind just as much and in fact better than I can. When something is wrong or worth being worried about, they know it.
So the quiet snores and rise and fall of their bodies began to tell me something.
Nothing was actually wrong.
In the actual present moment, there was nothing worth being afraid of. Everything was safe and sound. A little loud, but safe and sound.
All my fears were based on future projections that may or may not happen.
And the good thing about my dogs is that they live in the present, not the future. A practice that I need to adopt more often.
So I lay there a little longer breathing with them and telling myself over and over, “It is okay. Right now everything is actually okay.” If a tree branch breaks through the window we’ll deal with it then. Tomorrow I’ll deal with tomorrow and the future is out of my control.
As I began to calm a little I petted my beloveds in gratitude and then returned to my own cushy bed for much needed sleep.
And guess what? Today was fine. Better than fine.
All we lost in the storm was one hanging flower pot, the appointment went better than expected, and I informed Facebook that I wanted to see less political posts.
As we go through our spiritual journey, we will undoubtedly come face to face with our fears. Anytime we slow down and turn inward they are there waiting there for us.
If only we could all give up fear for Lent and that was that. It would be like the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
But I think the best we can do is face our fears one at a time and let them go again and again.
I pray for you this Lent that you can feel the truth of the present, that you are loved and that for now all is well. And the worries of tomorrow will have their own time to be dealt with.
For now, take a big breath, know the beloved is with you and rest.