The Weight of Fear

“A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.” Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom. (If you haven’t seen it — watch it today. Yes, it’s that good!)

My deep belief in this quote has driven many of the decisions in my life. And I can’t say I have many regrets. Now, of course, a healthy dose of fear (to not walk down that dark alley in an unknown city) naturally keeps us alive. It’s like most things: there’s a range. A spectrum, if you will.

Too little fear: you make the front page. Too much: well, that was 2020.

Now, I know this may be an inflammatory article for some of you. And for that, I apologize. It is not my intent to anger. It is my intent to question. To ponder. To choose how to live my whole life as opposed to a half one. Surely no one can begrudge me that.

I recently had a Covid “scare” — even though I’m vaccinated — and I realized how gripping Fear can be. When I first got sick (from my kids who had returned from a cross country road trip ) I didn’t think it was Covid. Not until my 5th or 6th friend worried about it, did I start to wonder. After all, I had a lot of the symptoms…

And there is that Delta variant out there now…

And the vaccine isn’t 100% effective…

And F*^# it. I totally have Covid.

Now, I realize my reaction is completely under my control. Which is why I’m writing this article. I’m a big believer in thoughts become things and we heal first in our mind. My mantra when I’m under the weather is, “I am Healthy. I am Strong.” I could have held tight to my calm. But after half a dozen people wonder if it’s Covid…you start to feel kinda dumb it hadn’t occurred to you. And, in truth, I didn’t panic — I just got really bummed. Really bummed and really heavy.

I scheduled an appointment. The doctor tested me (admitting it was likely Covid — we’d know in two days) and gave me this sheet of quarantine instructions. The sheet actually said:

“You MAY NOT leave your home — even to go outside. Children MAY NOT go play outside — even on the porch.”

What?!

It went on to state: “People CAN NOT come to your home and stand outside a window.” (Yes, the words were in caps.)

Why?! Are mine super germs that can jump through glass, rose bushes, and twelve feet of space??

My children were mortified. And this is where people get frustrated and throw out all the rules. They angrily swing to the “Freedom!” end of the spectrum, cursing the Crazies at the “Safe” end. And then the country falls into turmoil.

Being aware of the spectrum, and my personal capacity to swing haphazardly, I told my kids, “Of course we can go out in our own backyard. The fresh air will do us good and no one will be harmed.”

And it has. As we are on the mend, I read to them from the hammock while they play in the grass. We pause to appreciate the air flowing through our lungs by blowing bubbles (doctor’s orders — though she said to do it in my room. Never gonna happen, Doc.)

Summer can feel how it’s supposed to feel to a kid — carefree and lazy and covered in dirt.

Why, I wondered, did the otherwise reasonable instructions, include these steps? Some may say it’s hyper-vigilance. Others may say it’s codswallop. I say it has Fear at its heart and I want no part of it.

I finally got the call. (Two long days, let me tell ya’.) The results were…

Negative.

I do Not have Covid!

Victorious, I thrust my fist in the air from my supine position (a position I’m sadly all too familiar with these last five days). The relief that washed over me was palpable. My whole body released the tension I’d been holding. A tension I let creep in — unintentionally installed by well-meaning friends, news articles, and society at large. Then I got to thinking: was it unintentional? Or is that exactly what main stream media wants us to do?

Sit down. Shut up. Watch and be afraid. Be very afraid. But…“Stay Safe.” These previously sacred words have been shoved down my throat so much I can barely type them. I can feel that “Freedom!” end calling me now.

We all know news outlets make more money when there’s a tragedy. More people are watching. And buying. We can, at this point, hopefully admit that most media outlets sensationalize to keep people watching. It’s revolting. It’s why I don’t watch the news anymore. I still listen to the radio and peruse headlines so I’m not completely in the dark, but I couldn’t handle what was happening to my overall mood when I watched the news every day.

This Fear. This tension that sneaks into our bodies…it’s not healthy. It’s not serving us. I tell my dance students all the time “Tone without tension.” Again, a perfect example of the spectrum. Too much tension and anything will snap. (I think we’ve seen plenty of examples of that in society over the last year.) Too little tone/engagement — well, you can’t do anything with those limp noodles.

So where are you on the spectrum? And who helped you get there? I’m sure they were well-meaning. But was it actually good for you? Are you comfortable? Nay, happy? Or does the insidious weight slow you down? Do you even recognize your position, or has it become second nature to automatically brace yourself? Are you constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop…or, at this point, the upstairs apartment to completely cave in on your head?

Hopefully not. Hopefully you can recognize there are other possibilities out there. My wish is for all of us to be vigilant of our own thoughts/moods/reactions and embrace the possibilities of all that may be (not just the worst). I know it’ll be challenging. But hey, we survived a pandemic. Now let’s start living!

True, for the safety of others, I shouldn’t leave the house while I’m contagious…unless it’s to enjoy my own backyard.

And while I shouldn’t be breathing on my friends, it’s fine to blow them kisses from the other side of the window when they drop off homemade chicken soup.

A life lived in Fear…No thank you.

A life lived in wisdom and Love…Yes please!

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Allison Johnson

Allison Johnson

Dancer, writer, mother, watcher of too many movies:)