Breathing Into Fear and Living Anyway

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I was exploring the website of The Red Shoes this morning trying to choose some events that spoke to me for the next month or so. Michael Conforti, a Jungian analyst, is coming to lead a workshop at The Red Shoes in August. I have never heard of him, but he is teaching a workshop on how people move forward from trauma to healing after they have faced a significant loss or traumatic event. The description says,

“With our current global climate of terrorist atrocities, this is an important time to access a new understanding of healing, one that encompasses the ability to live with the tragedies of life, and build a psyche strong enough to carry all that we see, feel and experience.”

I immediately thought of ISIS and the young girls that got run over in New Orleans on the interstate and the LSU professor who was killed walking her bicycle and ….. and ………. And I thought of the pain and fear and disappointment that I stuff or ignore every time I walk out of the house carrying all of this stuff around.

When I was in Memphis, I moved from the suburbs to Midtown Memphis. When I was considering the move, friend after friend cautioned me about the crime there. Many shared how they had moved from Midtown out to the suburbs to escape the crime in years past. I wondered if I was moving into a war zone. My parents were terrified that I was living in Memphis. The news shows portrayed it as a virtual killing field. I decided that, if I was going to live there, I would ignore my fear, refrain from doing anything stupid, and try to live my life. I lived there for about 6 years without incident. Well, my car was stolen one night, but I had left the key in it and the door unlocked by accident. It was hardly a crime at all. I walked my dog at whatever time of night that I got home, I ran miles and miles across town and through many neighborhoods in the dark, and I did lots of things alone. I never had any incident that scared me. But, still …. I often wondered if I was being foolish.

I feel the same way here in Baton Rouge. I have been warned numerous times that I need a gun to protect myself. I’ve been told I shouldn’t live in the city. I have been told not to do things alone. I do, in, fact, hear sirens all of the time. But my neighborhood is always filled with cyclists and walkers. I feel relatively safe when I’m out. It’s when I’m inside and about to fall asleep that I feel the most fear. Mostly my fears are about the world and it’s future. What is it coming to? What’s going to happen with this ISIS thing? Are we going to run out of water? Is life as we know it going to become very unpleasant? How am I going to handle aging? Will I be more vulnerable to crime? The questions keep coming. Sometimes it’s just too much for me to handle sober.

I ran across a Brene’ Brown talk this morning on “The Price of Invulnerability.” It reminded me of the tragedies that Conforti mentions that we have to learn to live with and process everyday. We don’t live in the world of long ago where we just didn’t know about all of the tragedies that happened everyday. Thanks to technology, we get to see everything up close and personal.

The Price of Invulnerability

Brene’ recounts a scenario where she goes down the rabbit hole and encounters imagined fear after imagined fear in a daily trip to the airport. I was laughing so hard one of my coworkers came over to see what was so funny. I wonder sometimes why other people don’t get afraid of all the things I fear, and then I realize that they probably do. They either don’t talk about it like I do, or they numb out with some regularity on sugar, alcohol or drugs. But Brene’ makes the point that when we numb our dark feelings like fear and sadness, we also numb the great feelings like joy. We can’t numb one extreme. We numb it all. Her solution is in the video, but her main point is that we have to live our life in the real world, be grateful for what is before us and let ourselves really experience the ordinary beauty of an everyday life.

I had a couple of people who commented on my tendency to just pack up and go camping alone with my dog to Bay St. Louis last weekend. One said they were too afraid of snakes to do anything like that. Another asked if I ever felt lonely when I camped alone. Well, I’m afraid of snakes. I also hate bugs. I’m not really afraid of them, but they drive me crazy. And, yes, I sometimes feel lonely when I’m traveling alone. I’m single, though. I have come to terms with feeling lonely. It strikes me at odd times, and it strikes me often. I just breathe into it and remind myself that it’s just a feeling. I’m not really lonely. In a way, I do the same thing that I did in Memphis. I remember that my perception may not be reality, and I try to enjoy what is put before me.

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I remember those days in Memphis fondly. I had my first real experience with true joy on my walks in the spring after I’d maneuvered the grieving process after my divorce. I remember the day that I realized I was no longer depressed, and I felt pure unadulterated joy. It was an ordinary day but an extraordinary moment. I remember the first time I went camping at Sylamore Creek in Arkansas alone. I encountered a beautiful little creek with a sparkling pool. I was alone with my dog, and I decided to strip off and go skinny-dipping. I felt joy again. I was in nature and free as a bird. I didn’t worry about what I looked like or whether or not anyone approved. It was an ordinary day but an extraordinary moment. I could have focused on my fear of snakes and of being alone, but I breathed into it and let myself live my life anyway. I can’t seem to get in that place everyday, but I’d sure like to get there more often. It’s kind of an extraordinary place to be.

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