As I was checking my email the other day, I saw the news ticker to the right of my screen. It successfully grabbed my attention with a headline of children being threatened in an unimaginable way. To the left, another headline reporting that innocent lives had been taken in another horrific event. At the same time, I got an email alert that made a simple little ding on my phone, and upon glancing at the preview window, the friendly tone of the ‘ding’ did not match the tone of the message. It was an email indicating my credit card had been compromised; somebody stole my number virtually and was using it in another state. And only a few weeks earlier, our Internet had been hacked into (luckily only to a surface level).
I feel vulnerable. I am holding my breath. I feel fear.
During the day at random times, I have found myself not breathing. I am doing mundane activities, such as driving, reading a news article, or even simply waiting in a checkout lane. And yet, I find myself holding my breath, literally holding in what gives me life and energy. My whole body is affected – tightened jaw, tense stomach, stiff neck and I am overall more short-tempered, tired and on edge.
It is so hard not to be overwhelmed lately. I can’t do anything online or watch tv without a sidebar of breaking news alerting me to some violence, or otherwise devastating and/or terrifying news. Seriously. At first (and still some days), I want to hide in fear. I want to keep my children home, build a panic room, bunker down and weep for all the sadness in the world.
I am holding my breath. I feel sadness.
Although, my sadness and disappointment in the culture of fear we are growing is insidious, there is another emotion growing in the shadows. And that is anger. Anger that I am letting fear reign in my life. I am losing precious time with my loved ones, focusing on what terrible things have happened and could happen, instead of the beautiful things that are happening.
I find when I am in fear, I am not present. I am not present for the impromptu mid-afternoon dance performance by my little ones. I am not present to notice how the trees have magically lost their leaves, missing the turning of the colors. I am not present for moments of laughter with my husband. I have willingly turned over my peace and freedom.
And boy, what a freedom we so have. We have the freedom the choose love, to choose kindness, to choose tolerance and compassion. We trade in that freedom when we choose fear. Fear tells us we will be safe as long as we are hostile, suspicious, and resistant to change, and anything different than from what we know. Fear holds us hostage in our own lives.
I release my breath. I surrender to the fear to gain my freedom.
I surrender - for the moment - to fear. I surrender to all the tightness in my body, the welled up tears behind my eyes waiting to release at any sight of human decency. I surrender to the imaginary and very terrifying what-if situations that are constantly on replay in my head. Because for every moment that I keep dwelling in dread and despair, gripping tighter, the more I give up my peace. I can't change other people, but I can change myself. And fear can’t live here anymore.
As Mahatma Gandhi stated with his famous words, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." And I plan to. I don’t want to let this fear get the best of me. I want to be an example for my children of strength, kindness and faith in a time when fear is rampant. I want those who know me to hold me to this statement. When I start going down a path of fear, (kindly) remind me of my words, of my mission to not perpetuate the fear that is already too prevalent, and instead, to be the change I wish to see. And yes, please remind me to breathe while you're at it.