Monday, September 30, 2013

The Fear...

Tonight some friends of mine discussed the topic of fear. They graciously requested my input. I told them I did not have a solution to dealing with fear. But I said in the 1990s a largely unpopular band from Sheffield, England1 wrote a song called The Fear. In it the singer complains of his apprehension toward loneliness. (Specifically a fear of never getting laid again.2) A legitimate fear. In thinking about that song, I thought of myself 15 to 20 years ago. The things I feared then. Arguably the things I fear now are far greater, worldly, incomparably more complex. Certainly more soul-crushing. But when I reflect on how I felt 15 and 20 years ago—fraught with anxiety, steeped in ennui, afraid for the future—I can recognize that those fears and concerns felt just as weighty then as the fears and concerns I saddle myself with to this day. I felt an equal amount of shittiness then as I do now, even though my circumstances are very different. My friends spoke of fear which can spur a series of behaviors and events that lead to more and more trouble, and there is no question about that… But perhaps in seeing that life in that younger time was just as uncomfortable (up in my head) as it is now, I have to at least acknowledge that I survived. Repeatedly, the universe showed me that I am okay; things turned out fine. I didn’t end up homeless. I didn’t go without love or attention or whatever I needed. So regarding it in that light suggests the illusory nature of fear, almost neutralizing its debilitation. The trick is in continually seeing it as such.

Comparing a baseline sensation [then] with a follow-up sensation [now] under the influence of a sustained and identical variable [fear] that produces mostly equivalent outcomes across time [a non-catastrophic life, in a variety of circumstances] somewhat neutralizes the variable. Right? The variable really didn’t do a goddamn thing. Well, I know what it did. It lead me to incite a series of behaviors and events that led to more and more trouble. But that’s because I let it do that.  

I told my friends I want to look back 15 to 20 years from now announcing to myself, "Oh what a strange time that was." Except that I want to remember it as unfamiliar, free of the illusory strangulation of fear. "What a relief it is to not feel that way anymore." Factually I want to look back in one year and be able to say that…

When I arrived at home tonight I parked my car and looked skyward at a seagull soaring around between some maples. My house is about 500 landlocked miles from the nearest ocean. My first thought was that it was an albatross. All I could do was shrug bemusedly and mutter to the sky, “No shit.”

1  By largely unpopular I mean little known (in America). The band is Pulp.
"The sound of loneliness turned up to ten."
Image by Sandy Star, available here.