There is plenty to cause people to be afraid these days. We are bombarded twenty four hours a day with stories presented more to earn readers and viewers than to just present the news. The more titillating the piece the more likely it is to increase ratings, the holy grail of journalism in today’s super charged environment. Add to the mix hackers who foment terror with propaganda and it can sometimes be difficult to discern the difference between truth and fact. Rumors abound to add to the inflammatory atmosphere. Uncertainty provokes anxiety that grows faster than a pandemic.
Everyone has real personal concerns that are enough to keep them worrying. They may be financial or health related, social or physical. I can’t think of anyone who is not grappling with some private tragedy that saps energy and brings on insomnia. The added furor over issues that may or may not be as dire as they are presented only adds to the pressures of existence. Our natural instincts to react when signs of danger appear have been stressed again and again by predictions of terrorism, murder, pandemic, natural disasters. We don’t want to be ruled by panic or illogical thinking, but we also don’t want to get caught unprepared. We find ourselves wondering whether to just laugh and continue our routines or take warnings seriously and make changes to our lives. When the information that we gather becomes contradictory we don’t know who to believe and our concerns only grow.
I remember a long ago day in October when I arrived at school to find fewer of my fellow students in attendance. My teacher appeared to be unusually tense and ultimately she spoke to us about the Cuban missile crisis that was unfolding. It was honestly the first time that I had heard of such a thing. If my mother knew of it, she never mentioned it to me and my brothers. I remember being somewhat amused by my teacher’s concerns and advice for what we should do if an attack on our city occurred. Because my mother appeared to be so nonplussed by the event I took her cue and simply ignored the whole thing which ultimately turned out just fine. It would be years later before I realized the extent to which our country had been on the brink of nuclear disaster. When I learned the truth I was unable to decide if my ignorance had been best or if I should have been more serious and prepared for a dangerous eventuality.
I worry enough without additional input from muckrakers. I’m generally not so much fearful of what may happen to me but rather how to protect my loved ones from harm. My guess is that I take after my mother in that regard. When I lie awake at night it is never out of anxiety for myself but always from fear that one of my family members or friends my be in trouble. When I am frightened I try to take control of the situation. I become like a mama bird preparing and guarding her nest. I maintain an appearance of calm and quietly go about my days as routinely as possible while also gathering whatever I may need to overcome the demands of an emergency.
Fear is the most normal of human reactions and one that may actually help us to avoid danger. It also has the power of driving us inside our own minds, crippling our ability to lead normal productive lives. I watched mental illness turn my mother into a sad paranoid shell of herself. She hid behind heavy curtains in the darkness of her mind. Hers was a medical problem that righted itself only when she took medications designed to balance the chemicals of her brain. Most of us will never know the terror that her bipolar disorder created in her thoughts. Still if we let our anxieties overtake us we lose the joy that we need to get the most from each moment of our days.
I suppose that I have learned to keep my fears at bay by taking constructive actions that may or may not be of any consequence but nonetheless allow me to feel more optimistic. I insure my home against disaster knowing that I may not escape devastation but at least will have a means of rebuilding if the worst case scenario unfolds. I take care of myself with healthy habits of both body and mind understanding that there are no guarantees that I will not be struck with a difficult illness. I can only hope that my routines will at least provide me with a reservoir of strength in any eventuality. I avoid dangerous situations as I go about my business and drive with care knowing that none of my cautions are foolproof. I have a store of provisions in case of some unexpected disruption in the normal flow of the world. Like a Girl Scout I plan ahead just as I always have.
I suppose that the events of my lifetime have taught me to never say never. If someone had predicted my future when I was a child I would have scoffed at the very idea of things that ultimately happened. Perhaps I may have also been very afraid. Instead I went about my life being a bit cautious just in case. There have been times when my careful planning served me well but I have admittedly spent sleepless nights wondering and worrying needlessly. Life has taught me that dreams come true through hard work but nightmares sneak up on us when we least expect them. Having a Plan B and staying calm has helped me through such situations time again.