Anne Lamott wrote on her Facebook page the other day that her neighbors are all fretful. What a great word, fretful. Last week I caught a Rob Bell podcast where he talked about dread, too, about how many of us are carrying dread—fear of the future—with us right now, wherever we go.
We’re fretful and filled with dread.
I think that about sums it up.
I open my Facebook feed lately and it’s all full of angst and doom. Everyone is walking around wary. Between the election and the news and fact that it’s Halloween so there are probably more walking dead among us than usual, everyone is tense.
Honestly, we’re more than tense. We’re afraid.
We don’t like to say we’re afraid, so we call it something else.
You call it common sense. You call it being safe. You call it taking care of your flock. You call it protecting what you’ve been given.
It’s still fear under there. We’re all afraid sometimes.
But fear doesn’t serve us well. Fear makes us feel alone and small, like we have to protect and defend. It’s fight or flight, hit or hide. (I hide.)
That’s a sign that we need to look for the love. It might be love that looks like truth, or it might be love that looks like patience, or it might be love that looks like justice. It’s all love.
Because one of the things love does is, it sends fear away. Perfect love casts out fear, some of us like to say.
That is not a judgment, by the way. It does not mean that if you feel fear, you don’t have any love.
Perfect love casts out fear: this is a path.
Fear and love are signposts. If you’re stuck afraid, you know you’re not heading toward love. You know you’re going the wrong direction. You’ll be happier if you stop moving and check your map again.
You do not have to live in the past, with old wounds and regrets. (That’s where fear is born.)
You do not have to live in the future, with anxieties and what-ifs. (That’s where fear grows.)
You can sit here, in the present.
You can breathe here. You can rest here.
You don’t have to figure out how to turn off the part of your brain that notices scary things, either.
You just notice that fear as it comes up, and then you choose to say: This is not where I will set up camp. I only get to point my compass in one direction, and even if I’m in Fear right now, I’m going to turn toward Love. I’m going to grow in that direction.
In the meantime, I’m suggesting you name your fears.
Say them out loud, and preferably to someone who will hear you and help you look around for the signpost marked Love.
I’m suggesting you find someone or something to love today. Your pet. Your child. Your sister who always used to borrow your shoes without asking. The person who delivered your mail, because there could be something good in there.
(And when it turns out to be nothing but campaign mailers: maybe you love the recycling center, for taking them all away again.)
I’m suggesting you get a sandwich, or get some sleep.
Take care of the body that is carrying you around. The weight of this world is a lot.
I’m suggesting you turn off the endless news cycle awhile. Also all the channels with commercials, and any sites with political ads. So, okay, turn off all your screens. Get some fresh air. Feel the earth under your feet.
Remember what you love about being alive.
Remember that you love being alive. Remember that everyone else does, too. Remember that you have that in common.
You’re not as alone as the fear wants you to think. We’re not as different as fear tells you, either.
Check your map.
And then walk this way.