14 December 2012

Fear is my companion

In: All Ages

I wrote this in 2007, in what feels like a different life. At the time, my kids were 7 and 3. I didn't know it at the time, but we were at the beginning of a three-year period of extreme difficulty for my family. I was about to get familiar with fear in a very personal way.

We came through those years, and my family is stronger and happier than ever. But today's news of the tragic school shooting in Connecticut has brought back the feeling I think we all share: our awareness of our extreme vulnerability as parents.

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to those affected by this horrible act. In a way, we're all affected. I think it's important to acknowledge that. -- Asha

Arianna Huffington's recent book, On Becoming Fearless...In Love, Work, and Life, is now out in paperback. To commemorate the occasion, Mother Talk is hosting "Fearless Friday," and I'm happy to participate.

I never really knew fear until I became a mother. Frankly, till then, everything had been pretty easy. I've been blessed with any number of factors that made my life what it is: loving parents, adequate food and water, a secure home, a healthy, functional body, a predisposition toward optimism...the list goes on. Life has had its share of bumps and switchbacks, but nothing that made me question my place on the road, or my ability to travel it.

Then my son arrived.

I've written plenty about my difficult transition to motherhood and I won't repeat it here. Suffice it to say the bumps grew into mountains, and I had to learn to climb.

But the relative ease or difficulty of my transition is beside the point. The fear I've felt since becoming a mother has everything to do with my elemental love for my children. I've described this love as "intense, almost crippling," and I don't think that's hyperbole. When the stakes are so high, the world's randomness ceases to be theoretically interesting. It's cause for terror. The tragedies that befall "other people" don't seem as remote as they once did.

Fear now has a permanent spot at my table. I can't tell you I've conquered it, or overcome it, or even minimized it. My triumph is that I've learned to live with it. I've learned to accept it. In some small way, I've learned to embrace it, as it has shown me what I share with other parents throughout the world, throughout history.

A member of our blogging community, VDog, lost her nephew, Noah, in this tragedy. If you'd like to donate to help Noah's family, they've set up a donation page here.

The United Way has also set up a Sandy Hook Support Fund.

Your comments

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It's probably easier to be fearless if you have a bizillion bucks like Arianna...

Fear and its sibling, paranoia, have kept me out of many bad situations and potentially harmful accidents. I think fear is a wonderful thing.

Nick

I hear you, Nick. But being rich doesn't protect one from fear or its consequences. It may give the illusion of doing so, but that's it.

It also doesn't determine one's response to fear. Rich or poor, it takes strength and humility to live one's life proactively, instead of in constant avoidance of fear.

Note: The two comments above were written in response to the original post in April 2007.

Thank you so much for reposting this. I shared this with my husband; you articulate the reasons for my undercurrent of parental anxiety, which he's never experienced in quite the same way, better than I ever could.

Don't hate, Nick. We all love our kids the same.

Asha, this is an amazing post. I feel exactly the this way. I was entirely fearless before children and now I'm as you say just living with it. It's always there but we have to breathe and live as fearlessly as possible for our children, for our own happiness. Thanks for writing this.

I keep reading "Don't politicize this" but I disagree. Of course, show empathy with those in the wake, but yes, make this political. Gun control is not a partisan issue. Contact all your federal officials with one simple email at congress.org . Make this be the change. And then hug your kids.

I'm in agreement with Jill, but I'd add mental health support to gun control. Somewhat interestingly, there was a terrible attack by a man on schoolchildren in China today. Except he wasn't armed with a gun, but a knife. Twenty-two were injured, but last I heard there were no fatalities. And the Chinese media are addressing mental health concerns, not knife control. As critical as limiting access to firearms is, we cannot let it distract from the equally critical issue of mental health care.

My heart goes out to the families in Connecticut, I can hardly scratch the surface of imagining what hell they are going through today and in the coming weeks and months. My prayers are with them, and with our country.

Jill: I agree.

To all: When you are ready, please call your congressperson and share your thoughts on what you want to see change in this country. You don't have to have well-developed arguments or a smooth speech. Just call and share your feelings. The aide on the other end of the line will be friendly and receptive, and the message WILL be delivered. It's something you can DO in the face of something impossible to understand. Plug your zip code in here to get the phone number. http://www.house.gov/representatives/

As a teacher, my hearts goes out to the children. I think of my students. I teach K-6 and wonder who could do this to children this age. I think of the teachers who protected their kids. I think of "how would I react?" Am I brave enough. Only God knows how I would react. I think of my family. I think of my son a high school student. I think of my wife, also a teacher. I think of God providing comfort to these children, their families, the other students, the staff, the community, the emergency response providers. I pray for forgiveness. I pray I can be the kind of teacher these teachers were. I continue to pray…

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