Thursday, January 20, 2011

Monsters Unincorporated

Remember when you were a kid and used to be afraid of monsters under your bed or in the closet? Even though you'd never actually seen one in person, and even though your parents promised you they didn't exist, you knew enough to be scared. When your parents looked in the closet for you and checked under the bed, you weren't really reassured; you only had no other recourse but to accept that the monsters were not there for the moment, and hope you'd fall asleep before that moment passed.

Now grown, our monsters often still exist just as strongly. The old ones of unimaginable ugliness, size and stealth are gone, but we've created new ones just as formidable. The adult monsters I often hear described are fears of a different nature. Fears of: global warming, a recession comparable to the Great Depression, a nuclear holocaust, a tyrannical or uncaring government, the destruction of Earth. Or on a more personal level, fears of: losing a job, losing a loved one, failure, retirement, loneliness, financial ruin.

Rarely do adults admit to fear. Rather, we mask them in political palaver, adamant condemnations of others, and call them "concerns."

But these concerns seem awfully similar to the childhood monsters that lived under the bed. Never actualized, never clarified, never truly conquered, always stifling peace and joy.  Our adult monsters are much worse than any childish monsters, because we are now responsible for our own safety. No longer can anyone else allay our fears, it's up to us to do it ourselves (with God's help). And most people don't want to face their monsters.

I choose to fight. Early in my adult life, I began to learn that if something scared me, then I'd better do it or face it, because the not knowing was my real fear. I found I had to look under the bed in order to sleep. So, I applied for jobs I had no skills for, not knowing if I could succeed (I did). I married, not knowing if it would last (it didn't). I had children, not knowing if I could raise them well (I did). I acted in a play, not knowing if I could act (I couldn't). I sang in public, not thinking I could sing well (I can't). I encouraged my girls to be independent, not knowing if they would be safe (I redefined safe). I taught English, not knowing if I could teach (I could). I backpacked in Alaska, not knowing if I was prepared (I wasn't). I participated on mock trial teams, not knowing if I would win (I won and I lost). I am opening a restaurant, not knowing anything about the business (it will be fun, whether it works or not).

I hope to fight my fears as long as I live, because that's how I grow. That's how I have peace. I find it much easier to fight now, because I have faith that even the worst possible result is bearable. Failure is not indicative of being a loser; not even trying is. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" said FDR. Bully that!

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