What a month it has been, the intensity of it still lays on my heart and crowds in on the edges of my thoughts.
Have you, like me, felt the invitation to fear? I mean the daily, if not hourly, opportunities to welcome fear in and try to figure out how to entertain it. What do you serve fear? Coffee, tea, wine, a strong bourbon or maybe a cool fresh Cosmo? Do you bake it cookies or fry it some chicken? Fear seems to be hungry and there is never enough food or drink to satisfy it for more than a short while, unless it passes out on the couch while watching DVR episodes of Criminal Minds. Still, it wakes up in the morning ravenous and ready for you to take more time attending to it…or if you’re like me it sits up straight in the middle of night having just had a hot flash and then it refuses to go back to sleep. My ravenous fear is often fueled by scarcity, not feeling like enough or maybe that I won’t have enough or be able to control things enough to keep me and the ones I love safe and secure.
I am not enjoyable when I’m entertaining fear. I mean, fear is so all encompassing and demanding. I become short tempered, and a little snarky. Seriously, I don’t have anything left over, no reserves. I need reinforcements, you know, supporters, things like facts, data, clever links to expert opinions and other voices to join me in trying to figure out what the heck to do with the fear. It’s like I believe if we do something BIG we can stop fear in its tracks and banish it to the netherworld forever.
I lose sight of my life when fear is visiting. I stop being my generous, attentive, creative, kind self. I miss the daily goodness’s of my life.
It’s been a battle, choosing to say no to fear or showing it to the door and telling it to leave. I haven’t been able to do it alone.
Fear has dissipated and exited as I’ve engaged with my “people” more vulnerably, especially my husband.
Engaging started with gratitude for the simple things: remembering that we love to watch NCIS and Elementary in our bed while we eat cheese and crackers and jalapeños (so it’s weird, but it’s our thing and we love it), riding together in the morning to drop the girls at school so we can talk, listening to music while we read, laughing hard, talking to our big kids at 11pm because with the time change its only 8pm where they live. And, slowly words have been spoken about what I really fear, what has hurt me and what I am tenderly hoping lays ahead for us. In valuing the daily goodness’s, we have been finding our way back to one another in the deeper more vulnerable things.
It’s happened with my little girls as we’ve baked cookies and made smoothies and laughed in the aisles at Target when Elly tries on floppy hats and wedged high heel sandals. I felt gratitude with a friend over coffee for my birthday as I told her I was reading Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” and remembering that I used to be funny and have more fun, and my friend has known me long enough to remember that’s true.
I am realizing that what helps me rid scarcity and the fear it breeds is living my actual life, right here, right now with the people gathered around me.
Living through social media, blogs, twitter, news feeds, emails and Instagram is ultimately an escape from my real life. My real life affords daily opportunities to be present in moments that can tangibly change things for the better and cultivate gratitude so I can face the bigger things with less fear.
Five days from now is the start of Lent and the opportunity to live intentionally into the forty days leading up to Resurrection Sunday.
I’ve been readying myself for Ash Wednesday, March 1, by prayerfully considering what I will “give up” for Lent. I’ve thought about the importance of giving up that which numbs me and takes me out of my real life.
“The first challenge of Lent is to open ourselves to life. When we “rend our hearts” we break them open to things we are refusing for some warped reason to even consider. Lent is the time to let life in again, to rebuild the worlds we’ve allowed to go sterile, to “fast and weep and mourn” for the goods we’ve foregone. If our own lives are not to die from lack of nourishment, we must sacrifice the pride or the sloth or the listlessness that blocks us from beginning again.”
Sister Joan Chittister
What have you been refusing to even consider? Where have fear and scarcity seduced you away from your real life?
I invite you to join me in giving up whatever it is for the forty days of lent. Buy some prayer candles, and if you’re like me commit to keeping a vase of fresh flowers next to them, and live your real life by praying, aching, mourning and being present with your people and with Jesus while we walk towards Easter Sunday.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). She is the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for 30 years, she is mother to five kids. After a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. She writes about her life and her work here.