FEAR is a 4-Letter Word

I was a guest on a show last week, and someone asked, “Why do Baby Boomers seem to be so fearful?” That question surprised me because I had not looked at myself that way. I am a Boomer. I have taken a lot of risks in my life, starting with leaving a marriage when I had two small children and no college degree.

But right now, FEAR is looming. A lot of it has to do with the virus. For the past 8 months, we have been mostly isolated. With warm sunny days, we were able to get out, work in the yard, take walks, sit outside with friends and neighbors, socially distanced. Now, with the colder, shorter days, the isolation seems to feel heavier.

I prepared myself emotionally for Thanksgiving. I cooked my own dinner and had Zoom gratitude sessions with my family. A lot of people did not abide by the CDC guidelines to stay home. A lot of people have not abided by the recommendations to wear masks and not gather in large groups indoors. Now the virus is spreading faster than ever.

Which means, what about Christmas? Will I be able to visit my son’s family? They moved to Nashville, just before the beginning of the pandemic. They built a new house, the kids are in new schools, and I have not seen any of this. It is breaking my heart.

As we get older, we have gathered successes and failures, gains and losses; we are starting to experience some of the physical effects of aging or illness; we have responsibilities which include not just mortgages and daily living, but for many it includes caregiving.

This time of life is also about rediscovering who we are, with possibly the end of a career, no more kids at home, and more time to fill. Balancing in the boat we find ourselves in may seem precarious. We may appear cautious. Caution is not the same as fear and I don’t want fear to become the captain of my boat.

Being fearful can rob us of joy. It can rob us of a sense of accomplishment. It can undermine our confidence. Stepping out into the unknown does appear scary, but not taking the step may leave us feeling diminished, thinking “what if?”

Fears come up to protect you from potential hurt, failure or pain. But you have lived through hurt, failures and pain. What if the fear is holding you back from potential joy, a sense of freedom, a chance to rediscover your essential self?

I used to scuba dive. As part of becoming a certified diver, you learn to take your mask off underwater, put it back on, clear it, and not inhale the water. They teach you this so you will be prepared if your mask was to be kicked off or damaged in some way. On a dive in the Cayman Islands, I was following the dive master, and it appeared that she disappeared into a cave. There is a special certification for cave diving, and I did not have that. I also did not feel comfortable with the idea of being in a confined space where someone could kick my mask. We were in the middle of the ocean. I had no idea where the dive boat was. I had to follow. I held back until I was the last one to enter, making sure I was leaving a good distance between me and the person ahead of me. (I guess I was practicing social distancing back then). After a short while, I saw light. We had not entered a cave we had entered an underwater tunnel!  I felt such a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I had faced my fear and come out on the other side of it feeling exhilarated.

Caution is smart. You would not cross a street without looking both ways. Once you see that all the vehicles are stopped or no vehicles are coming, you start across.  You do not stay on the sidewalk because you are fearful that at some point a car or bus or truck could come.  You cross the street, after being cautious.

What does this have to do with visiting Nashville during the Corona virus?

I miss my son and daughter-in-law and grandkids terribly. I am going back and forth with the thought of “should I go” or “this too shall pass” and eventually we will all be able to be together again. 

Diving was something I had training for. I had some sense of control. I felt that I was prepared to save my own life if I had to. There is no training for facing a pandemic. I have no control.

FEAR is a 4-letter word. Caution is not a 4-letter word.

3 thoughts on “FEAR is a 4-Letter Word

  1. Hi Wendy,
    I certainly understand how you are feeling since I have similar worries about the Christmas holiday. It is a time we want to be surrounded by family and friends. I have plans to visit my brother and family. I was there for Thanksgiving and had not seen them since July. I saw more friends than family during this pandemic. I feel we should all wear masks inside too as Dr. Fauci advised, and think that helps a lot. My family didn’t wear them, but I did. When I gather with friends, we all wear the masks inside. Perhaps if your family all wore them, it would make it safer, but then there is the travel there too piece, if by plane. It is a judgement call. I think that is courageous that you went diving and that is a great achievement. Thanks for sharing the story and for connecting too. I am glad I was able to read it.

    1. Josephine, thanks for your thoughts. This is a tough decision. Caution is facing something you feel like you have some control over. Fear stops us. I feel I have little control over the virus, so caution may be the best step.

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