Jottings: Learning to cope with fear
Fear is sneaky. It can creep in around the edges of the happiest day. It can gnaw insidiously at your mind until it lives there, unchallenged and powerful. Yet some of us who have spent decades dealing with heart-hammering fears know that its power can be diminished or banished.
It isn't that we have been free of fear. Quite the opposite. For myself:
— fear was crouching under flimsy school desks as a young child, wondering when the atomic bomb would fall
— fear was listening on the radio in my college dorm room to the Cuban Missile Crisis unfold, knowing that if the Russian ships did not turn back with their missiles for Cuba that we would be at war.
— fear was hearing that my dear friend had drawn a low draft number and would soon be on his way to Vietnam, with a real possibility of only returning home in a casket.
— fear was walking home from work after dark in New York City knowing that there were those lurking nearby who might be intent on taking all that I had worked so hard to earn, and perhaps my life.
— fear was hearing that my very young child had a serious medical condition that could not be cured.
— fear was not daring to look at investment updates during recessions because we knew that part of the retirement money we had sacrificed to save over many years was now gone, forever.
There have been countless other times of fear for most of us, fear for our health or those of others, fear of losing those we love. But over the years we have endured and survived what often seemed unbearable in our lives, and we have found that the peace that follows is all the sweeter when the crisis has passed.
Today we watch the news and listen to the depression, even panic, of generations younger than us who perhaps are experiencing fears like this for the first time in their lives. The answer I have learned is this: to spend your worry only on what is in your control. Make the donation, wear a mask, pick up the litter from demonstrations or demonstrate yourself, wash your hands, write notes to those you may have not told how much they mean to you, plan your New Normal. And then take a deep breath or two. This too, shall pass. And you will be stronger the next time.
Peggy Keonjian is a member of the Jottings Group at The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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