Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Facing Fear Head-On

My daughter, my ever capable daughter, is facing a crisis. She is facing fears I had long buried, and brought them galloping forward. At the moment she is the only bread winner in the family. She is suffering burnout and her supervisor is not sympathetic. She can look for other work, of course, but a job hunt could not be happening at a worse time.

She is doing all she can to stay calm. She reminds me regularly that she must put all her fears on God so that she does not become embittered. She is practicing her smile. I worry.

The thing is, I thought I'd fought my battle with my inner fears, and largely won. It just goes to show how quickly they can come roaring back, and how careful I must be to remember the lessons from years past.

Fear can be helpful in a true crisis. A car zipping past my toes can set my heart racing, and for good reason. But of course in this wealthy society of ours, with it's vast web of safety nets, there are very few times to be truly afraid. There will be food on our table and a roof over our head. No terrors will come bursting through the door to threaten our family.

The fears that we usually face and are not so healthy are the grinding, niggling worries that all is not fine, that all I have could be taken away in a heartbeat, and that life could suddenly get much, much harder. This fear wears because the "enemy" is ambiguous, there is no fight to be fought, no place to run to. I've seen the product of this type of fear on some of my co-workers. Fear of the unknown "traps" them in a job they no longer enjoy. Bitterness does follow, and a formerly productive and happy person brings their own brand of poison to work every day. Besides their influence on others, I wonder how they can live such a compromised life? Every day must be a struggle. Surely the unknown is an adventure worth taking; both for their sake and for everyone around them.

Similarly, I caught myself projecting my fears on my children when they were young adults. I'd seen the results of fear parenting on other families, and I did not want that for myself. The mother who fears teen pregnancy (perhaps remembering her own failings) calls her daughter a slut in a moment of passion. Good parents burden a good child with curfews and ever higher grade expectations. Both parents want the best for their children, of course, but by projecting through fear they risk the very things they feared.

How much better to speak in to our children through our hopes and dreams, projecting our confidence, and reassuring them that they are smart and good enough to make the right choices.

Similarly at work, how much better to focus on the parts of the job that we love, to take control of our career, and to see change as an opportunity.

So anyways, my daughter's crisis brought home my own fears all over again. I want my daughter, her family, my granddaughter to be secure. If my daughter stumbles, how ever will the family be cared for? I am reminded of when I was a single parent, raising my two children alone, and facing a layoff with my employer. I was filled with fear that all that I'd worked for to provide security for my children would be ripped away. Our little family had come such a very long way. I feared the welfare line again. I remember applying like crazy for positions that came open. I fantasized having a few moments alone with the head of the organization letting him know personally the impact of the layoff on our little family.

Luckily I did not follow through on my bitter fantasy and found employment instead. I reached a new level of strength and independence. It turns out that the forced move taught me to walk with light feet and to seize opportunities as they come.

Now I must face my fears once again and be sure I do not project them on my daughter. When she faces me with that fragile smile, I'll smile back. I will tell her all will be well. Her confidence, her strength, her abilities will shine through.

Just give it time.