F is for Faith

I’ve tried in vain for the last two months to write the next essay.  It turned out I had chosen the wrong word.  

This was, well, another F word. A first.

As such, I wasn’t aware of the consequences I may suffer if I mistakenly plucked a malapropos noun from the dictionary and used it to define part of me.

I wanted to write about fear.  After all, I know that word intimately.  Large swaths of my life have been spent living in it, cowering from it, and, occasionally, facing it head on, sword drawn in my futile attempts to slay the beast. 

So there I was, dredging up the deep recesses of my psyche, trying to give you, dear reader, a vulnerable look at how entwined my identity was with my fears.

I shone a spotlight on my fears.  I tried to unravel them, to unwind the snaking cords that wrapped around my heart, to explain them all to you.  I wanted you to see how pregnancy had stoked the lingering fearful idea that “I am not enough.” I pushed down the stairwell, deep into the cellar, where I hoped to find the root of it all. I prayed that by doing so, I’d find something beneficial in the depths, something to offer both you and I in the way of remedy, in the way of relief. I wanted to provide an origin story.  I wanted to provide for us an abdication, a way to permanently dethrone Fear.  I wanted to save you, and in the process, save myself. 

I ended up sinking.

It took me quite a while to come to terms with this.  I was frustrated.  I didn’t want to write anything else until I could unlock this door.  I thought that if I could figure out how to eradicate fear, I’d release the secrets to prolific creativity, to happiness, and that I’d find a way to live my life as I intend to 100% of the time: creating inspired fun and fostering uninhibited joy.

That’s not how this works. Fear, as it is, is a fiction.  I say this as someone who sees its very real, earthly effects with some regularity in the form of panic attacks, so trust that I say this with kindness and compassion, and I don’t take your fears lightly.  The fictional nature of fear, in my opinion, makes it all the more insidious. It needn’t be invited to be present.  No, fear can float through bolted doors and shuttered windows.  It can break any blockade.  Even when you’ve stamped your feet and said your final, exasperated farewell to fear, it’ll find a way to slither in and outstay its welcome.  It can do this because it exists within us; fear is nothing but our own misguided perception of the world around us.  Try as you may, you cannot snuff out fear, because its flame burns within.  You are your fear.

That’s a rather drab outlook, I know.  But trust me, it gets better.  I realized I was approaching the fear problem with the wrong tool.  I was focusing on the wrong word.  Instead of finding a way to lock down the darkness, to hide it away, I only had to look at the other side of the coin to see what was really missing—to reclaim an antidote for my, at times, crippling anxiety.  I needed the light.  

I needed an antonym.

I needed an opposite.

I needed to have faith.

Just as fear is the unfounded belief that something in your plans is going to go wrong, faith is the blind acceptance that things may also go right.  So similar, fear and faith.  Cut from the same mental cloth.  Both of them require you to give credence to a future yet-to-be realized, a prediction, an unmaterialized outcome.

Perfect compliments, a yin and yang.  

Faith is the trickier member of the dyad to harness in our current climate.  It’s hard for us to grab onto when we’re fed a cultural diet heavy in fear, but it’s even harder to share that faith with others.  For some reason, it is far less acceptable to have a belief that things may go right than things may go wrong. This makes me so sad. 

I’m sad that I was more comfortable sharing all the things I was scared of, dreading, and believing would befall me than I am sharing all the things I actually believe are good in this world.

I’m sad that I defaulted to fear instead of faith because it has become commonplace to use our fears, anxieties, and general misgivings as a way to bond with other people. 

I’m sad that I felt disinclined to share my optimism, as so often people confuse it with ignorance, naivety, or a denial of the world’s problems. 

I refuse to let my fear hold me back from sharing my faith statements any longer.  I want to—no, I need to tell you about them.  I want to start the conversation.  

I have faith in a lot of things.

I have faith in the inherent goodness of all people.  I believe that, at the soul level,  I am them and they are me, and whatever I see reflected back in their actions is just a mirror for my own inner world.

I have faith that God exists.  I believe we are God’s grandest experiment, we are God’s chance to get to know all aspects of itself.

I have faith that what I think, I become.  Our thoughts are our most powerful creative engine (even moreso than our action) and I believe that my thoughts create my reality.

I have faith in forgiveness, and I believe holding onto grudges will steadily poison our hearts.

I have faith in ease and grace.  I believe that life doesn’t have to be hard, and that it is possible to live entirely in ease, and when we need to course-correct a mistake, grace.  I believe that our mistakes are miracles too.  As Gabby Bernstein would say, “Every obstacle is a detour in the right direction.” 

Most of all, I have faith in you, dear reader.  I believe that no matter whether or not you agree with one, three, or none of my faith statements, that you can help shift this story.  I believe that if you’ve read this far, you also see the detriment of only shining a light on our fear, on only highlighting that one facet of who we are.  

Both our fear and our faith reside in our inner world, after all.  We choose which lens to view our current situation through—and in that way, we are truly the dreamers of our own dream.  We wield immense power in that way.  The outcomes of our days have very little about what external situation we come across, but have everything to do with the way we choose to show up in the world.  

In the end, I couldn’t write that essay on fear, because that wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time at the keyboard, just as I cannot live in fear, because that is not how I want to spend this time on planet earth.  I wonder, though—why is our culture so fear-based? Why is that our common thread?  I know when I fall into fear (which is still more often than I’d like), I feel as though I’m building a protective shell, a coating that will protect me from all the inevitable disappointments, dangers, and disasters that exist.   It’s no real protection, though. The fact remains: no matter how much fear, judgment, and misery we project on ourselves and on this world, there is no remedy for death.  Our fear will not shield us from it. We cannot shame death away with our judgments.  Our misery won’t make death pity us and skip our soul this round.  The fact that death comes for us all (and as sentient beings, we are aware of this) but that we don’t concretely know what comes after, drives most of the world and its actions.  If I travelled in deep into the recesses of your fear cellar (and you to mine), we’d find some variation on that theme: “being afraid to die because/before/as a result of...”  If we can flip that script, if we can accept death as the end of one particular journey and the beginning of a new one, I do believe we can find limitless freedom in that small kernel of faith.  

As I travel into the final weeks of pregnancy, this great advent, my new beginning as a mother—I have two distinct choices, this I know for sure.  I can approach the transition into the unknown, this death of who I was and birth of who I am going to be in two ways.  In fear, I could trudge forward with leaden heaviness, dreading all the things that could go wrong, lamenting the changes that have to occur in my life.  Or, with my faith, which may even appear smaller than a mustard seed at times, I could choose to believe that change is miraculous, my life is divinely guided, and my new world will be what I make of it.  Both options exist only in the ether right now, and it’s up to me—it’s up to all of us, really—to choose.