When Fear Has a Grip on You

When fear seizes hold of you, you have quite a difficult task ahead of you. This morning when someone wished me Happy Thanksgiving and asked how I was, I responded with: “I am riddled with fear.” Maybe a tad bit dramatic but it was truly how I was feeling and I was being honest.

For the last two nights I’ve had a difficult time falling asleep. On Tuesday afternoon I encountered an incident that shook me pretty intensely and made me look at the world with a little bit less trust.

A lot has been happening in the world lately that has left me jaded and with little hope for humanity; this incident cemented it a bit more. It’s as though abstractly, I go around as a  person of color knowing that some people in this world would rather I not inhabit the earth. Top that off with being female and queer and educated and you have a lethal combination guaranteed to piss off a good chunk of people, especially in these parts of rural America where I keep finding myself. But on Tuesday, I had the misfortune of seeing pure hate spewed out onto paper which was then slipped under someone’s door.

Some people will say it’s just one person. Some people will say we don’t all feel that way. Some people will say if you don’t feed people like this, they will lose steam. They are just cowards. These past few weeks though, it has been proven that sometimes it isn’t just that one person, and most certainly they don’t just lose steam.

As you already probably know about me, I have quite the vivid imagination. So over the last two nights since reading the words and seeing the picture on that note, I’ve been dreaming up all kinds of scenarios. In these scenarios of course no one speaks up for me as I am dragged out and tortured or shot.

So today I write to quelm my fears a bit, although I must say I am failing miserably. How do people who are consistently terrorized wake up and keep going? Humanity has proven time and time again to be capable of unconscionable acts. History is full of examples; you pick the year and we can find the samples to back up the question. So how do people keep showing up to work following notes like this one? How do people move on with their lives? Not look behind them every few seconds while walking? Not stick the key in the lock bathed in dread that there could be someone waiting behind the door?

Do we ignore the threats? Do we put in “measures” that propbably won’t prevent the person or people from doing actual harm if they are so determined. How do we resume life as “usual” after such a gross violation?

I wish I had answers. After the note was discovered, I said there wasn’t anything I would be willing to die for. I’ve heard people talk of maternal/parental instinct and doing everything to save their children, but on Tuesday afternoon, I really had to think hard. If going to work the next morning meant I was subjecting myself to getting shot or hung, then would I be a coward if I stayed home? Skipped town? Would I opt to be that brave teacher to save my students? Does choosing the skipping town option make me a lesser person?

I know I wouldn’t be here if my ancestors didn’t fight, weren’t willing to die for what they believed in. I hear this phrase often, and I believe it but today I question. Is it ok to protect my life first?

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4 comments

  1. Big hugs to you, and I wish there were more I could offer. I’ve had that thought, too, about not knowing if/when I would be brave enough to risk my life. (These days I feel a little more willing, but I really do think that’s maternal instinct rising up.) I believe it’s okay to protect yourself first. Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, they say in planes — but it’s also okay to not get on that plane in the first place. Even though our lives aren’t for us alone, still, in the end it is your life and it is (probably) the only one you get. And you’ve worked so hard to nourish yours. Do what you need to do, seek out what you need, to feel safe(r). Love to you.

  2. I have watched the world lately with the same sense of fear. But my fear is tinged with guilt. Guilt because I have knowingly brought two new beings into this place, one of whom was born just 7 months ago. He is a little boy of colour who could be killed simply because of that. Or not…he could die for no reason other than being at the wrong place and the wrong time. I look at my amazing children and wonder if I have really done right by them by bringing them into this world.

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