Posts Tagged ‘fear’


Today the heart has forgotten
how to ask questions
such as how do I serve
instead, it scuttles like a spider
to the edges of the room,
looks for cracks to slip into and hide.
Today, it doesn’t feel safe to love.
It’s okay, I tell my scared heart.
It’s okay to slip away.
But come out again.
Everything depends on this.

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Freedom Night

All those words
I was afraid to say,
I gave them wings—
dark ink black wings—
and watched them
fly away, watched them
dive and circle,
swoop and soar,
enchanted by their flight.
The cage of shame
I’d kept them in,
it disappeared,
till all that was left
in me was sky.

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I am suddenly wildly sure
my life is very possible.
I am not asked to leap off cliffs
on a motorcycle or land a parachute
on a runaway train. Not expected
to pickpocket diabolical masterminds.
Not forced to drive a car backwards
down a long set of stairs in a crowded city
while handcuffed to someone else.
In fact, all I’m asked to do
is have a few conversations that,
upon reflection,
don’t seem so difficult to have after all.
Just one word in front of another.
No guns, no swords, no knives.
No one chasing me with a pipe.
All I need are a few well-placed adjectives,
like sorry, like grateful.
A few true nouns,
like connection. Like love.

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            with thank you to Joi Sharp
It’s like the scent of rain
after a month of drought—
the way it rises up and fills the lungs
and quiets the body
and softens the mind—
that’s what it’s like
when, after grasping
and spinning and reaching
and clenching, at last,
exhausted with my own fear,
I lay my hand on my own heart
and see through my thoughts
and practice loving
what is here beneath my palm:
this frightened woman
and the life that lives through her—
not a single promise that she will be safe,
but oh, as I press my hand
into the beat of her anxious heart,
I promise, she will be loved.

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One day, perhaps, I will be as fearless
as I was last night in my dream—
when I went careening over the high cliff,
and as I entered free fall, I thought,
wow, this is it, you really did it this time—
and as the air rushed past my face
I thought If these are your last few moments,
can you choose to enjoy them?
In every other dream of falling,
I fell into fear, a deep clenching.
But this time my arms unfurled full length,
my legs spread, my eyes widened,
and I gave myself to the falling.
God, I was free.
When I landed face first on a rooftop,
I was, for a time, motionless, bruised,
breathless, and then, sweet miracle,
thrilled by the fall, I walked away,
so much life in every step.

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After Softening

Sometimes, like today,
when I have opened my heart so wide
that anything at all might fly in—
a sweetness or a curiosity—
sometimes when I am most expansive,
a sinister whisper comes.
It flutters through my blood,
shudders in my heart.
Then I find on the floor
a slender rectangle of light
and lie for a time in the warmth.
The sun soaks in through my skin,
and I invite it deeper in.
I soften.
I rest my hands on my belly, my chest,
Notice their weight,
how the simple rise of breath
is enough to lift them.
Outside, there are chickadees
calling to each other.
I imagine them calling to me.
Swee-tee. Swee-tee.
Oh, fear that I am too much,
oh, fear that I dare to be too big,
I am not surprised you showed up today.
But see how the sun showed up, too,
the enormous sun with its unfailing radiance,
the giant sun with its unstinting glow
the generous sun came
and met me on the floor
to remind me what I can do.

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When fear scuttled through her thoughts
with its eight slender legs; when she recognized
the shiny black body, the bulbous abdomen;
when fear found all her corners and began
to weave inside her mind a home of steel-strong silk;
she did not try to befriend the fear.
Nor did she try to squash it,
though she had a sturdy book.

Not that she wasn’t afraid. In fact,
fear seemed reasonable, if she threatened the fear first.
Instead, as if she were her own sweet child,
she took herself by the hand
and walked right up to the web to explore—
noted the upper structural threads,
the tangle threads in the middle,
the vertical threads in the bottom designed to trap.

Every day she walked back to the web
and stared wide-eyed at the fear hanging upside down,
and then she’d leave and wander
in other rooms where there was low-angled light
the way Renoir might have painted it,
or rooms of flowers, or rooms of song,
rooms of laughter, rooms of starlight,
warm rooms with nothing in them at all.

Eventually she could predict where the fear would be.
Could walk right to its brand new web.

We couldn’t say she liked the fear there.
We couldn’t say she didn’t miss it when it left.

We could say she found a way not to feed it.
We could say that while it lived in her,
she found a way to meet it.

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When anger enters your body
and swells in you, expands in you
until you don’t fit inside your skin,

when fear enters me
and grows like a virulent weed,
its new shoots propagating
with alarming speed until
its tendrils escape through my throat,

when our voices escalate
to try to express in volume
how big our feelings have become,

then I want to meet you outside
in the center of the meadow
where we are humbled
by the ponderosa pine that stretches skyward,
dwarfed by the red mesa walls,
held by the crystalline airiness.

I want to remember in my body
this capaciousness, this generosity,
so that when I am not standing in the meadow
but in our kitchen or on a street corner
or watching the news,
I can remember the meadow with my whole being,
can remember the scale of sky and stars
and the vast reaches
of the ever-growing universe.

I want to hold you with that kind of openness,
want to relax into knowing we are held together
by the same forces that hold the constellations.
Imagine us all together now—comets, supernovas,
your anger, my fear, and all those countless suns.

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My heart races like a plane
traveling 575 miles per hour
to a country beset with flooding
landslides and significant damage
to roads, homes and buildings.
I watch myself rise from the table
and start to pace the house.
Are you really going to freak out?
I ask myself. I watch myself act out the answer.
Anxiety rushes in, bringing with it
the detritus of recent trauma.
I can’t lose another child, I think.
The idea floats atop wave after wave of fear.
You’re not being rational, says the mind,
but the adrenal medullas above my kidneys
start pumping hormones into the bloodstream,
And I pace the rooms of the house
as panic rises in me like tropical rainwater
gushing over riverbanks.
I hear an inner voice that says,
Even if she is not okay,
you will be able to meet whatever comes.  
But I do not want to.
My lungs can’t get enough air.
I want promises she will be safe.
I want guarantees she will be protected
from harm. I want her wrapped in my arms.
My friends says, There are a lot of other mothers
in the world for our babies,
And I think of how I trust
the woman my daughter is with.
I think how I trust my daughter.
But the world, can I trust the world?
My friend listens when I tell her
I have never been a worrier,
but now I know too well the stakes.
She says to me,
You are not the same woman you were.
In that moment, I sit in the lap
of the truth, and though I don’t like it,
it comforts me, holds me
the way I wish I could hold my daughter.
I am a woman who knows
what it is to lose a child.
And I am a woman who
has been carried by love
when I could not carry myself.
I notice the panic and do not wish it away.
Of course it is here.
I feel cradled by my humanness.
I breathe out and in, out and in.
find the current in my breath—
sometimes a torrent, sometimes a stream.
I let myself ride on it.

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So I can’t save the world—
can’t save even myself,
can’t wrap my arms around
every frightened child, can’t
foster peace among nations,
can’t bring love to all who
feel unlovable.
So I practice opening my heart
right here in this room and being gentle
with my insufficiency. I practice
walking down the street heart first.
And if it is insufficient to share love,
I will practice loving anyway.
I want to converse about truth,
about trust. I want to invite compassion
into every interaction.
One willing heart can’t stop a war.
One willing heart can’t feed all the hungry.
And sometimes, daunted by a task too big,
I tell myself what’s the use of trying?
But today, the invitation is clear:
to be ridiculously courageous in love.
To open the heart like a lilac in May,
knowing freeze is possible
and opening anyway.
To take love seriously.
To give love wildly.
To race up to the world
as if I were a puppy,
adoring and unjaded,
stumbling on my own exuberance.
To feel the shock of indifference,
of anger, of cruelty, of fear,
and stay open. To love as if it matters,
as if the world depends on it.

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