This Fear Is Old.
This fear is old.
These are the words that hit me, after the sucker punch of anxiety which has almost floored me. Once again.
This wave of fear tells me of danger, of impending, life-threatening doom. The same fog of fears my body raises to successfully ground my creative self as she begins to take flight. Not the sort of grounding you do in yoga, where your roots reach into a beneficent Mother Earth. But the sort air traffic controllers do when they realize the plane has been overrun by terrorists.
My anxiety is a city of worries the shape and size of high-rise tower blocks that shut out the sun. It combines the hot fire of fear with the cold, dark, clammy, formless terror of despair.
It is as familiar as my own face. And yet it presents nothing new — no new insights, no new concerns. Just terror.
Fear seems to be creativity’s conjoined twin. But I forget. And so I only lay a place setting for creativity, when in barges fear and starts shitting on the table.
Each time I dare to share my work, to step further into my own creative power, fear emerges from the shadows. This wild beast I thought I had escaped. This terror I thought I had tamed. Here it is, holding me hostage once more.
I thought, at some point, perhaps my second book, or fifth, perhaps after my second birth, my third art exhibition that it would dissolve in the light of experience and evidence to the contrary, that the world will not end because I have opened my mouth. That I will not be killed for my words or my images. But it doesn’t. It hasn’t.
This fear is old. It reaches back to the first time I was silenced. The first time I was shamed. I have worked through these, I will the fear away.
But the words remain — This fear is old.
It is older than me. Tens of generations its roots go back. Oh, what this fear has witnessed, what it has heard over the centuries, the millenia. It knows the dangers, and warns me of them.
Beware. Stay small. Stay safe. Shut up, don’t draw attention to yourself.
Stay alive. Stay alive.
Here it is once more ripping my guts to shreds. I hold my mauled innards in my hands. The shame of it burns me. I am supposed to be able to cope. None of it is real, I tell myself. It’s all in your mind. The doctors can magic it away with medicine, with scientific words.
Except it is real. My body tells me this fear is as real as me. Perhaps more so.
This fear is as old as the world.
I am tired of it. Not just tired to my bones of being woken up at first light with a pounding heart. Of lying awake at night, willing darkness to wash over me, rather than another night of nightmares.
But tired of this. Fear.
This feeling of wanting to vomit my own guts. The feeling that my knees are going to crumple beneath me. The dry mouth. The clenched jaw, solar plexus on fire. The paranoid thoughts. The tight chest. I am sick and tired.
This fear is old.
And not just old for me. Nor those in my life whose hearts must sink as I announce once more the arrival of this unwanted guest.
But this fear that awakens within me is not just personal. He is yours too. And theirs. Personal.Collective. Fear is humanity’s shadow. It is ours. And it is old. And he is casting his shadow over us all right now. As city after city are plagued by his presence — he comes wearing the mask of a bomber or a gunman, a policeman or politician.
We are sick of fear. Sick from fear.
Some of us may feel it and be crippled by it. Some may feel it and be stopped in our tracks. And many are so numb they do not feel it at all.
Some of us avoid it by playing it safe, by setting up camp well within the bounds of our comfort zones. Others will fight fear with fear and use it to throw flames at others — attacking and shaming and trolling.
However we respond, still it is there. That fear which sets off our bodies like a fire alarm. That makes our hearts pound and we reach for the vodka, the cigarette, the Valium, the cake, the candy… anything to dial down the terror and let us breathe.
This fear is old.
But it is ruling the game here today. Not just in our own private lives and careers, but in the world. Fear rules.
Old fear. Ancient fear. The wild animal within awakened by the swirling threats without. The terrorists and trolls outside have replaced the threat of lions and tigers for most of us. We live on constant red alert.
How can we negotiate a truce? How can we make a peace treaty with it? How can we tap into its power and transform it into something that fuels us positively, something that energizes rather than paralyzing and constricting us?
This fear is old. Its time has come. We are entering a new era.
Or rather, we can, we will, if we can find a way to transmute its energy into creating change. If we can step through the portal that fear offers us, and into the chaos of creative potential.
This is the creative revolution. When artists and activists step up into their power and find a way to harness the old energy of fear, so that it does not rule the game. This fear is old. What can it teach us? Our time has come.
Lucy H. Pearce is the author of numerous life-changing non-fiction books for women, including her most recent, Medicine Woman: Reclaiming the Soul of Healing, sister book to the Nautilus Award-winning Burning Woman. It was voted one of the 100 best new books in the CIIS Women’s Spirituality awards. Her other books include: The Rainbow Way: cultivating creativity in the midst of motherhood and Moon Time: harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle — both have been Amazon #1 bestsellers in their fields. Lucy’s work is dedicated to supporting women’s empowered, embodied expression through her writing, teaching and art. She lives in East Cork, Ireland, where she runs Womancraft Publishing — creating life-changing, paradigm-shifting books by women, for women. You could also contact her via her creativity and authentic living blog.