No, not that F word – as a Massachusetts native, that’s a major component of my vocabulary, and I could never give it up.
I’m talking about the other four-letter F word: Fear.
According to Psychology Today, fear is an “emotional response induced by a perceived threat, which causes a change in brain and organ function, as well as in behavior.”
Fear can be useful in the right setting – say, when a bear chases you or a rattlesnake slithers by. But when you constantly stress about imagined dangers, it’s a quick slope into insomnia, panic attacks, and in my case…whiskey pizza cravings.
Once upon a yester-decade, I feared all the usual stuff: spiders, clowns, and for some reason, a little wooden chair in my dollhouse that I thought had evil powers.
Over the years, my fears morphed into bigger things, like earthquakes, car crashes, and blowing up my kitchen. (But I still don’t understand the difference between “baking” and “broiling.”)
After my whole cancer debacle in 2017, fear took on a whole new meaning. Suddenly my old worries seemed silly. I no longer had the headspace to stress about black widow spiders lurking around my pillows – now I wondered whether I’d live to see my 40th birthday.
As I navigated the rocky path of chemotherapy and surgery, I began to comprehend the power of fear. I was terrified of shaving my head. I dreaded my first chemo session. The thought of a hysterectomy made me want to barf. But one by one, I made it through those milestones without a problem. I saw that the anticipation leading up to those events was always worse than the actual event itself.
Upon finishing chemo in September, I desperately needed to clear my head so I visited Sedona. (If you’ve never been, you GOTTA go – it’s absolutely magical.) I booked an excursion into one of Sedona’s legendary vortexes and got some wonderful clarity from my tour guide, Jared. We talked about everything I’d been through in the last 6 months, along with the long list of fears that consistently plague my psyche (pertaining to financial stability, career trajectory, airplane turbulence, North Korea, political tensions, my seeming lack of achievements, a cancer recurrence, and the size of my butt).
Jared said that rather than stress about each of those triggers, I should try and adjust my outlook to not view the world through fear-colored lenses. Doesn’t that sound so easy? A simple perspective shift. But that’s easier said than done.
A few months after my Sedona trip, I started getting pains in my abdomen – in the same spots where my tumors had lived earlier that year. Terror gripped my entire soul for a couple weeks. Was the cancer back? Did I eat too many gummy worms and let the sugar feed those demonic cancer cells? Was I dying?
As it turns out, no, those pains were just from my body adjusting to a new gym regimen. But the fear crept in and took control. That’s when I decided to push back and never let the F word win again. I’m still very much a work in progress but I’ve finally found ways to let it all go. Daily meditation. Taking CBD oil. And approaching life with an air of gratitude. That may not be the ultimate winning formula, but it’s definitely on the right track.
Now you’ll need to excuse me as I check my pillowcases for 8-legged predators….