Probably one of the most popular or recognized quotes on fear is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I have no idea in what context Roosevelt coined this phrase, but I must say, I have to disagree.
Fear is not the only thing to fear. There are plenty of things to fear in life and for good cause, lest we find ourselves in a state whose fearsome unknown certainty has plagued mankind since the beginning: dead.
It’s only natural to fear certain things, and of course there are learned fears as well – socially fashioned fears that were it not for social perceptions, we’d have no fear of such things. Rather than assert that fear is the only true fear, we should focus on ways to cope with and overcome our natural and legitimate fears. Blindly ignoring them just won’t do. You might have more peace if you’re not a fear dweller, but turn a new corner in life and BAM, you run into something that makes your heart fall rapidly to its knees.
This is how my poor Toby Bear still lives. In fear of the dreadful corners. Around the corner from my open bedroom door is a loud air condition, and those awful corners hide what lurks beyond. He still remains, after 4 entire months at my new apartment, bound to my bedroom despite the open door policy I implement every day.
My precious little Toby is indeed a fraidy-cat. I can’t blame him. Watching Cat Daddy and learning to read my cat’s cues helps me to understand where his fear comes from. I have some ways to help him get past the Big Bad Wall Monster outside my bedroom door, the main one being to switch the location of his food. At some point, he’ll have to come out.
I’ve tried the oh-so-dangerous carry-him-out method (several times actually), and well, were I not strong and he not small, I’d be in a world of hurt with cat scratch fever. And after I set his rigid little body down on the floor he either stays flat like a wounded pancake kitty or darts under the couch to remain there for days or until I heft it forward and scoop his fear-flattened furry self into my arms.
So for the meantime, I’m trusting him to do it in his timing, and that’s ok. Pre-mature or forced encounters with fears can do more harm than good.
I learned the other day, though, that Toby is not the only fraidy-cat in the house. I’m not referring to Timba, who named after the white lions of Timbavati South Africa, is filled with courage and curiosity to mostly healthy degrees. Nope, I am the other fraidy-cat. I generally don’t think about fears until I encounter them, and rarely do I encounter a truly fearful thing.
However, I had the heart-drop-to-its-knees reaction this past weekend when my roommate and I were returning from an outing. She opened the door and Timba strolled casually between her legs and made it across the threshold. His whole body was outside and there went my heart! Thank God he was chilled and laid back, that he didn’t dart for the adventurous Great Beyond he stares at all day through the sliding glass door. And thank God no bird or rabbit happened to catch his eye in that pivotal moment. I uttered a wordless vocalization and my roommate scooped him indoors.
I can’t imagine my heart rate and adrenaline rush if he’d actually run off. I can’t imagine my Timba, whose precious being is entwined with my heart, being lost or hurt or worse. I am a fraidy-cat when it comes to my cats. I don’t dwell on the what-ifs, but the occasional scare flits through my mind. It’s a way of telling me to be prepared, and slowly I’m taking action. Eventually I will probably get pet insurance, and soon, and very soon, Mr. Timba is going to get micro-chipped.
In fact, May is micro-chip your pet month, so I’m hoping for a discount, perhaps this weekend. And Toby’s chip needs to be updated to the new address. So fear did serve a little bit of good. It was a motivator to get done what needs to be done.
John Lennon is quoted as saying “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.” Now this is a fear quote I experience as truth. My love for my cats motivates me, and so does my fear of any harm or loss regarding them. Love and fear seem intertwined. To experience love is to experience fear, and yet oddly, love overcomes fear on many occasions. I am motivated by them both, but mostly by love. Everyday is filled with love on some level. Fear can’t live when love is all around. It just jumps out every now and then, unwittingly aiding us to realize in greater measures just how wonderful and precious those things and people in our lives really are.