Death · Health · Repatria · Spirituality · Trauma · Women

Holding Fear’s Hand

The Claw
The Claw.
Ink on Paper. Istanbul. 2007.

A recent meme in one of my networks was the idea of “I eat fear”. From the moment I first heard it I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I’m generally very careful about what I consume. I only eat organic and humanely raised animals. I drink quality water. I stay away from Fox News and its minions. I feed my brain with literature and art. The idea of eating fear sat wrong.

Then, my friend and Inspiring Blogger Awardee Kiri Westby did an interview in which she talked about how meditation helped her deal with her work as a human rights activist in war zones. Kiri said that in dangerous life-threatening situations — like carrying thousands of dollars to a women’s group in The Congo while being confronted by a group of boy soldiers with AK-47s, and when she was detained in a Chinese prison and tortured for demonstrating for a free Tibet — she was terrified, but meditation taught her how to “hold fear’s hand” in order to get her job done.

Holding fear’s hand.

That sits right.

At the end of December 2012, I held fear’s hand when I sat down with noted radio journalist Ed Champion to recount my experience of surviving a gun crime for a series he was doing on gun control in America. Telling a stranger about one of the worst nights in my life and the loss of my darling Wendy was a kind of intense I haven’t experienced in some time.

Listening to Kiri’s talk made me realize that post-trauma I had internalized fear. I had unwittingly eaten it, and like a fungus it’d been growing inside. Crippling me, physically and emotionally. Causing illness, anxiety, night terrors, rage that would burst from me like the alien out of my chest. You can’t digest fear, it stuffs up all your organs, it hardens your heart, it makes it impossible to trust people. It makes it impossible to forgive.

Getting fear out of my body and instead holding its hand in the last few weeks has shifted my inner tectonics.

I was terrified to talk about surviving a gun crime, now I’m ready to do it again, and again, in the hopes that my story will change someone who loves guns ideas about the damage these things do in the world.

I’m terrified to put myself out there in a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund my second American Monsters novel, but that’s exactly what I will do in May.

An underlying sense of anxiety has abated for the first time in years, comforted that Fear is now external and will be there to hold my hand. My body is thankful Fear no longer lives inside it.

Fear will always be with me, I accept that, and that is okay. I need Fear, we all do, to tell me when something’s not right. I need Fear to tell me now is the time to be strong. I need Fear to tell me this is the moment to cut and run.

Fear has a great deal to teach, but not if you eat it.

Now, if I could just do the same with anger, I’d be a whole new person.

My greatest love and thanks to my soul sister, Kiri, and her wisdom. I’m so blessed and honored to have such an amazing woman be a part of my extended family. You see why I gave her an Inspiring Blogger Award?

©2013 Sezin Koehler, Image via Zuzu Dalí