How cliche is it to say, “life is a journey” and “just enjoy the ride?”
Fact is, life is all about the things happening as we watch the passage of time, and how we respond or react to those events creates our character and builds our persona.
And with what’s going on now, the passing time brings a sense of anxiety and uncertainty.
But life does not require us to accept fear as a dancing partner. We have options.
My thought is to offer you a free pass on a few of the fears that grip the waking hours of our lives and provide a perspective of hope to squash the churning gut that keeps you up at night.
Four fears we might share, and instead looking at the gifts they provide us live a life beyond fear and sadness. Lets go…
Fear number one. The Coronavirus. Covid-19. Wuhan flu. Call it whatever you want because it’s part of our life and it’s here to stay.
This is turning into an epic tragedy. So what? (I don’t mean this statement to diminish death of loved ones or death in general. Please read on!)
The Spanish flu took over the globe in 1918 and killed millions of people over the course of a year. Prior to that people just like you and I died from Cholera, Smallpox, Bubonic Plague, Yellow fever; the list goes on. We’ve had SARS, Swine Flu, Ebola, MERS, AIDS, and the Asian flu all sweep across the planet too.
And people died. And this is tragic when it happens, I get that.
But more importantly, people lived. The population continues to grow even today, despite extreme distress, illness, and disease that attempts to cripple humanity.
Why? Because our bodies are remarkable machines capable of rapidly responding to anything invading our system. Our internal army puts up a fight the instant a mutant ranger masquerading as a virus attempts entry.
We don’t even need to think about it. In fact, it happens whether or not we want it to.
But sometime our army loses. The physical body dies and our presence in the world vanishes. When it happens, sadness and mourning are expected.
Life happens. Disease is a part of life. People die.
Once again, more importantly, people don’t stop living.
Science jumps in and develop vaccines. Experienced experts provide guidance on what to do and how to respond most effectively. People rise to the occasion and help neighbors. Families help each other. Friendships are formed in places never thought possible. We learn to share a common bond in fighting for a common goal. We realize we may live in different microcultures but our world is big enough for every one of them.
And throughout this battle with a new virus, a new illness, or any other surprise attack on our health; we must point one very important factor when looking into who gets to live and who dies during these events.
It has nothing to do with how much that person worried about whether they survived. Turns out, the people who worry about it just past the time in fear with more anxiety than those who didn’t. People in both groups live and people in both groups die. Interesting.
Take your gift from this terrible tragedy and chose to live in the moments you’re provided without worrying about the moments you’re not.
The gift of enjoying life despite the evil that is an inevitable part of it. Use the suffering of others as a chance to help your fellow human beings. Be the bright spot in their lives and a shoulder where they turn for emotional support. Show the world and yourself you understand the uselessness of worry and anxiety over events which you cannot control. You are the stronger person. Such calming strength is contagious too.
Fear number two. President Trump. The orange man. The great racist. Perhaps, President. Maybe your President. Whatever you want to call him.
This fear doesn’t apply to everyone, and that’s ok. Not everyone fears Trump. Clearly many people dislike him. Either way, there’s something here for you.
We’ve built our entire American Culture on an idea requiring us to have opposing views and it depends on the freedom provided to fight for what we believe in. When we impose one belief on everyone and do it with fear and intimidation, that’s called a dictatorship.
Our three branches of government make a dictatorship impossible, even if you fear it happening. This is a fact and you need to research it if for some reason you don’t believe it. The president is not an omnipotent position within our country.
We build our Nation on freedom from oppression and the freedom to vote for what we believe is right. Like it or not, the rules set forth in our constitution elected Trump and will elect whomever is our next President in November. It might just be Trump once again. It might not. Those rules set this country apart from every other. It’s those rules that took the United States from nothing to the greatest country in the world in less time than any thought possible. We are the youngest country on the planet. We are also the strongest, richest, and most diverse.
Think about that for a moment.
Our Nation formed, set up principles of freedom, and created the opportunity for people who worked hard to grow businesses and create wonderful technology and jobs for millions. It fostered great ideas and encouraged people to try new things. It rewarded them for great ideas that helped millions more. For years we were self-sufficient. We can feed ourselves. We are energy independent. Every other nation wants to be us.
And we’ve survived every time a president of a different political party than our own was in the White House. Even when the news and all our friends said the president was the most dangerous ever and talked non-stop about how the president will destroy our country; in every term before Trump, and it continues for every president after Trump. Guaranteed.
And yet we survive. Even when you spend your life in fear, we still continue on strong.
Because one person, no matter who they are, does not control our form of government. They never have, and unless we remove the constitution, they never will. Because that’s a dictatorship; and our founding fathers built safeguards into our constitution to prevent such a thing from happening. It’s the same reason why even electing a socialist president doesn’t mean their ideas of how capitalism and wealth work will change our country. Because congress and the supreme court would also all have to vote those changes and that will never happen with a free market and fair election processes.
We are a democratic republic. We get to vote. We the people get to have our say in how our country runs and that makes a difference.
It’s time to stop watching any News channel that promotes fear and loves talking about evils and bad news. It’s time to stop reading Facebook feeds that only support one ideological viewpoint and rants about the evils of any other viewpoint. Such things only create more fear, more anger, more animosity, and greater stress in our lives. Political party affiliation aside, you still get to choose to wake up angry or not. It’s always your choice on how you respond to the world outside your window.
So take the gift given to you when Trump became our president. The gift of freedom of expression and freedom to feel differently or the same about his views.
The ability to still have a vote in what happens next; because in many countries people do not have such freedom to help decide. Don’t focus on hate and screaming or yelling and taking part in other worthless actions that only make your life more miserable.
Instead, be a part of the democracy set up for you; and use the tools you can to make a difference in what type of country we become for your lifetime. Life is happier when served with a purpose.
Fear number three. Tomorrow.
Life promises few things. Tomorrow isn’t one of them. Again, the cliches are many and the hollow words meant to bring comfort unknowns are ever present.
None of them matter.
Whether or not tomorrow shows up is beyond our control, with the only exception being you removed it yourself by ending your life today. In every other case, tomorrow will be a mystery until it arrives.
Understand that hope is a poor planning tool. Any real impact on tomorrow depends on real action and really planning; or not. That choice is also completely up to you.
What did you expect when you woke up this morning? Was the day already set up for you as a normal routine or did you wonder what to do once you opened your eyes? Which of those options makes our days more productive?
Once again, the choice is ours.
You might realize from the way I write I believe little in victimhood. I think spending my life blaming others for every good or bad thing that happens to me is a waste of my time and usually not true.
Sure, I can find a reason for any time life seems to turn against me if I want, but I believe such a mentality is self-defeating. Every time we blame someone else for our troubles, we only admit we cannot produce the strength to overcome adversity. We give in to being a victim and destine ourselves to a life under the power of everyone else. It’s time to step up and take over yourself. But that’s another tangent we could talk for hours about. Let’s move on.
Tomorrow is a gift every time it arrives. We need to appreciate this in a fashion making it worthwhile. It takes effort and requires thinking about tomorrow in a meaningful way before it arrives.
Worry is not meaningful. Worry does not plan, assist, or create productive actions. You can have concern; but concern is not worry. Concern is a motivator to plan for adverse events and know how to handle them successfully. Worry only creates stress, takes away clear thinking and ruins plans.
So take the gift of tomorrow seriously and go to bed with at least an idea of what you plan to accomplish if tomorrow arrives.
How will you interact with others? What actions I must accomplish to make tomorrow worth the time spent living in it? Don’t close your eyes today until you’ve considered your ideas to positively impact tomorrow.
Fear number four. Death.
It’s coming for everyone of us. In fact, we were born with only one absolute fact known. One day we will die.
This isn’t a religious thing. It’s not philosophical. It’s just science.
This isn’t a point where I talk about what happens after we die. Yes, I have my beliefs just like you do; but my goal here is to help think about our coming death as a gift. It’s not morbid and it’s not religious.
Truth is, not a single person can know what happens next with any scientific certainty because there isn’t anyone here who’s been there and come back to tell us about it.
Depending on your own religious viewpoint, you may feel differently; but you still have not met anyone alive and breathing today that can say they’ve spent much time in whatever comes next. It’s all faith and speculation.
Physical death is a permanent state that removes us from this world, and what happens after we die requires a non-scientific process of faith. Faith that we have another form of life waiting for us and takes the form of spiritual being; or faith that we cease completely once this body dies and there is no spiritual afterlife.
Either is possible because neither one is scientifically provable; which requires us to choose one for our faith to reside in.
So death is coming. The decision is how much we want to let that inevitable event influence the time we have living and breathing on this earth.
We’ve already decided that blind worry is useless and achieves nothing. Still, that’s a choice if you want to waste your “alive time” doing that.
Concern is a logical approach to help reduce risk in your actions and might prolong your life a bit. Likewise, complete lack of any consideration of risk can lead to a very exciting life that ends much sooner than it otherwise might. You might take unsuspecting innocent people with you too. But once again, that’s our choice.
I personally choose to find a balance. I practice conservative risk taking to allow some excitement at a level I’m comfortable with, while allowing me to reduce the likelihood of causing my own premature death or death to others through negligent actions.
IMHO fearing death to a point of not living life is no better than just dying. In fact, I think that’s worse than death itself, because of the time wasted on earth used otherwise as a productive and meaningful member of society.
And thinking about how to spend our time is the one of the two gifts we get from death.
The time we live is ours to use as we want to. Knowing that death is coming but, not knowing when, gives us the responsibility to use what time we have in the best way we can. It’s a gift to motivate us to be better people.
The second gift we get from death is the certainty that life is a finite prospect. It forces us to get motivated with the unknown time we have to get things done while alive.
We don’t have to figure out what we will do with eternity on earth, because that’s not an option. Again, based on your religious viewpoint you may be very comfortable with a certainty of a spiritual life following our physical death on earth and that’s great. That understanding brings with it a life typically lived with joy and a desire to live within the context of specific religious guidance. Because even with a viewpoint of eternal spiritual life, your physical life will end here and what you’ve left behind becomes your legacy, like it or not.
Four gifts from things we fear. I know there are more, but now your challenge is to consider the things you personally fear the most and determine in what way you live your life better because of them. Fear can be an emotion to strengthen your character if you will allow it.