Fear, Family and Osama: making a little peace with your recurring theme

The need to please. Anxiety. Inertia. The tendency to procrastinate. Fear.

All of us have at least one central and unwelcome issue that has a tendency to recur most of our adult lives. What we deeply desire is for said recurring theme to pick up it’s petticoats and head out the back door when we discover we have such a thing. But, this is rarely the way it goes.

Usually when it recurs a short time later, we wealize that said difficulty is “ba-ack” like Chuckie in that horror film trailer. (I hope you don’t watch that junk.) So we shake our fists at the sky, roll our eyes like a teenager, bargain with the gods, and when things begin to settle again, we begin to believe we have magically mastered our little issue. We will even think that our personal strength sort of powered the issue out the door (again). With a sigh of relief we will say to ourselves, “Whew. I finally got THAT under control!” Then we will go on our merry way thinking we are done with it.

Do not let this fool you. In time, whether short or longer, your personal theme will return complete with a soundtrack and a Lady Gaga video. She will take up residence in your living room and dominate your dinner conversations. You will discover that the only thing you truly have under control is the reality of an unwelcome recurring theme in your life. (Sigh.) I know this is not good news.

I have been thinking about this lately because I have an extended family member (or two) who seem to have made room for a full-fledged symphony of recurring FEAR to take up permanent residence in their hearts and homes.

I had my suspicions for a while that this was one of their issues, and recently it seems to be interrupting their ability to function very -well – functionally. I suppose I should have had a hint when we were on the verge of Y2K. They were checking out pygmy goats and had plans to high-tail it up to Michigan to shoot themselves some deer. (I don’t know about you, but if I thought the world was coming to a screeching halt, I might go salmon fishing instead. Weigh it out with me: smoked salmon or canned mule deer? Seems like a no brainer.)

I guess they were worried and anxious to protect their little family from the “bad guys”. They started home schooling their one gifted daughter. The next step was to leave their already spookily conservative church. Something wasn’t quite up their ally there, so they began their own church with the addition of one set of in-laws.

People who start their own church worry me a bit. It is always dangerous when, in an attempt to listen to yourself and follow whatever god is your personal favorite, you intentionally shut out divergent voices and classify them as wrong or evil. We know this is exactly what our own recently  eliminated personified evil, Osama Bin Laden did. Bad theology + fear of the other + isolation = fundamentalism.

It is true that if you center your world around those who fit merely with your particular bliss, you will end up feeling safer. But everything else will become suspect – and in the sad case of my family extended members, evil. As Sister Anne Lamotte once said, and I paraphrase here, when you get up in the morning and think God is much like a tender-hearted, middle-aged folk musician who votes democratic, you can be pretty well assured that you have made her into your own image. In the same way, if you are convinced that God hates all Muslims, Republicans, Christians or Hummer drivers, you are in a similar predicament.

Even the current most maligned holy book in the western world, the Koran, says “O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know and honor each other (not that you should despise one another). Chapter 49, Verse 13. The diversity, the getting to know each other, is the gift.

Fear is a particularly tough demon to have as a a bad relative. Growing through it demands strenuous work of letting go – and frankly, we don’t have very long attention spans for this. I like to think it is a hold over from the Road Runner and Coyote days. You know, when, at any moment some strange beast could fly by and drop a chunk of dynamite on your head? Or maybe you would be running after that rascal as fast as the 1950’s video would let you when you suddenly, to your shock, you discover that your feet are rolling on air over a deep chasm?

Or, to take it back a few centuries: you are sitting around the campfire in your loin cloth chewing on an elk bone, when what should walk out of the bushes, but a ravenously hungry Grizzly bear. What to do? We had to be on alert back in the day. We weren’t allowed the luxury of a long philosophical blog. It was a matter of survival. And it still serves a function today.

Fear is a marketing technique now. Osama Bin Laden is gone, but mark my words: we will be given the opportunity to place our fear on someone or something else. It is only a matter of time – because that is one way we are kept dependent on our particular political system. Fear of losing “the American way of life” is at it’s core.

Fortunately, it will not be subtle, so we don’t have to feel blind-sided by it. It will may even arrive via some quirky blogger, God forbid. You will know it when it comes, so don’t get all freaked-out on me. We don’t know exactly what it will look like, but I bet it will be cloaked in a flag and a cross or a menorah and carrying a gun.

Accepting that fear is part of our lives and that we would die without it is a start. But I like to defer to the Sufi poet Hafiz (whom I adore) who says, “Fear is the cheapest room in the house.  I would like to see you living in better conditions.”

Here’s the deal. We are going to be having a relationship with our “recurring theme” forever. FOREVER. It isn’t that you cannot grow beyond your recurring theme, but I have come to believe that even those things we leave behind continue to be part of us. They do not vanish completely, but just become less omnipresent or controlling in our lives.

So – I suggest you “friend” her – you could even make a page for her on FB. Let me know – I’ll join it.

You will have a long relationship with her, so you may as well think of her as a part of the family. Sending her to the Gulag will do no good at all. It will only give her more secret power over you. It’s better to invite her to your family gatherings. Seat her away from you and smile at her occasionally. Isn’t she funny? Just shake your head at her. Some day she may end up being that quirky family member you can’t imagine life without.

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