Fear of the Irreparable

As I’ve meditated on what I’m really afraid of versus what I just tend to get anxious about sometimes, I think I am getting closer to some inner layers.  I am trying to increasingly think about what issues are real spiritual growth blocks, not just worries.  The idea of “the irreparable” is coming together for me as a major wall between me and God.

By the irreparable I mean a relationship or a situation that is so far damaged that it will never be the same.  I have a fairly good record of being able to “fix” things I want fixed.  I have also known situations that, even when I wanted to fix them, I could not.  Where this dials into my deepest fears is where I feel I have done something by choice that has forever severed the repair I may seek.  Something being unfixable.  Permanently broken.  All options gone.

Often I hear my perfectionist friends agonizing over making mistakes.  This fear of the irreparable is beyond that.  I make mistakes all the time.  It’s actually part of my personal philosophy that it’s straight up crazy to be neurotic about making mistakes.  We are human, it’s our nature, it’s not realistic or reasonable to truly expect that we won’t make mistakes.  My fear is about being responsible for doing something that takes away any possibility of healing or repair to a situation.

What if in carelessness I say or do the one thing my spouse can never forgive?  What if a friend is counting on me to remember something important that I completely forget about?  What if I drop the ball and colleagues don’t feel they can count on me again?

As I look at that list, however, I notice that each item hinges on someone else’s response to an event.  Yes, I did or didn’t do something, but how others respond to that is my fear.

My faith tradition tells me that God’s response to me will be consistent and reliable.  Nothing is irreparable.  Nothing when my heart and mind are focused on seeking redemption for mistakes I make.

And ay, there’s the rub……

I know myself to get quite weary with the forgiveness process.  I’m all about it until I’m not.  Sometimes it just wears me out.  I want to say I don’t care anymore, I’m tired of struggling through complex issues of right and wrong, I just don’t care.  Leave me alone, Universe.  If you don’t like what I did, tough.  I did it.  I may do it again.  Get off my case.  I’m putting my chips on the bet that I’m not alone in this.

I think we have to be willing to get back in there.  We have to do it with our human dynamics if we want peace in our lives, and we have to do it in our spiritual development for the same reason.  I almost think knowing I am forgiven by a higher power makes it harder sometimes, because there is nothing to fight about, no argument to “win” and no real opportunity to say “I’m tired of you not wanting to work on this” because the only one putting up that B.S. is me. I truly believe the choice of finding peace and forgiveness and a clean slate is right in my own hands.

And that’s what I’m afraid of.

Image credit: Indian-Designers

Fear of Losing Connection

Several years ago, a friend shared the experience of attending a one-woman show in which the performer created various expressions of her “self.”  The performer was known for her comedic edge, and the show did not disappoint when it came to laughs.

The performer appeared as a housewife, a burlesque dancer, a mother, a mother-in-law, a professional executive type, a teacher, a child, and on and on.  While there were serious elements to each self, each one also generated many laughs; those laughs seemed to come from each member of the audience having some moment of recognition of the character on stage.  It was fun to understand — via art — that we all have diverse elements of our “selves” and yet we are each a whole person because of those elements.

It was fun until the last incarnation appeared.

The last version of the “self” the woman portrayed was homeless.  She was what we called growing up (shamefully, I now realize) a “bag lady.”  She sat on stage in dirty and ragged clothing, surrounded essentially by bags of garbage, muttering to herself and occasionally trying to catch the eye of the imaginary people on stage with her.

The other selves had been alone on stage as well, but there was always a sense with those that the character existed to others.  This character, though also alone, presented the powerful experience of living in an existential vortex into which no one else could — or more accurately wanted to — reach.

It was as if no one in the theater could even breathe.  The show closed in silence.

I remember this story, because it demonstrates a common and rarely spoken or even internally acknowledged fear.  I wrote about it at the end of last year when a homeless man died in my community and his body was not discovered for days (click here for that post).  I think this fear goes beyond being hungry, or homeless, or struggling to find clean clothes or employment.

This fear is about losing something many of us take for granted: A connection to other people that serves as a safety net upon which we all rely.

Some people can articulate that they don’t like “being alone” and that it is even a fear-inducing state for them.  Me?  I love being alone.  Being alone is really the only time I feel inner peace.  My world is quiet and calm.  My energy is high.  Life is free of conflict and it’s easier to hear the voice of God as I understand it.

But being alone is not the same thing as being disconnected.  Disconnection is one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had, and I think I may have to mark it as a major fear in my heart.  I have never been fully disconnected from society or everyone I know, but I’ve had my toe in the water of what it’s like to start to disappear, and it’s terror-inducing.

The experience I’ll share was in a medical environment.  I’ve had others, but this is a good example.  It was also the first.

During a miscarriage many years ago, I was convinced my pregnancy could be saved with proper medical intervention.  It became clear to me very quickly that I was not a unique individual, nor was my fetus, in the OB-GYN practice where I was seen.  I was young enough that the docs weren’t worried that I could get pregnant again and have a successful outcome.  They had seen pregnancies like mine collapse before, and had a protocol for letting them go.  I felt like a Who from Horton Hears a Who……….. “We are here!  We are here!  We are here!”  But the faces around me said we don’t really care that you think you’re here; we don’t think you are.

Call us in a few weeks.  Here’s your paper work.  Next…..

With time I accepted what happened and why, but I will never forget that feeling.  It was the first time in my life that I remember not being able to convince someone I was special, that they should listen to me, that if we just worked together we could figure this thing out. It was an important lesson, humbling, and also a glimpse into something we all have to learn how to manage eventually.

It leads me back to the concept that a spiritual life and a relationship with God as we understand him/her to be is so important.  Sooner or later we look around and other people are not there for us as we’ve always thought they would be.  Doctors are not interested in pursuing treatment.  Spouses are not interested in continuing marriages.  Children grow up and move away.  The banker won’t give us a loan, the teacher won’t let us retake the test, there’s no room at the inn.

One of my biggest genuine fears is becoming someone no one is interested in being involved with or helping in any way.  It’ll just be me and God.

I have to run.  I’ve got some relationship building to do.

Images credits: Letting Go – Recovery in the Sunlight, Teik It Easy