“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fear is in the air. It is in every breath we take. It fills our lungs. It dictates our actions. We dodge an invisible enemy, knowing it is out there, but never sure quite where or when it might hit.
And this dictates fear among us.
The unknown has a tendency to do that. And COVID is the unknown. It is like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. So it’s easy to be afraid. It’s the default for most of us.
Something very serious and scary and real could hurt my family or me or our nation. It already has. And a lot of us are afraid.
I have an 80-something neighbor, who is also a friend. She wears her mask when required. She wants to stay safe. She follows the rules, because that’s what good people do.
One night last week I was chatting with her outside. We were socially distanced, but I lost track of that and took a step toward her. When I realized my action, I apologized and asked her if I should step backward.
Her response was not what I expected.
“Oh, no,” she said. “It’s okay. We decided we aren’t going to live in fear.” (In the “we” she was referring to her husband.)
I silently applauded her courage. Choosing not to live in fear is nothing short of that — when you are nearly 90 and living in the midst of a pandemic.
Another neighbor, probably in her 70’s, learned of my dad’s passing and offered a hug. A real, live, genuine warm-bodied hug! I remembered the words of my other neighbor about refusing to choose fear, and I thankfully returned the embrace of this dear friend.
I’ve contemplated fear in the last few weeks.
I feared going to the grocery store.
I feared my daughter going to the hospital to have her baby.
I feared (and avoided) going to a restaurant. It just wasn’t worth the risk.
I feared the downfall of our economy.
I feared for those close to me who have lost their jobs.
I feared visiting my dad for what the pandemic could do to him or what it could do to my family and me. And then I lost him to non-COVID illness.
And more. There is much to fear if you let yourself go there. It’s nearly impossible not to go there.
But, then there is my 80-something neighbor who has chosen a path that does not include fear (or at least not a path where fear is in control.)
I applaud her. I celebrate her. And, I’ve decided to emulate her. She is my role model.
Like her, I will follow the rules and the protocol. I want to keep everyone (everyone!) safe. I won’t engage in behaviors that could potentially hurt others.
Still, I have made a conscious decision: I will not live in fear. Quite simply, I can’t.
Living out fear long-term is a death sentence. Because death is, unfortunately, inevitable. We can’t escape death — none of us. So whether is it COVID during a pandemic or heart attack during a pandemic, is there really a distinction?
No. But here is one distinction I believe we all should make: If we live in fear and die, we die in fear. If we continue to live, carefully, honestly and responsibly — but refuse the fear component — then we continue to live a quality life we all want, deserve and desire.
Stay safe, my friends. But deny fear as much as you can. It paralyzes. It harms. It hinders.
Fear is not the answer to this pandemic.
Take care out there.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.