Updated: May 3
March has been, a year?
So much has happened this month it’s been difficult to pick out a particular moment to explore but on reflection, 'fear' has been a major theme. What follows are 4 very different accounts of experiencing fear and doing the thing anyway, with corona in the background.
Towards the end of february, i started a new job. By the second week of my role i had an opportunity to point out where our service was not being inclusive enough of black populations. As soon as i recognised it, i recognised that if i wanted it to change i would have to be the one to point it out. I started to get a bit intimidated and wanted to recoil. Questions started filling my mind ‘do i want to carry the mantle of the super black woman in this role?’ ‘do i want to be that stereotypical black person that makes people uncomfortable because of always pointing out the race issues?’. I’m used to speaking about race issues within black spaces and bme organisations, not in predominantly white spaces. This was new territory.
All of these questions almost made me not say anything at all, but what opened my mouth was the idea that i would remember that i had an opportunity to change something and fear stopped me. I felt a burning in my heart, a conviction from god that i had to speak in this instance and if there’s one thing i’ve learnt, it’s never to ignore a beating heart. Instead of recoiling, i drew for accountability. I told my friends that i needed encouragement to persevere. In the process of explaining what was going on, i remembered why it was important for me to speak in this moment before they could even say anything to encourage me. It wasn’t about me. This situation was bigger than my fear. It was about the people that we could serve. It was about representation and creating the actual world that we want to see, not just dream about.
After i reminded myself of those things and brought the issue up, do you know what happened? Nothing at all. My manager was super supportive of my suggestions. The wider team was on board and we explored how we could be more inclusive of other groups too. There were absolutely no issues. Ain’t it funny how fear works? One of the lessons i got from that was not to take on other people’s experiences – i hear a lot of ‘being the only black woman at work’ stories and the difficulty of discussing race issues that it was almost as if that perceived stress informed my experience before my actual experience.
It was an important moment of internal victory for me because although small it felt really poignant. I believe it’s who we are in these small behind the scene moments that will determine who we will be in the big ones. This was life asking ‘who are you really mica?’ ‘how do you respond to fear?’ ‘how do you respond to intimidation?’
Then a week later, life asked me ‘how do you respond to global crisis?’.
Before we get to the global crisis, there was another moment where fear reared its head that was so small i almost missed it. The night before the day before lockdown, my friend asked if i wanted to go to a hill where we would be able to see the whole of the west midlands and watch the sky transition to sunrise. Being the wallflower that i am, i of course said yes. When we got there, we were confronted with a big white gate announcing loudly with it's locks that all access was currently denied. Instead, we went to another green space, found venus in the sky and made plans to visit the hill the next day.
During the night, i kept seeing the gate at the bottom of the hill i would have to drive up. I imagined that the path was steep and bendy and narrow with no barriers. I imagined us driving off the edge because i couldn’t drive well on the narrow road. I imagined it was like the hills in sri lanka, where you have to drive on the edges of mountains and the only thing you see below you is trunks of trees travelling for miles because you are so far away from the earth. I woke up with that image in my mind and fear on my heart. I almost messaged my friend to say that i couldn’t go because i was afraid to drive up the hill. I thought about him being confused and telling me i'm ridiculous and decided against it (that one wasn’t my fear, that is just knowing his character). I became aware that if the gate was not closed when we went in the night, i would have driven up it straight away without a thought. It was only because i’d had time to deliberate and create ideas about it in my mind that i was now afraid of it. So, i just told myself that i would go and drive and be with whatever happened.
Can i tell you what happened? You guessed it: nothing. It was absolutely nothing like what i imagined. The road was not steep or bendy at all. It was in no way narrow. It wasn’t elevated. It wasn’t a sri lankan mountain. I could see the earth the trees were planted in. There is no way i could have driven off the edge. None of my fears were founded. Not a single one. I drove a bunch of us up this hill with no problems, and we spent time enjoying the views and each other.
The next day it was lockdown.
I had become aware of the covid 19 mutual aid groups that were popping up in different communities to support the self-isolating and elderly during lockdown and felt a tug to get involved. After searching around, i became aware that there weren’t any in my area. In my mind i was like ‘ah someone should start one’ and then after some delay the thought ‘why don’t you start one’ popped up. And again, i wrestled with my thoughts. ‘me? Who is going to join if i start it? Who is going to show up to support? I don’t have any influence in these areas it’s not going to work or be successful so i cannot do it - it must be someone else who leads and i can just fall in line’.
Are you noticing the pattern here?
I was able to realise my thought process and how all of those thoughts were born of insecurity. I had to ask myself, if not me, then who? If i’m looking for it then other people might be looking for it too, and at least they will find me. Can i live with the story that i could have helped in this way and the only reason i didn’t was because of insecurity? Did god not make me in power? Can i live with the story that my own insecurity deprived someone else of help? I realised that i can’t. Not in this instance. The story must always read: she tried. So, i set the group up. And the people who need support are finding me, and the people who want to support are finding me, and we are finding each other.
For the first couple days of lockdown i oscillated mentally between the media messages that said ‘seize this time to write the next book or launch your business’ and ‘just netflix and chill you aint gotta be productive’. I leaned into the just chill message for a while and later i realised i was using the ‘just chill’ message to ignore the creative pull in my heart. I tried to explore it, then i stopped because i was afraid of it.
Do you see how fear has been relentless this month? It is actually tiresome.
This was a pre-cursor to a lot of tears because i felt that god was asking me to draw nearer to him and there was something blocking me from doing that too. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t be creative. I couldn’t pray. Just blockage on blockage on deck.
I asked some friends to pray with me and through prayer i realised i was afraid of both developing spiritually and creatively because i was afraid of myself. Big woah. I was afraid of how wide my mind is and how i might get lost in it because of my past experiences. One thing that the experience of psychosis does is hijack your imagination and takes perfectly valid creative and spiritual concepts and turns them into hallucinations and delusions i.e. It makes them crazy. I was afraid of my creativity because i was afraid that it would look like i was crazy again. I was afraid of deeper spirituality because i was afraid it would sound crazy again. I almost convinced myself that i was having an episode at one point because i was so fearful of my own mind. I wasn’t having an episode. It was just fear.
So again, i am asked the question, how will i respond? Who am i? Do i trust that i am now sound in mind and that my past is the past and that god is keeping me, or do i trust fear of the past? Will i use this time to explore these new dimensions or hold back because it’s uncomfortable? Do i want my story to read 'during the pandemic i felt a creative inspiration but i didn't yield to it because i was afraid'?
I don’t know a lot of things, but what i do know about this period of our existence is that it is very fear-full. And i do know that when people are confined to themselves, hidden things in the heart are exposed. Hidden fears and ideas and dreams and grief are brought to the surface because so much is stripped away. Some of these things will be very uncomfortable because they will be challenging. It is a privilege for these challenges to be the only ones we may have to face, albeit they are still challenging. While by the grace of god i have not had any specific coronavirus related fears (the ginger and echinacea combo that i discovered in my january herbalist experiments has been blessing me), i have wrestled with fear in relating to other people’s opinions, not being good enough and fear of the past becoming present, fear of losing my sanity, fear of my brokenness, – fear of my driving ability?
Amidst all of those fears and insecurities however, i have realised through writing this that my fear of disappointing god has been stronger than all the other things. I am grateful for that. There is a scripture in the bible that says that wisdom begins with the fear of the lord (paraphrased of course) and i am grateful to walk in that, to recognise that fear of god will help you to stand against the fear of the world. It’s not fear of being punished by god, but fear that i will live my life lesser than god intends. Throughout all of these moments, i have been afraid most completely, that the story i would leave behind me after these moments is not one that says ‘she felt fear and did the thing anyway’ but one that just ends ‘she was afraid’. I'm not always courageous, but i really do try to be.
- what things are showing up in your heart this month? Has fear shown up for you? In what ways? Are those fears rooted in any truth?
- if fear is showing up for you, are there safe spaces where you be present with them and express them?
- if fear is stopping you from doing something, is there something that you value greater than your fear that you can draw from to motivate to show up as your best self?
- are you at peace with the ways you are responding to all that's happening in your environment and in your heart during the covid 19 lockdown?