This week I was in fear for my sister’s life as she underwent labor and delivery of twins under life-threatening medical complications. After a troubling couple of days, the twin babies were healthy, mom finally pulled through, and I headed to the airport with the added baggage of emotional exhaustion, mental distraction, and muscle tension to rival a piano in my backpack.
Just when I thought nothing could snap me out of the emotional and physical processing of the previous days, not even the airport massage I adventured in the hallway when they announced my flight was delayed, I was jolted into a different state of being by fear of terrorist attack. It started just as all passengers were buckled up and the plane was readying to disengage from the gangway. The man sitting next to me in camo gear snapped a pic, selfie-style but grim-faced, of the airport generators outside the airport window, then abruptly left his seat in favor of one further back, and then, while I consoled myself that he was still on board and thus not likely to have planted a bomb, he just as abruptly walked up the aisle and slipped off the plane.
My nerves were already shot from the week, so after crouching down to check under the seats and while the flight attendants began to check overhead bins for what he might have left behind, I swiftly departed the plane in favor of the next flight to my destination. For some passengers this might not have been an easy decision. But I had momentary mental clarity of an accute kind. Apparently the simple and immediate fear of a terrorist act crowds out other, more complex or ambiguous emotions that are gripping and almost unresolvable. My sister’s dilemmas, my own labor flashbacks, my aching back, all were forgotten in my haste for the exit.
I suspect that fear of terrorism in our country does the same thing for a lot of people; it provides a comforting clarity of purpose that clears our mind of more complex daily troubles. Gridlock in Washington, like pregnancy complications, is hard to understand, let alone resolve. But pure fear that can be attributed to a single cause…this is like meditation, “ohm”. Mindfulness is all the rage now in business circles (I actually heard this former prisoner/monk speak) I wonder if certain kinds of fear can mimic the “be here now” effect of mindfulness. Fear is both toxic and intoxicating. Many leaders have leveraged fear as far as it would take them. But ultimately fear’s hold, or even its simple clarion call, is shortlived.
My underlying tension resurfaced before I crossed the threshold of my home. And there I found more tension as my family was rivetted to the 7th game of the World Series. This tension was different though from airport secuirty or terrorism threat. Here was fear of loss, yes, but also hope, prayer and expectation of something wonderful. With a newfound relaxation and simple clarity of mind, somehow I knew the Cubs would win, just as the twins were born safe and sound. In the end, the power of fear is not greater than the triumph of hope.