Fear is a bully on the playground

Last night, my 4-year-old walked into my room at 2am and whispered, “I had a really bad dream. Can you snuggle with me?” I crawled into bed with him and realized he was shaking and shivering. His room was a little cold but I sensed his body was seriously terrified.

“Mom, the birds were chasing me.” I held his chattering body for thirty minutes as he resisted sleep. His eyes would close and he would startle them back open. “Mom, I can’t close my eyes or the dream will come back.” I soothed him, rubbed his cheeks and held his body.

It was quite an experience to watch him avoid his fear. So much that he was literally shaking. As he took deep breaths and allowed his body to relax, I said a prayer out loud for courage and rest and compassion for his fear. Ever so slowly, his breathing quieted, the shivering subsided and he drifted off to a peaceful sleep. I, of course, took over an hour before I drifted off to sleep.

I’ve been terrified to look at my fear for over thirty years. But once I started looking, now I know fear doesn’t like to be looked at. Especially with kindness.

Fear doesn’t like to be looked at

Fear is a bully on the playground
Perched high atop of the jungle gym
Glaring, bossing, hissing
At anyone who will listen

Most day I keep far away
From the bully
I avoid it at all costs
Sure, it keeps me confined
Fenced in
Half alive
But at least I don’t have to look at the bully

Until I realized the bully doesn’t
Just stick to the playground
Fear starts to follow me everywhere
Into relationships with people
With my body
With my mind
With my world

Then one day
The bully came for one of the things
I love the most
And I finally said
Enough

Someone told me I could look right at the bully
With kindness
Compassion
Sympathy

And you know what?
I gazed at my fear with kindness
And it softened
It slinked down from the monkey bars
Where it had been terrorizing the playground

I smiled at my fear
And it sheepishly sat in the swing
Next to me
Fear even started to smile itself
As it pushed its feet into the gravel
Fear started swinging back and forth
Higher
Higher

And my fear turned into joy


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