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Embracing, Loving and Surviving Fear

October 31, 2021: “Embracing, Loving and Surviving Fear”

Homily from October 31, 2021, Multigenerational Service
Halcyon Domanski, Director of Faith Development

Happy Halloween everyone…
Florida spoke to you about loving and embracing fear. I am going to talk about embracing and surviving fear. Where Florida loves the fear of roller coasters and Haunted House I decidedly do NOT. I was not even able to be in the same room when she watched “Goosebumps.”  Forget movies like “Friday the Thirteenth” or books written by Steven King. You might think otherwise based of my love of Halloween. And I do enjoy a quick fright, a sudden jumping out and saying BOO, as it were. However, I DO NOT like FEAR. I do not even want to see someone else’s fear. 

If you read all the science papers and physiological papers on fear, they will tell you, your love or hate of, it is because of a lovely little chemical our body makes called Dopamine. Dopamine makes you feel pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. And, apparently when people become scared or feel fear their body gives them an extra dose of Dopamine. These papers also go on to say that for SOME people that dose is larger and lasts longer in the system. So scientifically when Florida gets scared, she receives more dope than I do and feels dopey for longer. But these fears are not ones we really need to embrace to survive.

Phobias…let me tell you a story about Florida. When she was about seven, we went to visit our family in Lakeland, Florida. Now any child that has been raised in the sunshine state knows to stay away from the piles of sand, no matter how fun they may look, and they learn this by the age of three. Well, I am not sure how it happened, but I do know that my daughter was playing outside with her cousins and ended up playing on that lovely pile of sand. She was within seconds covered with ants. 

Now let me tell you about these ants, they are not just any ant but fire ants. When these nasty little things get agitated, they will swarm a being and begin biting immediately. A child can be covered with them up to their chest within seconds. I know this personally and I learned it before I was three. These creatures, who are no more than 4 mm long, bites feel like lava splashing on your skin. And they do not let go. The only way I know to get them off is with a water hose and a brave person brushing them off you. And after they bite it burns and stings for days. 

So, you can imagine what happen to my seven-year-old daughter, who did not have the advantage of forgetting the pain as a three-year-old does. She developed a phobia. To be somewhere with ants causes so grate a discomfort for her. She jumps at every tiny thing that touches her, she cannot sleep, she becomes anxious, aggravated, distracted, miserable. And I know how she feels because when I see a cockroach, I get the same way. It does not matter if it is a real one, a plastic one, a photo to of one, or even just talking about one. It is an irrational reaction to just the possibility of pain. Or those of us who are afraid of heights. We become dizzy, faint, cannot breathe, loose our balance. All the thing you do not want to do when up high. And I image that is how people feel about small spaces, or going outside, or any number of other things we overreact to and swear we will not survive. I ask you, where is the dopamine when you need it?

We can overcome these fears, these phobias with time, with therapy, with a good bug spray. But again, we do not really need to embrace them to survive them.

This last fear does not really have a name. It is something that is a part of life, or it is a disaster. It can be as quick as someone’s last breath, as terrifying as a category 5 Hurricane or Tsunami, or as long running as a disease. It drowns us in Molasses, divides a nation, devastates a race, snows for two years. It has no one name, only a response…. or maybe a result. It is devastating. Each generation is ripped anew by it. 

It takes way our security, our safety, our peace of mind, our Confidence. It picks us up, whips us around, bangs our head on the ground…repeatedly… and then tosses us in the garbage heap. It is the thing that fills us with regret, makes us so unreasonably angry that the holy of us become mean, gives us PTSD, makes us turn to substance abuse, fuels anxiety and depression, and unfortunately it cannot be avoided. No one escapes it.

It is the fear we need to embrace to survive. Right now, we are all in one way or another overwhelmed by this fear. And that’s o.k. There are people in this room that have experienced this fear before. At least once and some twice or more. And those people do not have horrible luck or made bad decisions. They have just lived longer than others. And it is to them that we need to look. 

I do not know who told this story so forgive me if I get the details wrong. Joyce Hardin’s Children, or grand children were going to visit her at the beginning of Covid. They apologized that they had to stay distant and wear masks, they asked if she was o.k., was she worried. And she responded, and I paraphrase, “I Survived the 1819 pandemic, 2 world wars, giving birth, the turn of the century, I’m fine.”  Why was she fine… She embraced her fears and then she survived them.

How do we do this? We give ourselves time, lots, and lots of time. We give each other time, lots, and lots of time. We allow ourselves and others, to be sad, angry, frustrated, lost. We remind our self or others to NOT be destructive. We learn, we grow, we change and believe it or not we do not dwell. 

This is one thing our ancestors got right and somehow, we forgot. They did not dwell. It could be that was the way of culture back then or it could be simply because they did not have time to do so. From before dawn and until after dusk there was simply too much to do. This does not mean we do not keep informed and up to date with things. It does mean not reading about it or looking at images of something over and over and over again every day.

I personally know the power of time, and most of us here do. I know the value of embracing all the powerful emotions so that I may survive them, most of us here do. I work every day on not being destructive to myself, most of us here do. 

“Hi, I have survived three riots, drive by shootings, giving birth, the turn of the century, I’m fine. I will survive this Covid fear. I will look to my elders and ancestors, those that rebuilt city’s, replanted crops, became motivated to research vaccines, I will not dwell.”