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Fear of Fear Itself (FOFI)

The witching hour is fast approaching, and much is being done to prepare for the spookiest night of the year. Costume shopping, decorating the house and yard, readying our sweet tooths for gobs of candy being consumed, and watching every single horror film imaginable to awaken our imaginations. Even in a pandemic, you can't stop the spookiest night of the year. There's just one thing. We may be living out Halloween each and every day. I'm not talking about living in a magical village where you see witches, monsters, warlocks, sprites, fairies, and more. But the real horror comes from within us. That's right. It's FEAR.

The dictionary describes fear as "a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid." It's something that all of us have to face, whether we like it or not. And it's an uncomfortable feeling to have. You shake. Your mind races. Your heart is pounding at over 100 beats per minute. You perspire a little bit or a lot. Your hands tremble. Your muscles tense up. You have a hard time putting words and thoughts together coherently. Wait a minute. That sounds like a horror movie waiting to happen, doesn't it? And worst of all, your mind begins to play out all of the possible scenarios, no matter how silly or logical they are. The question is, where does FEAR come from? Well, as the definition states, it could be physical, emotional, or mental. It's either real or imagined. It could be from an event that's coming up or waiting for the results from a test. It could be awaiting the arrival of a package or a new baby. It could be going into major surgery. It could be starting a new job or the impending review of your first 90 days at the job. It could be the loss of a job or a large portion of income. It could be the idea of losing a loved one, no matter how old they are, to an incurable illness or an accident. It could be going on a long trip and being over or underprepared. It could be going into a new career with no training or education from the one you initially studied for four or more years for. It could be not giving enough love and attention to your only or many children. It could be death itself, no matter how old or how young you are. Truth be told, it could be any of those things. And more. I thought it would be kind of spooky to list some of the most common fears facing each of us in our daily lives, real or imagined. I'll divide them up into topics so that it's easier to break them down, and the fears themselves are from my personal experience, what my friends and family went through, or just general observations from society as a whole. You may want to read this with the light on. I wouldn't want you to go to bed with nightmares. It's not too late to turn back now. This is your last chance! Okay. You asked for it. (Before we get into this, let me reiterate that these are based on my experiences and observations I encountered throughout my life. They're not exactly factually based, and you can take these with a grain of salt. Or we can talk about it over a hot cup of tea. Just allow me to share what I've discovered with you and you can do whatever you want with what I've said in this week's blog.) Growing Up

What if I get in trouble again? What if my parents don't love me? What if I don't make any friends when I go to the playground or go to school? What if I get lost when I go out with my family to a new place?

What if I get laughed at for looking for sounding funny? What if I never learn to ride the bicycle without the training wheels? What if I fall off my bicycle? What if I have to go to the hospital for my boo-boo? What if the monster under the bed or closet comes out and eats me? What if he eats my family? What if the dinosaurs could come back to life? What if my mommy or daddy won't come to my tea party? Or the restaurant I cook at? Or the castle I rule at? What if my parents won't love me once the new baby arrives? What if my parents won't have time to play with me when the new baby arrives? What if my baby brother or sister is better than me?

What if my baby brother or sister doesn't like me? What if I never make friends in the new neighborhood? What if I don't like our new house? What if I don't get what I want for my birthday? What if I have to get hugged or kissed by my aunts and uncles I don't like? What if I have to share my favorite toys and dolls with others? What if I have to eat broccoli? Or carrots? Or anything my mom cooks? What if I have an accident on the way to the bathroom? What if I wet my bed again? What if bad dreams keep coming back? What if my parents yell at me again? What if I can't read? What if I can't write? What if the bad things people say to me are true? What if I don't get better? What if I never leave the hospital? What if my daddy hits me again?

What if my mommy yells at me again? What if I say a bad word? What if there is no one out there who looks like me? What if I get pushed and shoved at school? Or at the playground? What if I say a bad word? What if no one likes me? Education What if I'm late for school? What if I can't find my classroom? The bathroom? The cafeteria? The gym? What if I don't know how to spell words? What if I don't make any friends? What if no one likes me? What if I'm not smart? What if the teacher calls on me? What if I fail my classes? What if I don't do well on the test I studied so hard for the night before? A week before? A month before? What if the cafeteria food makes me sick? What if we have the same food over and over again? What if I don't get any lunch because I don't have enough money? What if my school closes down? What if my teacher hates me? What if I get bullied for being a girl? Gay? Lesbian? Transgender? Non-binary? What if it's not worth going to school anymore because of the bullying? What if I get shot and killed at school? What if I lose my best friends to a school shooting? What if my boyfriend dumps me because I won't have sex with him? What if I become pregnant? What if I have to drop out of school because of the pregnancy? What if I have to drop out of school to support my family? What if I don't graduate? What if I don't get into the top schools I want to attend? What if I don't get good grades? What if I don't make the Dean's List? What if I'm not valedictorian? What if I'm not the best student in the class? What if I don't get the education my parents paid so hard for me to get? What if what I wanted to learn in school isn't what I wanted to do as a career? What if I have to trek to classes in a foot of snow? What if I'm responsible for a classmate's suicide or death? What if I didn't do enough for that classmate who needed love and understanding the most? What if I let my parents and family down for not graduating? What if I went to a party instead of studying? What if I get drunk? What if I get sexually harassed or abused? What if I'm a failure? Femininity What if my dad is disappointed in having a daughter instead of a son? What if I'm sexually harassed or abused? What if my dad or uncle or cousin molests me? What if I don't have a pad or tampon for my time of the month, especially when I need it the most? What if I'm not "feminine" enough to my fellow ladies? What if I want to play with G.I. Joe toys instead of Barbie dolls? What if girls laugh at me for not liking tea parties, princessy things, and stuff like that? What if I'm not picked for the soccer team? The lacrosse team? The basketball team? What if I'm a lesbian? What if I'm not ready to get married? Or have children? What if I don't find the one I'm destined to spend the rest of my life with? What if our marriage or union doesn't last? What if I'm single for the rest of my life? What if I'm not accepted by my male colleagues? What if I'm not beautiful enough by society's standards? What if my choices don't matter? What if I choose to have an abortion? What if I don't fight for equal pay? What if I teach my daughters and sons the wrong things? What if I don't get paid the same amount as a man? What if I get breast cancer? What if I get an STD? What if I never get pregnant? What if I suffer a miscarriage? What if I lose the baby at delivery? What if I die before I do all that I wanted to do? What if what my mom taught me about the world is wrong? What if I leave my abusive husband? What if he comes after me? Or my children? Or my family? Health What if I get sick? What if I have trouble breathing? What if I get cancer? What if my cancer is terminal? What if I get COVID-19?

What if I get Alzheimer's disease? What if I get Parkinson's disease? What if one or both of my kidneys fail? What if I get lung cancer from smoking? What if I gain weight? What if I don't meet my weight loss goal? What if I hit a plateau? What if I get diabetes? What if I lose my arm? My leg? What if I become handicapped? What if I can't walk? What if I become blind? What if I become deaf? What if I get someone else sick? What if my illness isn't treatable? Curable? What if I get food poisoning? What if I become anorexic? What if I get a food allergy? What if I get the flu? What if I have to go to the hospital? What if there's no hope for improving my health? What if I'm a lost cause for reversing the damages? What if one of the symptoms is something much worse? What if I get an STD? What if I have to stay on prescription meds for the rest of my life? What if I'm crazy? What if no one understands what I'm going through? What if I have to attend therapy for the rest of my life? What if my mental or emotional health doesn't matter to others? What if I die? What if I have to stay in the hospital for longer than a day? A week? A month? A year? What if I pass my health issues on to my children? What if I don't get better? What if I have to say goodbye to my loved ones before it's my time? Love, Marriage, & Family What if I don't meet the one with who I'm destined to spend the rest of my life? What if he or she is not right for me? What if he or she proposes? What if he or she doesn't propose? What if they find out I'm gay? Lesbian? Non-binary? Pansexual? Asexual? Transgender? What if they don't like me? What if they don't treat me like a human being? What if I end up in an abusive relationship? What if I can't move on from the end of the relationship? What if I fall in love? What if I can't handle it? What if my parents don't like my significant other? What if he or she dumps me? What if I never fall in love again? What if my wedding day doesn't go according to plan? What if I don't find the dress I say "yes" to? What if I get left at the altar? What if my significant other's family doesn't like me? What if I get pregnant before I'm married? What if I'm in a relationship with someone who has children from a previous marriage? What if they don't like me? What if we don't get along? What if we fight and we don't apologize? What if we both lose our jobs? What if I have to become a housewife and not follow my dreams? What if I don't get the support for my career and hobbies? What if I break their most valuable treasures? What if I don't like the team he or she supports? What if I can't cook? What if he or she is not the same person I married a year into our marriage? 5 years? 10 years? 25 years? 50 years? What if I get pregnant? What if I miscarry? What if I die during birth? What if the baby dies before, during, or after birth? What if our child has autism? What if our child has down syndrome? What if our child gets sick? What if our child is born prematurely? What if our child gets hurt at the playground? What if we are shamed by other parents? What if I raised my child to be spoiled? What if I pass on my bad habits to my children? What if my health issues are passed down to my children? What if my child doesn't do well in school? What if my child is hiding something from me? What if my child doesn't love me? What if my child doesn't make any friends? What if my child goes off with the wrong crowd? What if my child doesn't get into the best school? What if my child dies before I see him or she grows up? What if my child isn't happy? Politics & Religion What if we have different party views? What if we can't agree on the same issues? What if my vote isn't counted? What if our candidate doesn't win? What if there are protests and rage after an election? What if the policies affect me negatively? What if my senator or president doesn't listen or understand me? What if our leaders take away our rights? What if our leaders go against the will of the people? What if I lose friends because we don't see eye-to-eye politically? What if I don't say anything politically on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram even though they or I am wrong about certain topics? What if I'm not well-informed as a constituent? What if my candidate betrays me, and what the party stands for? What if my friends won't see how these issues affect them? What if my friends won't listen to me? What if my friends disrespect me as a human being because of my political views? What if my friends force me to agree with them even though they are wrong or I disagree? What if my family disowns me because I don't agree with their beliefs? What if I get attacked for my beliefs? What if our protests and petitions aren't enough to change the minds of those in power? What if our leader isn't all that he or she is cracked up to be? What if people don't vote at all? What if our vote isn't enough to change the course of the election? What if our leaders or senators get embroiled in a scandal? What if our leaders offend someone else? Or a group of people? What if our leaders or senators don't answer the questions we want the answers to the most? What if I have to raise my child in these uncertain times? What if nobody listens to each other and only screams all the time? What if someone harms me because of my beliefs? What if I go to hell for not agreeing with a certain truth or doctrine from the church? What if I'm gay? Lesbian? Transgender? Non-binary? What if I'm not welcomed in the church? What if I'm scared to die and go to heaven? Or hell? What if I'm disillusioned by the church? What if I'm a bad person? What if I'm not forgiven for my sins? What if I leave the church? What if I'm wronged by someone else close to me? What if I get hurt by those who are supposed to love me? What if there's no peace in the world? Ever? What if love doesn't win? What if faith isn't enough? What if I can't trust in God? The universe? Fate? Careers & Money

What if I want to change career fields? What if what I studied in school isn't what I want to do as a career? What if I let my family down by not going to college? What if I go into a field that my family is against? What if I don't get a job? What if I don't get paid enough for rent? Food? Health care? Clothes? A car? What if I don't get that promotion? What if I get fired? What if I say the wrong things to my boss or colleagues? What if I don't get along with my boss or colleagues? What if I get attacked while on the job? What if I'm sexually harassed or assaulted? What if I don't get the job because of my gender? Race? Religion? Sexuality? What if I lose my job? What if the main source of income is gone? What if I never get the role, responsibility, or part that I so desire? What if I'm a failure? What if no one likes me? What if I don't get my dream job? What if I don't get to where I'm meant to be by 25? 30? 40? 50? What if I don't get a retirement plan? What if I don't get health insurance? What if I'm attacked? What if we don't see eye to eye? What if my dreams aren't paying the bills? What if I fall behind on rent? Bills? What if I'm not happy at my job? What if I have to stay at this job for the rest of my life? What if I have to live with my parents or relatives? What if I have to take out a loan? What if I can't pay that loan back? What if my loan defaults? What if I win the lottery? What if I can't control my spending habits? What if I can't put food on the table? What if I lose my home? What if my career never takes off? What if I have to focus on a job that pays rather than a career that makes me happy and has a purpose? What if I go through a mid-life crisis? What if I have regrets? What if? What if? WHAT IF??????? It's amazing how these questions can multiply exponentially, and there's more where that came from. Many of these fears overlap in the different topics I presented to you, and it's very common that many of them are the same in nearly all of the subjects and more. From these fears, doubt creeps into the mind. You hesitate to move forward in a new venture or idea. You put up a wall so tall that you won't let anything or anyone in. You feel contented to stay within your comfort zone, even though you know it hasn't done well so far. In other words, you retreat and hide under the covers. Or hug your loved ones tightly. Or scream. Or cry. Or even give up. But it doesn't have to be that way. You shouldn't have to resort to having new experiences, ideas, and thoughts becoming a horror movie with fear. No one should. I know, I know. It's easy for you to say, and it's even easier said than done. For someone who's 5'3", I get intimidated by someone who's taller than I am. And it's often that size and strength that would protect me. But unfortunately, we don't always have a big, tall, strong, and muscular bodyguard to have with us each day. What can we use in a world that is frightening, intimidating, stressful, and at times, not natural? I have one idea, and it might sound silly. But it's also helped me through some of the darkest times when the "what ifs" would come into my mind. It's an important piece of the puzzle in this crazy thing called life. HOPE.

It's an anchor that holds your soul together. It helps you to keep going even when things look their bleakest. It's a feeling of trust that things will work out how they supposed to, even if it's not exactly how we pictured it would be. It's a feeling of confidence. It's a desire for things to be better than what is right in front of us. It sees what can't be seen, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible. Even for Pandora, it's the last thing released from the box she opened to share with mankind. It's small, quiet, but very powerful. I remember watching a film called The Phantom Tollbooth, and the main character, Milo, deals with the "what ifs" that plagued his mind after making a mess of things. The Whether Man gave him two balloons to help him fly through the sky to conquer the "what ifs," and the two words that were on the balloons were "here's how." Maybe the best way to face the "what ifs" is to take one step forward, then another, and then say "here's how." Hope has a funny way of encouraging us to not give up or stay rooted in one spot. "Here's how" is another form of hope, which allows us to face the world with a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration. It may not solve all of our problems, but it certainly helps us to not end up like many characters in a horror movie when they give up and run towards danger. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't want to end up dead because you didn't have hope, right? It's okay to be scared. I get scared plenty of times before I go into an audition or go onstage. People tell me that I'm in the right business if I get the butterflies in my stomach and the "what ifs" come into my mind. Sometimes, we have to allow those questions to come. And from that, we begin to look deep within ourselves and see that even the smallest steps are taken to face our fears, even if it's simply waking up and getting out of bed. Then, we remind ourselves of the blessings that we have, and take the time to accept that we can only control ourselves, and not others. But then again, if we do allow the "what ifs" to come into our mind, they may just haunt us for the rest of our lives. But one young woman put it best this way as she was responding to a letter from over 50 years ago: What" and "If" are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: What... if? What, if? What *if*...? That came from a film called Letters to Juliet, and those words are still very much true today as it was when the film was first released. Take the advice of Juliet, my fellow readers. Use the courage, the "here's how," to follow your heart. Meditate. Pray. Talk with others. Write it down in your journal. Do whatever you have to do to go from "what if" to "here's how," and follow your heart to what makes you happiest. Your life doesn't have to resort to a horror film. You are so much more than what your fears are. Hope is so much more than what your fears are. Hold onto that hope, that "here's how," and you WILL go places. Believe me, it took me a long time to realize that. But I'm glad I did. It's now my turn to share it with you. We can't always be strong and intimidating to others in order to face the "what ifs" in our lives. Sometimes, admitting your shortcomings, vulnerability, and doubts are enough to know that you are afraid. And going it alone isn't the easiest thing to do. Have that strong network of family, friends, colleagues, and even people you know in passing encourage you. You may have to take your path on your own, but having the support system behind you is half the battle. They shouldn't have to criticize or belittle you. They're not real friends or acquaintances to have in your life they do that. It's enough for them to be there to listen, have a shoulder to cry on, laugh, share ideas and dreams, and much more. And one more thing to think about. It may not be so horrible if things don't work out as you thought they would. Maybe those fears do come true, and the doubt creeps in. But the important thing to do here is to take a breath, figure out the next step, and take it one day at a time. Call a friend or family member if you have to. Just don't go through "what ifs" alone. That's exactly what the fear wants you to do. I know you're smarter than some of those characters in horror movies. Don't give in to the fear, the "what ifs." It's okay to ask for help, wherever it comes from. It's okay to be vulnerable. It shows that you're letting people in, and that's not easy to do. It's going to be okay. I have your back, and I know plenty of people who have my back as well. Don't face the "what ifs" alone.

The spookiest time of the year is the best time to be scared, but somehow, every day of the year is also the best time to be scared because of the many things life throws at us. Our careers, our families, our finances, our dreams, and so much more plague our thoughts with "what if?" But remember, in this world, hope is still very much alive, even if we can't see it. What does it look like? It can be anything you want it to look like. Just allow it to anchor your soul to what want the spirit of your dreams to look like. And face the "what ifs" with "here's how." It's not easy to do, I know. But I believe that we as humans are so capable of doing so much for each other and ourselves than what we initially perceive. All we have to do is BELIEVE. Here's to a fun, spooky, and safe Halloween wherever you are. Enjoy the candy, dressing up as someone or something else, and even find pleasure in being terrified out of your mind or mystified by the magic. And remember: hope is the greatest power to have to face the horror films within ourselves. Here's how.

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