Do Not Fear
There’s a picture on my desktop of one of my best friends in college. She is wearing a straw cowboy hat and holds a handmade sign. She is just as I remember her, smiling, with a combination of hope and opportunity in her eyes that just epitomizes the age of 21 for those of us who are blessed. She is full of the vibrancy of life, wanting to change the world for the better and knowing it is hers to change. When the picture was taken, she was getting ready to go to Nicaragua for a service trip. The sign she holds reads “do not fear.”
A few months after her return, her world started spinning, literally, out of control. It’s something she still fights close to 4 years later. Some days she wakes up and her world is toppling over and over. She cannot find the ground and getting out of bed is a dangerous task. She finds even watching television nauseating and reading a book is out of the question. The few times I’ve seen her post graduation I have been shocked at how skeletal thin she is. I know she gets tired of explaining why she has lost so much weight to those of us who are busy with internships, new jobs, and new lives. Several doctors have tried to diagnose her but so far they’ve all just been baffled by it.
On her bad days, getting to the toilet can prove to be a combination of agony and terror. On her good days, she can’t plan much further than what the moment gives her. Long term planning is out of the question.
Sometimes I look at her picture on my computer screen and get frustrated. How could this happen to her of all people? Why would a person wishing to devote her life to service, ready to be a force of good, be struck down by something we can’t even put a name to? I look at her holding that sign “do not fear,” and I think what a crock. This is when the force of irony becomes too much to bear. I change my desktop.
I always change it back.
It’s because I need to be reminded by her in particular that to fear is worthless. The constant worry of what terrible pains lurk in upcoming years does nothing to enhance ourselves today. In fact, it stands to rob us of the times of hope and expectation which makes our struggle worthwhile when we need hope to come out the other side. In college she was fearless not because she didn’t know what horrible things there were to fear. Ignorance is not always bliss. But she was fearless simply because life was hers to shape into whatever form she wanted.
We keep in contact the days she feels up to it. On the days she doesn’t I think of her often in my quiet moments. There are many times that I feel my life overwhelming me and I look at her picture, to try and breathe. Sometimes I find a frustrated email in my inbox from her, asking all the same questions I struggle to understand. She worries that she is preaching to the choir. I remind her its ok, there are moments where only the choir understands it. More often than not, life is overwhelming. During those times, all we can do is look around, see the situation the clearest we can, and do our best not to fear.