The Simple, Logical Reason to Quit Living in Fear

Finding peace in a chaotic universe

Here’s a funny thing about my husband: Every time I kiss him, he dies.

He doesn’t actually die, thankfully. But there are many times when we’re sharing a loving moment together, that I can’t help but think about what it would be like to lose him.

Call me an extremist, but I skip divorce and go straight to tragic, unexpected death.

In real life, my head is laying on his chest, he’s running his fingers through my hair, I can hear rain gently falling outside the window.

Inside my mind, I’m at his funeral.

Everyone is staring. Shaking their heads with pity in their eyes, they whisper, “Tsk tsk. Those poor little boys, losing their father at such a young age.”

I imagine what it would be like to sleep alone. What I would do with my life in the event of his death? Would I stay in my house? At my job?

Meanwhile in reality, he’s totally relaxed (and alive), living in the moment — completely unaware that I’m grieving his death in my mind.

All because my love for him feels like too much to bear — too much of a risk. I feel the need to “practice” grieving, so if the worst were to happen, I’ll be better prepared.

Real experiences of tragedy help fuel my fears. I watched my mother die of cancer, and my grandmother and father in-law become paralyzed after strokes.

When I stop and truly contemplate the potential for suffering in this world, fear and dread threaten to swallow me whole. Countless times I’ve thought, How can I live in a world like this? Why does anyone want to?

I envy the religious, and their ability to find comfort in their strong faith in God — that He will see them through, no matter what.

But what about agnostics like me? Those of us who need confirmation through logic and reason — who remain open-minded but can never be certain of anything specific about spirituality? We, who open our prayers with To Whom It May Concern…?

If you’re like me, you’ve often felt lost in the struggle to find meaning in life’s suffering — it feels like you’re falling and grasping for a foothold, but nothing ever appears. Maybe you’ve dabbled in different spiritual traditions — gone to a Christian church with family, tried Buddhist meditation…they comfort you in the moment but when you flip on the news, the awful dread returns.

Maybe a lot of your actions reflect this fear and dread — you get a slight headache and feel the need to google your symptoms until you’re certain you don’t have a brain tumor. You won’t buy a trampoline for your kids because you’ve heard stories about terrible injuries. You won’t reveal parts of your true self to your friends or co-workers for fear of rejection.

Yet — here’s the curious thing: you still wake up each morning and decide to remain here in this world. To drag your ass out of bed and schlep your way through the day, despite terrible struggle. Some of you have, amazingly, fought the overwhelming urge to end it all.

We have two choices when we wake up each morning: continue existing, or cease to exist. Many people make the latter choice, and it’s not hard to understand why, given the potential horrors that come with life.

We know that life and suffering are a package deal — no getting around it. But if we woke up today, and chose to keep existing — to participate one more day in this crazy, unpredictable, often downright hostile universe, then why only half-live by hiding in fear? There isn’t a damn thing we can do to change the fact that bad things could happen at any moment. So why not go all in? Why half-ass it?

And isn’t that what we do when we edit what we say in order to fit in? When we decide against a road trip with the kids for fear of a car accident? When we avoid our true calling in life to eliminate the risk of failure?

We allow the fear of the unknown to keep us from touching the divinity of full expression, of true connection with others.

Deep inside I think I’ve known this — that living in fear is no way to live. But I couldn’t reconcile it before I thought of living as a conscious decision I make every day, and that it’s more important to make that decision worth it.

When I feel love for my husband, I should allow my love for him to be as big it is, to feel it as deeply as it wants to go, without holding back for fear of heartbreak.

When I laugh with my sons, gaze into their eyes, or kiss their little foreheads at night, I shouldn’t indulge the compulsion to worry about bad things happening to them.

When I have success at work, I should relish in it as much as possible, instead of worrying I’ll mess up in the future and disappoint everyone.

When I look nice, and feel confident, I should enjoy it, rather than try and bring myself down a notch.

I should share myself with others. My real self. My imperfect, neurotic, weird and quirky self, opening up to receive real, genuine connections.

It’s the only way that makes sense.

Every day, life asks you: Will you stay? Here, there is potential for love and connection beyond anything you could imagine, but there is also the potential for chaos, heartbreak and terrible suffering.

If you whisper the word yes — then the only logical choice is to live and love — as cliché as it sounds — with total reckless abandon. To be the biggest, grandest expression of yourself, no matter what it looks like.

The time has come. Right at this very moment, and in every moment of life, you’re being asked this question.

How will you answer?