She stood at the front of the room. Her long, thick silver braid draped over the front of her left shoulder, stark contrast against her black turtle-necked sweater, and terminating at her waist. Her arms were outstretched, palms cupped toward the ceiling and it seemed to me that she was holding the most fragile air in the universe.
Her grey eyes were calm. Expectation was in the room: everyone held their breath.
“We are born with two and only two fears. Every other fear is learned.”
She held up two fingers. “Those two fears? Fear of sharp, loud noises and the fear of falling. They test for them at birth, you know.”
Nods around the room. People knew that.
Her face, lovely and wise, broke deeply into a loving smile. “Two fears,” she said, looking around the room, making eye contact with each person. Silence.
She wasn’t some 70-something year-old woman with wrinkles no iron could fix. She was a vibrant, pulsing life force standing at the front of the room. Her talk was already 20 minutes over time and none of us who’d been told to corral her on the time wanted to stop her.
Her eyes met mine and I held her gaze. I was the last one.
“Two fears,” she said. I felt she was counting mine. Not in judgement. Out of curiosity. She smiled that smile and I smiled her back.
Logical mind stepped in and said that some fears are born of chemical imbalances in the body; biologically based fears. Logical mind also said some fears are healthy. Black bears, oncoming train, stupid people, the edge of the universe, although logical mind noted that those could in fact be counted as learned fears.
I suspected it was not those fears that she was talking about. She was talking about the kind of fear that impedes living, that keep us back, hold us in, prevent us from knowing ourself, keeping us frozen in a time and place not of our choosing, but a place we have deemed safe and free of fear, fear of hurt, fear of suffering, fear of being discounted, neglected, overlooked, ridiculed, being rendered invisible, fear of loss. Fear of real or imagined things from real and imagined events from real and imagined people.
And so I am curious. What fears have you? How did you learn them? How do they help you?