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When Fear Holds You Back

Mary has retired from her job and has focused on her own personal inner journey.

The Hold of Fear


How Fear Took Over My Life

Fear took over my life when I was about 3 years of age. We just moved from the big city, where my older sister and I were born, to my father's village, a tiny place where everyone claimed relations to each other. We moved to live with our grandmother, my father's mother, so my father could work in the city and learn everything he could to start his own business.

Everyone in this village was a relative. There were only about 30 families clustered in three areas. Located in the north cluster, our house was separate from my grandmother's. It was built right beside hers, so my mother did not have to cook as we ate with the family. Our house was the only one with the big porch and we had a verandah full of flowers.

Everyone knew us so we felt safe. Without a worry, my father went to the city, stayed there to work for 5 days and, came home on the weekend. We were always excited to welcome him, most especially, the treats he brought us.


It Started When I Was 3

But although the village was safe, something happened, so unusual for such a tiny village. It was the feast day of St. Joseph, the saint the village worshipped, so a big fiesta was organized. This was a major annual event for the village as visitors, mostly relations, came from other villages, the town, and even the city.

The villagers cleaned and decorated the grounds of the schoolyard and the church. They set up tents so people could shield themselves from the midday sun. Sellers set up stalls on the grounds stocking up on what they think would strongly attract the villagers' money.

Each household prepared its specialty, something only cooked for such a festive occasion because it required so much time and effort. But on this special day, nothing was spared. Dishes kept only for extra special occasions were washed, wiped, and arranged beautifully on the table. Family members dusted furniture, swept the yard, and brought out new curtains and linens. Each one in the household got new clothes, new pairs of shoes and also a bit of money to buy something from the stalls. Excitement peaked as the preparations heightened.


The Moment of Terror

The day came and, in our new outfits, we all went to the beautifully decorated tiny church and heard Mass. We really did not care that Mass took almost the whole morning, as afterward, we enjoyed the specially prepared favorites in different houses and played with visiting kids. The festive air engulfed all of us, as we moved from one group to the other, getting to know more relatives and friends. In the evening, we all gathered on the school grounds. The music was loud and villagers and visitors took to the dance floor and shook their bodies to the tune of the rock and roll. My sister, who was a bit older, was allowed to go with cousins of the same age but I stayed with my mother. As the clock struck twelve, my mother took me home.

She prepared me for bed, but as she was about to read me a story as she usually did, a thud came strongly at our porch. My mother immediately bolted the main door and started pushing furniture to hold the door firmly. She took my hand and brought me close to the door, her body trembling and her eyes were in full panic. She made a sign for me to keep silent and showed me to push hard with my body on the door panel. I followed what she did, but my legs went wobbly and my body shook with fear. I wanted to cry, but I knew I had to help my mother.

More shouts followed, stones hurled at our porch, breaking flower pots. Fear fluttered in my stomach and my belly cramped but pushed I did. At one point, I almost screamed as I saw the glint of a knife inserted in between the door panels. A man was trying to open the door. My hands went cold and clammy and fear gripped my throat. I froze but I pushed even harder. No words passed between my mother and I. We did not want the people outside to know we were in there. We looked at each other in terror but we knew we could not scream. We reigned our panic in and prayed silently for help.

We could hear the flower pots broke, as stones were thrown at our porch. There was no further approach, maybe in fear that the man in our porch had a long knife, but the stones kept coming. The man kept trying to get in, slowly moving his knife to loosen the door hinges and as he did this, our shivers mounted, but there was no way I was giving up. I pushed even more even though my hands felt numb.

There was yet no way of connecting in the village then. There was no telephone. All we could do was pray and hope that beyond the blaring music, people would hear the shouts of people fighting. Though our house was not that far from where the dance was, we knew people were into the festivities and there was little hope of them hearing about the fight. Luckily, some people started to go home and that was when some of them heard the shouting. After seeing what was happening, they immediately brought the village heads to end the fight.


Fear Lodged in Me

That incident brought fear into my life and crippled me. It must have been hidden in my subconscious. For years, I never thought about it. I had buried it a long time ago. But as far as I could remember of my growing up, fear always tormented me. Aside from that, I also wanted things done immediately, even though it was unreasonable to do so. Why was this so, my father would ask, but I could not offer any explanation.

Only after many years, in fact, only recently when that fear lost its hold on me. As I was working on my inner healing, that incident came to mind. I thought about it and realized the fear and anxiety it brought into my life which crippled me for years. It prevented me from living in joy as I was always apprehensive and anxious about every single thing. It kept me from becoming more aware of other people and their own needs. It kept me comfortable in my own world but deprived of experiences that would have expanded my horizon, my consciousness, and my life.

I stayed with the incident and reflected on it. I realized how much that person who sought refuge in our balcony needed help. He cried out for help and we should have let him in so the others would stop from further hurting him. But we did not hear his cry. We only thought of our own safety then. We did not think of him needing help as he crouched in our porch so the flying rocks and stones would not hit him. It was only after I had dealt with my own fear, that I became aware of the situation that person who took refuge in our porch was in.


Your Greatest Fear


How I Confronted My Fear

When I confronted my fear, life took on a different turn. Slowly, confidence took over fear. I started enjoying people, getting to know them better, and interact with them with greater confidence and joy. People enjoyed being around me. Perhaps because I was genuinely there for them. They felt happy around me.

I dared to do things I had never done before. It was exhilarating to experience something new and achieve new milestones. Other steps I had taken included the following:

  1. I listened to my fear. Where did it come from? As I listened to it, incidents came to mind. Some incidents prevailed, and these were the ones I further listened to. I entered into it and listened to the fear that gripped me at that particular instance.
  2. I also assured myself that the situation was long past and that it no longer had any power over me. I mustered my courage and capacity to deal with such a situation, replacing the feeling of fear with confidence knowing that I now have the resources to handle this fear.
  3. As I started listening to my fears and anxieties, other incidents revealed itself. I became conscious of how these other incidents further reinforced my first experience of fear and lodged it deeper on my inner self. Knowing this, I allowed myself time to heal and strengthen my courage. As each incident revealed itself, I encountered it and eventually said goodbye.
  4. When thoughts of fear came, I substituted these thoughts with incidents when I displayed courage. I shifted my imagination away from the drama of fear toward experiences of confidence.
  5. Each time fear came, I let it go, loosened its hold on me, and took the steps to overcome it. I did exactly the thing I was afraid to do, not recklessly but with greater awareness of what I needed to do. Before I did it, I visualized how well I was doing it. The more I did this, the greater my inner strength became.
  6. I gained knowledge and skills to help me overcome my helplessness and do things with ease and competence.
  7. I kept reinforcing courage as I enhanced my awareness of myself.

This had been an ongoing journey. Sometimes, I fell back but I kept picking myself up and moved on. Confronting my fear became the defining moment in the change that made me create my own life in freedom and joy.

© 2020 Mary Norton

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