This week has been a strange one in Austin, Texas. If you keep up with the news, you’ve probably heard that there have been several bombs delivered to unsuspecting homes, concealed in packages, detonating when the packages are moved or opened. Two people have been killed and several others have been injured. Two days ago, a few miles from our house, another bomb exploded, set-off by a tripwire that was supposedly run over by two bicyclists out for an evening ride. Last night, at a Fed Ex office in San Antonio, one more bomb went off, as it had been concealed in a package that, as of now, police suspect was intended to be delivered to somewhere in Austin. These sorts of things are always scary and are far more frequent than we’d like to admit. However, when they occur in your small city, within miles of your home and your friend’s homes and your family’s homes, well, the fear seems to take on a life of its own.
I’ve been thinking a lot about fear the past few days, and about how it can grow and shift and enter your mind and heart in ways that you least suspect. Often it comes aggressively – loudly, without warning and without apology. Other times, it walks gently beside you, quietly matching your steps, your breaths, your daily rhythms.
As I was driving last night, windows down and smile on my face, I spotted a strange plastic bin in the middle of the road. In a split-second, my breath caught and a bloody, terrifying image flashed in front of me. I saw an explosion, my car destroyed, my body injured and hurting, and I heard the sirens, the yelling, the chaos that was sure to follow. I imagined all of these things quickly and quietly, before just swerving to miss the strange plastic bin, strewn broken and empty, and void of any threat. And then, just like that, the image disappeared. My breath slowed but I felt my anger rise. The fear had ambushed me. Somewhere between the beautiful sunshine and the smile on my face, it had found its way in. What a sneaky bastard.
One thing I’ve learned and witnessed through the work that I do is that more often than not, the opposite of helplessness is anger. When we feel helpless, fearful, and without control, we tend to turn towards anger, frustration, and even rage. We are reactive rather than proactive. We isolate ourselves more often. We lash out at the people we love more often. We become blind to the light and instead seek out the darkness. And, in turn, we lose our greatest superpower – the ability to identify, experience, and walk in true joy.
This week, I’m working hard to not let the fear of what is happening in our city derail my ability to find the good in the small things. Yes, I'm acting with wisdom and with caution. But I’m still taking walks in celebration of longer evenings. I’m still laughing with friends. I’m still reading books and drinking wine and buying fresh flowers. I’m still cranking up the music in my car and rolling down my windows to let the sunshine in. And when I feel the fear sneak beside me, I’m offering up prayers for peace and for the loudest kind of silence- that my mind would quiet to the chaos of the news and social media and instead stay the course, fixed on simple joys and the incredible blessing of being alive.