9 Ways to Fight Fear

She called me this morning and asked,  “you never told me about that ex girlfriend who spoke French who you got pregnant. How come?” She had read my blog. I was afraid I had shared too much. I was afraid it would come back to haunt me.

I’m tired of being afraid. From the moment we’re born we are always in a fight. We fight to eat, we fight to stand up, we fight to control our bowels. Finally we shit by ourselves, in clean porcelain bowls. What an achievement! The first of many. The first of many happinesses that become aborted, miscarried joy strewn everywhere throughout our lives as we hurry to our death.

We fight to have friends. We fight the bullies. We fight the girls who think we’re too disgusting to touch. We’re afraid to be unloved, unwanted, unworthy.

“Its better not to touch him,” Karen N said to her friends at square dance class in 7th grade.  They would hold their hands out, grasping the air in front of me, while we dosi-doed and pretended to love each other.

We graduate to the real world. So now we can fight bosses, employees, colleagues, competitors.  Each one of our thoughts costumed into spoken words we think will bring us more money, more happiness. Those same oaths of loyalty, of hope and fearlessness all vomited back in our faces.

“You’re disgusting,” said one close relative who took too close a look at my face when I was 16. I wish I could google all of the conversations of my life for the phrase “you’re disgusting”. Catalog them and browse them in my old age.

And then we’re afraid. Because these fights cost money. So we fight for money. And sometimes we kill for it or go to jail for it or lie for it or steal for it. But always we’re afraid of it.

(we're all afraid of poverty, no matter what successes or failures we've had)

I’m tired of fighting. Kids, parents, siblings, people I work with, others others OTHERS. I look at them through a kaleidoscope. One time they are a beautiful image all mixed together, but then I shift ever so slightly and everything becomes dissonant, a collage of colors that never should’ve been put together.

I’m tired of the non-stop battle. Where we always want things we can’t afford. People we can’t have. Situations that eluded us. Situations that deluded us.

I’m tired of it.

In 2002 I’d walk with my business partner, Dan, in between trades. The market was going down every day. We’d daytrade the worst stocks, buying companies that were down 30% in a day. These were always the stocks sure to bounce. The stocks that the girls wouldn’t touch at the dance.  The companies nobody loved.

We’d walk on streets like Rutgers St, or Henry St. Streets that were off the standard NYC grid. Streets with weird temples to no religion and tiny slivers of a hole in the wall that you’d stick a dollar through and a dirty hand would hand you back a dumpling. “I could live here,” I said. “And completely disappear. Nobody would know I ever existed.”

But of course I can’t. I’d bring my wife now. My two kids. I’d have to worry about my bank account. I have people who depend on me. I’d still call Dan throughout the day wondering about deals that would never happen. Chinatown is far away for me now.

If I drilled a tunnel straight through the center of the Earth and ended up on the other side it wouldn’t even matter. I’d be right back where I started. Afraid of all the people around me, everyone speaking languages I never really understood in the first place.

I’m just really tired of the constant fight.

How to Fight The Fear (this is in reverse order of usefulness).

A)     Don’t’ read newspapers. All they do is bring you more fear. My kids came over today and said, “Did you hear about the kid in Brooklyn?”  No, I said. And I don’t want to.  Whether the news is true or sad or horrible or horrific, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t read the newspaper. They shit fear and then try to make it smell good so they can sell it to you for $1.25.

B)      Don’t watch TV. Jealousy, greed, anger, murder are the themes of the top TV shows. And then there’s the news. I have one or two shows I’ll download on itunes and that’s it. The rest of the cable companies could shut down for all I care.

C)      Try to sleep 8-9 hours. Fear is the enemy of sleep. It’s a monster that sits on you all night trying to wake you. The less you sleep, the more that monster can whisper in your brain during the day.

D)     Limit phone usage. Here’s the reason.

E)      Practice invisibility.  Here’s the reason.

F)     No alcohol. This is hard for almost everybody, even me. Alcohol is a way of life. You go outside at night, and you drink alcohol with your friends. People often think alcohol pushes away the fear but it just “kicks the can” (I have to put it in quotes because now financial media is using that term too often to describe events on a beach resort in Europe) until the fear becomes a monster that wakes you up on a sugar bounce in the middle of the night. Plus alcohol deludes you into thinking you have no inhibitions when in fact, you never had any inhibitions. It’s just that nobody else knew that.

G)      Express yourself. Paint something today. Or write down the list of ideas you have. Or write a poem even if you’ve never read or written one in your entire life. Or write a story about your earliest memories. All the colors you saw on that memory. List the colors. List the family members who were there, list the location. Spend a half hour today expressing yourself in some way. List what you wish you had done differently the first time you felt passionate for something or someone. You can even express yourself through email. Return an email from 2004. Just pull it up right now. You never returned it. Return it right now.

H)      Imagine you suddenly had no money or job or love at all. List everything that would mean for you. You would still be able to stay in shape. Still be able to have compassion towards the people around you. Still be able to generate ideas. Still surrender to the universe around you. From there you can rebuild. I’ve been there and had to do it.

I)     Useful/Not useful. Go to this post about anger. The same technique for dealing with anger, you can use to deal with fear. Insomnia grays our days, cancer might be bleeding up slowly from our rectum to our heart, mental illness might be fogging the lenses we use see all life around us, but you can still try and train your thoughts to take out the pieces that are clouded with delusion and fear.

We’re so happy when we’re young and the future seems infinite in front of us. But it is an engorged cyst with pus that leaks out and finally bursts when youth turns to old age, when potential turns to mediocrity, when love turns to languish.

But while we hurry to our death, and the last liquid pus comes streaming out of the cyst of our youth, when the colors of our hopes turns to the grays of insomnia, it’s time to realize that none of it ever mattered– that freedom is colorless. When finally the fight ends, the fear fades away, the love decides to stick around, the feeling of pleasure is so enormous it almost becomes something to fear.

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