Fear can be a quiet killer. It can hide in the details you pass over, in the moments you navigate around, in the words you never speak. Fear is the tar that holds you in place, the cold outside the window, the darkness on either side of the tightrope. It is the comfort of routine, company and handrails. It is the knowledge that things work the way they are.
Sometimes fear is subtle--does not shoot adrenaline into your body or yell debilitating lies in your ear. It simply keeps you from moving. It is all bite, all action to keep you inactive. It lives in the questions you do not know to ask, or simply refuse to ask, and it eats your confidence, your motivation, your sense of purpose. It is when fear acts in these ways is it the most frightening.
When fear is loud, in your face and obvious, you become aware of it. And once you are aware of it, it is easier to confront. It is when you don't even realize that you are afraid, that fear is most terrifying. How can you fight an opponent you don't know exists? A feeling that you don't know you are feeling? You are rooted to the spot and you don't know why.
It can feel like frustration. You wish to move forward, but you can't. Despite all of your efforts, your feet don't move. You struggle. You flail. You turn around and go back. And it wasn't that you could not have moved forward, but rather that you were afraid to.
Right now, I don't know exactly what I'm afraid of, but I know fear is there. Instead of breathing down my neck, it is sitting on my chest. I can feel it--the fountains of hopelessness and despair that threaten to rain down when I stay up too late, the haze of anxiety and feeling lost in the world when I think of everything I still need to do, the claustrophobia that is waiting to consume me as I wrap myself ever more tightly around me. I could feel my fear for a long time and only recently did I realize what it was.
Perhaps, it doesn't go away. Perhaps, we walk forever on hot streets that make our shoes want to stick to the asphalt--we live with a dose of fear in our heads to keep us on track. But if that's the case, at least now I know, so when life seems to go into a holding pattern, I can ask myself, "Am I afraid?" and, "What am I afraid of?" And then, I can ask myself, "What is the next step?" and continue moving forward.