Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Get Your Hands Off My Fear Body!

When the economy first tanked and there was emotional pandemonium everywhere you looked, The Todd and I called one of the smartest therapists we knew to appear on our radio show and address what everyone was feeling. Teri Holleran is a tiny thing with huge eyes and an even bigger laugh--which she made us do several times doing the interview. But she said something interesting: that nearly the entire nation was inside what she called our "Fear Bodies."

Fear Bodies. You know that feeling you get at three in the morning when you can't shut your mind off and you're picturing your family homeless on the street? Fear Body. When you scream at your husband for buying a $50.00 shirt and tell him that "I hope you're happy! Now we won't be able to pay our mortgage and we'll lose the house and your children will STARVE!" Fear Body. When someone hits you up for a charitable donation and you're suddenly, unreasonably furious at them because "dangit! Maybe YOU can throw money around but I have a family to feed!"

Fear Body.

All of our secret terrors and horror of deprivation rise to the surface and we can no longer think any further than our own little island. Unfortunately, this only separates us all even more from the support and encouragement we can offer each other.

I've been thinking about this a lot this week because I've received some angry comments here about my posts. When picking up school supplies, I've suggested getting more for your school, or maybe buying more sleepers and diapers when on sale and dropping them off at the local homeless shelter. One Mrs. Anonymous (ALWAYS my favorite kind of correspondent) accused me of being "holier than thou--stop trying to make us feel less than you because you can afford all this charity crap (her words) and we can't!"

Mrs. Anonymous, you are totally in your Fear Body, sister. Not mad at you, because we've all been there. I've lost my job in radio just once, and 20 years later I still can feel that sick sense of terror and inadequacy. While I searched for a new one, I volunteered at a homeless shelter for women and children for 2 months. I'd like to tell you that I have NEVER EVER complained about my lot in life again. This of course, would be wildly untrue. But I did learn what those on the fringes figured out long ago. They've been there before. They might be there again. But they WILL climb out and do everything they can for those left behind. Any charity will tell you the most generous benefactors are those on the lower economic levels.

Why would they risk their limited funds? Why would they offer when they have so little themselves? They've left their Fear Body. I know everyone's funds are tight. I juggle bills every payday and try to figure out what I can pay in two weeks and not today. But the clutching of whatever meagre means we have to ourself lead to something worse--a paucity of the soul. I have a former radio partner who who used to scoop the tip money off the table when we'd have lunch together. (Editor's note: I found this out after noticing a marked cooling in the attitude of our regular server and watching him in action when I went back for a forgotten sweater.) Would that 5 bucks really make the difference in the life of a man who made $75,000 a year? I dunno, but he was very fond of saying that HE was his favorite charity.

In the end, I believe that emotional deprivation and lack of generosity will cause us far more harm than the financial sort. I pitched into one of my ranting moments during our last bill-paying and The Todd tried to calm me with an arm about my shoulders. I reared back, hissing, "get your hands OFF my Fear Body!" He laughed himself sick. But maybe we ALL need to be shaken out of our Fear Bodies. Give what you can, even if it's just a smile or a joke. Give every day. I am the LAST person on the planet morally qualified to tell anyone what they can or can't afford to do for their fellow man. But I will tell you that this little practice of daily sharing has made me leave my Fear Body. Hopefully, for good.


  1. I LOVE you, Erin! You really DO get it!!
    Life is about loving and sharing and learning.
    Thank you for all that you do! Anyone that even remotely knows you KNOWS that you are a generous, kind, sincere & loving awesome woman!
    -LaRae Knudsen :)

  2. This is awesome!! You love, you share and you give of yourself. And I have no problem with you reminding me (in the subtle way that you do) that there are others out there less fortunate. I need to be reminded about the schools as all my kids are grown and gone. And it doesn't hurt me to give up my diet coke habit for a week if I can buy a $10 bag of groceries at Harmons for the food bank. So you keep on reminding. And those who can give will continue to give and those who don't get it won't. Love you!!!
    -Karen Paulsen-

  3. Nobody (in their right mind) should EVER accuse you of all people,of thinking you are holier than thou!! You are the most giving,thoughtful and TENDER hearted person. The poor soul that said that, doesn't like themself very much. ; { Those of us that do know you, love, appreciate and RESPECT you Erin. Love You, Tina Parkinson

  4. Girlies, you make me cry. You are ALL strong, incredible women and I hope one day to be half the amazingness that you are NOW.