Michealmas-- Confronting our Fears

Author: Susan R. Johnson MD, F.A.A.P.

Published: Sept 28th, 2001

Last Sunday, for the first time in my life, I went skydiving. During that Rite of Passage or what I call my Leap of Faith, I faced a lot of my fears in life. My fear of heights, fear of the unknown, fear of losing my life, fear of disappointing others, and mostly my fear of not being in control. I can be brave and courageous as long as I am in charge of making all the decisions. Heaven help me if something unexpected happens, and I am not prepared; then I lose all trust in myself, in the eternal, and fear takes over.

I remember during my pediatric residency when I was in charge of the emergency room at night and all disasters or "codes" that occurred on the pediatric wards. I would walk by the children's rooms at night and mentally rehearse the worst possible thing that could happen to each one and in that way be prepared for everything in advance. I have gone through most of my life making final decisions way before the event even happens. I decide way ahead of time if I am going to do something or not do something. I often leave no space for the present. When I do this there is no room for my intuition, my spirit, to speak to me and guide me in the last moment.

Two weeks ago, a few days after the horrific events in New York City, my son and I attended a karate class. Last summer, I had met a phenomenal karate teacher who worked with children in Minnesota. She was a world champion and she emanated love. The teacher from the karate class that my son and I visited was different. He was a retired military officer, and he was giving free karate lessons at his home to children as young as 9 years old. My neighbor thought the class was great and that her children were learning how to speak up for themselves and gaining self-discipline. At one point during the karate class, the teacher suddenly started talking about the terrorist attack in New York. He told these children, including my son, that the only solution was to drop an atomic bomb on Afghanistan and Iraq as well, and it didn't matter if children were killed because in those countries they just grew up to become terrorists anyway. He also said that all Muslims were violent and that it was the nature of their religion to kill others and kill themselves and therefore all Muslims should be destroyed or at least wrapped in pork.

There was such hate in his words, and I sat there in shock, paralyzed. Inside my spirit was telling me to do something, say something, just disagree, or better yet, call to my son to join me and walk out of that room. I am ashamed to say I did nothing. I just sat there frozen in my fear. The intensity and volume of the karate teacher's voice intimidated me and made me sick to my stomach. He was shorter than I was, and yet I was scared to confront him. His verbal fluency and quick answers created a state of confusion in me. I couldn't think clearly what to do, and so I did nothing.

Later that night, my son was brushing his teeth and he looked at me and asked, "So what do you think about my taking the karate class?" (My son had been begging me for the past year to take karate). At that moment I was feeling overwhelmed with the day and the week's events. I was tired so I just sidestepped the issue and told him that I wanted to talk to his teacher about it. My son then looked at me, straight in the eyes, and told me that he was too young for karate, and that when he did take karate he wanted to go to a different class. He wanted to see different teachers. He said he didn't want to take karate from that teacher.

My son was wiser than me that night. All of our children have a lot of wisdom. They often speak out from their spirits. Too much fear had come into my life and was blocking my ability to hear my spirit's voice and speak up for myself. That night I thought about the person I wanted to be in this lifetime. If I were on that 4th plane and knew what was being planned, I did not want to be paralyzed by my fear and do nothing. I would want to be open to my spiritual intuitions and have the strength, courage, and trust to follow them. So last Sunday, I stayed open to the possibility of flying, and I flew. I checked out the safety of the airport, the plane, and the parachute. I looked into the eyes of my tandem jumper, a professional skydiver, and the pilot, and then I decided to make the jump. For the first time in my life I felt no fear. I was smiling. I felt held. It was almost as if I could hear a voice saying "Susan, I have always held you. I have always been there whether you were driving in a car, flying in a plane, undergoing surgery, or going through chemotherapy. I am always here. You do not need to jump out of a plane to find me." I will remember this day for the rest of my life. It is true that the only thing to fear is fear itself.