In the Kansas City area there have been several “Amber Alerts” in the last week or two. It has caused a lot of parents and children in the region to feel very anxious about their safety. One of my Facebook friends even wrote that her girls were so scared that they both slept in her bed, and these girls are not at an age where you would expect that to happen. This horrible spree of abductions has created a sense of fear that has slowly grown throughout the region. As I have watched this feeling of terror spread, I have been thinking about how this emotion affects our lives. Fear is one of the most primitive, powerful emotions you have, and how you handle the feelings of fear you experience will have a significant impact on your life and happiness.
Fear is a complex feeling to process and discuss because it functions in both positive and negative ways depending on the situation and its intensity. For example, when you are walking in a city at night and see a hooded man walking towards you, some level of fear is a good thing as it keeps your wits about you. This type of fear is what kept our cave dwelling ancestors from getting eaten. On the flip side though, if you feel too much fear, and you scream and run away from this man when he is still 30 feet away from you, you will look pretty foolish. Luckily, between evolution and social conventions most of us can generate the appropriate amount of fear in a given situation. As a result, the majority of the time fear works in our favor. It is only in those rare occasions when fear overwhelms us, and we lose the ability to think and act rationally, that it becomes a detriment to our lives.
I can never decide whether it is a good or a bad thing, but with everything I have gone through and overcome in my life, there is not much that I am afraid of anymore. I no longer fear pain, because I live in constant pain, and I know I am strong enough to fight through it. I used to be afraid of the dark, but then I realized that whether I see it coming or not, there is nothing I can do to defend myself from an attack anyway. I don’t even fear death anymore. That does not mean that I go about risking my life recklessly, but I have faced death and come out the other side. More importantly, I have taken the time to tell my loved ones how I feel about them, so I am ready when the time comes. There is one thing however, that I do still fear. I am afraid that I will not have the strength to live and die in a dignified way, and the way that I am remembered, the legacy I leave behind, will be tarnished. That terrifies me.
My entire life I have worked to live a certain way. I have worked to be seen as a person, not as a disabled person. I have always held myself to the same standards as everyone else despite being in a wheelchair and the extra obstacles facing me. I have worked to live in a way that makes me “worthy of my suffering,” so I can give meaning to my life by inspiring others. I have never let my disability define me or my life. I have worked to be a good person who improves the lives of everyone I interact with. I have tried to live a full, happy life that is worthy of all of the sacrifices my family and friends have made for me. And I believe that I have succeeded in my efforts for the most part. What I am afraid of is that when the chips are down, and things get really bad towards the end of my life, that I will not be able to maintain this image that I have worked so hard to create. I fear that I will not be remembered as a strong, mindful, caring inspiration for people to learn from, but instead as someone who could not keep it together when things really got tough. I do not want my work and my mission through Roll Models to be overshadowed by my weakness in the end. I want to leave behind a legacy that means something and will be remembered fondly and admirably by my loved ones. I do not want to be forgotten, or worse yet remembered, as just another disabled person. That is what I am afraid of.
Due to the morbid nature of this topic, as well as the fact that I am not exactly proud of this fear, prior to writing this post I have never really discussed this with anyone. That being said, I don’t know how well someone without my life experience will be able to understand where I am coming from, and this may seem like a silly thing to be afraid of considering everything I have gone through. Going through life knowing that my body will not hold up for me to live to be 70 or 80 years old though, the message and memories I leave behind after I am gone is a big deal to me. I want to make my mark and leave a legacy that people admire, or at least can draw inspiration from, and that my family and friends can be proud of. That is my way of helping people even after I am gone, as well as making sure my loved ones are emotionally cared for even without me here. By leaving a positive, lasting impression on people, I can continue my work after death, and this is also a way for me to live on through the effect I have on others. Without this legacy, I fear I am just another unfortunate victim of this horrible disease, and I have worked far too hard to let that happen.
Fear is an important emotion to understand and control as you work on creating and maintaining a happy, successful life. Whether it be a deep seated phobia of snakes or spiders, or a fear reaction to something in the news like the “Amber Alerts,” you will have to manage your fear throughout your life. There are numerous techniques to cope with phobias and fears, but like everything else in life it is all about finding the right balance. Too little fear, and you will make overly risky decisions, but too much fear, and you can end up a shut in afraid of the world. I live my life in a way that will leave the message I want to make in awareness of my fear, and I hope that in the end I will be able to face my fear and leave this world the same way I lived in it.