Harnessing the power of fear

There are days, many days, when I feel afraid; where my breath comes in gasps at times and my stomach confirms my fear.
There are many things to be afraid of on a national level and an international level, and even within our own communities where, for example, racism still brews when one would think it should be long dead.
Not long ago, I was at an art exhibit in Halifax and a local artist with a very deep pedigree was in the crowd. He said he was afraid every time he picked up a paint brush and that self-doubt was/is his constant companion.
His words gave me permission to embrace being afraid, and to think of my fear as a catalyst rather than a burden. Realistically, I can’t sustain that every day but I can many days.
And just this morning, I stumbled upon the poetry of Audre Lorde, which has both calmed my heart and empowered me.
Lorde was an American writer who tackled many difficult subjects, particularly racism, sexism, and homophobia. Her writing is courageous, a depth to it without being effusive.
Lorde wrote, “Afraid is a country where they issue us passports at birth and hope we never seek citizenship in any other country.”
Lorde was waging a battle with lung cancer; the second time cancer would take her on. She decided to forego the “standard” treatment and instead live what days she had remaining in service to change the world with her writing.
“The face of afraid keeps changing constantly, and I can count on that change. I need to travel light and fast, and there’s a lot of baggage I’m going to have to leave behind me. Jettison cargo,” she wrote after making such a decision.
I have no poetry in me (at least, what I would recognize as poetry). It takes a special sort of creativity and discipline, in my opinion, to create poetry, and there are those for whom that seems effortless, Lorde being one such poet.
Facing her death while acknowledging and working with fear was paramount to Lorde. She wanted her work and her words to be a “scar” on the social landscape, reporting from the “frontlines” what fear teaches–a scar to remind those coming behind to not let her words be forgotten.
She wanted to be of service for positive change until her lungs had filled for the last time, which they did nearly a decade after her diagnosis.
Lorde held an “indictment against silence,” speaking up about injustice in the world, and her creative voice brought people into the conversation. And it was this fight that gave her the strength to live beyond what medically had been predicted.
Not many of us have Lorde’s brand of courage; to dedicate our lives to fighting for the good of others on an international stage. I like to think we can create quite an army, though, using our small but valuable lives to create change; to not pass down our own prejudices to our children and grandchildren.
We can harness the force of fear and transform its energy into something useful.
For as we know, there is power in one, in each of us, tucked away just waiting to do good things.