There are so many things I avoid because the thought of them makes my heart race. I have anxiety/panic disorder and PTSD, which makes me want to live a very sheltered life and avoid the horrors of the world outside my home as much as possible. For a long time, people would tell me that the things I feared most—random violence in public places, loud noises being gunshots, general terror of myself or others being hurt for no good reason—would never happen, could never happen.
My loved ones were sympathetic of my fears and understood that because I have experienced violence myself, there was a reason behind my fears. But for the most part, everyone assured me that these things would not happen and for the most part I tried to believe them—but my worst fears have come true. The violence I've always been terrified of does happen, and not so rarely.
After what happened in Orlando, the slaughter of 49 people at a club who were targeted because of the gender of the people they fall in love with, my fear tried to take over.
The voice of my fear screamed inside my head: “See, I told you that people get killed for no good reason! I told you that loud noises are gunshots hurting innocent people. I told you this kind of thing can happen, does happen and will continue to happen. What more proof do you need that the world is a terrifying place where no one is safe? Cry, hide, be afraid!”
I want to make it clear that because of who I am and how I see the world, I worry not just about me getting hurt. I worry about all of us. I am terrified that these things will happen to anyone. And I don’t just worry, I empathize. When I heard about the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, I imagined what it must have been like to be in that situation. I pictured myself there because I would have no problem being in a "place like that;" I've been in places like that many times.
My fear becomes so overwhelming that it wants to keep me from truly living. It wants me to hide and at another time in my life it may have succeeded, but that would have been before I became a mother. Now that I’m a mother, letting fear keep me from living, letting fear make me hide from life, and letting fear win is no longer an option.
Why? Because dammit I am not going to raise frightened children. Fear and the perpetrators of it do not get to win. They do not get to control and inherit the earth that belongs to my children, to our children. Living in fear SUCKS and I am not going to bequeath that to my children.
Now that I’m a mother, letting fear keep me from living, letting fear make me hide from life, and letting fear win is no longer an option.
I have faced fear down before and I will do it again and again and again.
At one point in my life, I found myself standing in front of a man, a stranger who was pointing a gun at me. He had just mugged me and I assumed he was done and would leave, but he wanted me to go with him. He demanded that I go with him. In that moment, my mind, body and soul told me that if the only choice I had left in life was when and where I died, then I chose to die right then and there rather than go with that man. I cannot tell you how I know, but I'm certain that if I had gone with him, I would not have lived and would have gone through hell before dying. I walked away prepared to get shot in the back, prepared to die if I had to, but on my own terms. I was lucky. I wasn't shot, I got away and I lived.
Well, I can’t pretend that experience and others like it haven’t left me traumatized for life, but I will not freakin' live in fear. I will not stop supporting my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I will not accept the continual perpetuation and normalization of violence against women. I will not pretend like racism is a thing of the past. I will not ignore the scapegoating of immigrants. I will walk my terrified ass out the door every time that I have to. I will be kind, I will be loving, I will be compassionate—and I guess I will take a bullet if I have to, simply for being out in the world.
I am telling my fear loud and clear that I'd rather live and love loudly than cower and hide while I hope the bad guys go away. And in case you are wondering, I am telling my kids about the bad guys and the things they do, but I am also telling them that bad guys, hate and fear don’t stand a chance against love. Not in the long run.