When Fear Gets in the Way

All the colors of the rainbow

Fear is the natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

– Pema Chödrön, “When Things Fall Apart”

I have been getting very tired of being afraid. Afraid of pandemic life and afraid of a culture on fire and afraid of the unknown future. But this week, I discovered that it can take something so seemingly innocuous to make me look fear in the face and say, “Nuts to this!!” Something as simple as an order of 14 colored sparkling gel pens from Amazon.





I. Love. Colored pens. Gel pens, ink pens, ball point pens, brush pens. They please me. A lot.

Last week, I succumbed to the temptation to head over to Amazon and get a new set of  glittery gel pens. I would treat myself. A pandemic reward.

They would arrive on Sunday, no less! Yes, the U.S. Post Office delivers on Sundays for Amazon. At least they have before. Several times. But not this Sunday…

I had waited eagerly all day. But no pens. By 10 p.m. I got the message that “Sorry, they’re not going to arrive until tomorrow or Tuesday.” Dang. Then came the message that the P. O. had tried to deliver but were unable to, so they had returned it to the Post Office to be picked up!!! 

Let that sink in. I would have to go to the Post Office and enter the building with dozens of possible COVID-19 carriers to pick up 14 sparkly gel pens! 

Well, of course that was ludicrous. What wise, sane person would even think of such a thing?

But I wanted those pens, and I wanted them NOW! I became a child, throwing a tantrum, and I watched myself doing it! Over 14 pens! 

By bedtime, my tantrum overtook any hope of getting to sleep. I was absolutely furious. About 14 pens that I couldn’t have now!

You have to understand. My big city (130,000) post office always seems to be teeming with people with large packages and small, waiting in a long line, and sometimes there are not enough officials at their stations to keep the line moving. Patience is an imperative there. My imagination was based on solid experience.

The next morning, I braved the Mayo clinic to get blood drawn and to meet with my internist. Protocols were exacting, the waiting room was empty and masks were everywhere. I felt safe.

On the way home, I thought I just might drive by the post office and see how many people were there. The usual packed parking lot would tell me a lot. Even I was smart enough to know I might have to drive off home. Without my pens.

But there were maybe half a dozen cars there. A few people were coming out, mail in their hands. They’d just picked up their mail and left.

I took the giant leap. I put on my toughest mask – an N-9 gift from a friend – and my gloves. I thought I’d just check and see what was inside… And what was inside was a clear picture of a post office that had, of course, developed its own safety measures weeks ago. One person was in front of me. One behind. A third came along just as I was called to the window, which was plexiglass from one end to another, with just small openings to exchange any merchandise. One woman was taking care of the abbreviated line.

In five minutes, I had my cherished pens, held in the familiar Amazon blue and white quilted plastic envelope, clutched in my eager hand, on my way home.

My fears had been for naught. The truth, it turned out, was that I’d had little to fear! I had wasted so much time and sleep and anger over nothing.

Now, why tell this silly little story, you may ask.

Because it is as clear a lesson as I have right now about the power of fear

and the power of letting it control the story of what the future holds. 

Because I learned from this little event that fear can so easily overwhelm our hearts.

That fear can cause us to fret and fume and draw conclusions that are flat out wrong.

It can blind us to seeing hope and possibilities and solutions and truths that we haven’t noticed.

Because I was reminded that our little inward child can make mountains out of molehills.

And that our elderhood can still be suddenly overcome by the pressures of so much that is unknown. 

So I have extended myself some grace. 

And I have been journaling with my vivid pens! And boy, do they sparkle!!!

My inner child is ever so happy! And I am sleeping well again.