Kristen’s Corner: Be scared, not afraid
When I got the text on Friday morning that the Lion’s football game had been canceled due to COVID, I freaked out.
I wasn’t even five minutes down the road from my sister’s house where I had celebrated a small Thanksgiving with her and her husband, and my two nieces.
My thoughts went to the game I’d covered the previous week. I had a mask on, but I was up and down the Lion’s sideline for all four quarters. Had I been near the player who tested positive?
I pulled into the H.E.B. parking lot and proceeded to cry to my sister about being the Grim Reaper of our Thanksgiving. In my mind, I’d killed everyone at Thanksgiving, my aunt and uncle I’d been living with the week before, and my cousin’s kid that had come over to play Nintendo with me last weekend.
Mind you, this was all without a positive test for myself, and I was showing no symptoms.
So much for that calm Stoic thinking I was bragging about in last week’s column.
I found a place to get a rapid test and found myself waiting in my car for about two hours. Minutes seemed like hours.
I put on an Amy Brown podcast, hoping some positivity would calm my mind. It did not. I opened my browser to search for symptoms I wasn’t having and instead found an article by Ryan Holiday I’d read the previous weekend: “The Important Thing is to Not Be Afraid.”
In it, Holiday talks about the idea of being scared versus being afraid. Being scared is a natural reaction, those fight-or-flight mechanisms that help us survive life-or-death situations. But being afraid is an ongoing state of paralysis, and something we choose. It rarely helps, and often compounds the situation.
I laughed out loud. I had bookmarked this piece to send to my friends when they started flooding our group chat with fear about the virus. Instead of adding to the fear, I’d show them the Stoic way of being calm, rational, and measured.
Yet here I was, not even a week later, faced with a situation in which I could live the philosophy I wanted my friends to follow. Instead, I was crying in a parking lot, paralyzed with fear about a diagnosis I didn’t even have yet.
I re-read the article. I became present. I prayed.
I reminded myself I had no proof I was sick. I allowed myself to think about a positive test, but not get consumed by it. It was a possibility, and that would require action on my part. But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.
The nurse came out, ran the test, and 15 minutes later I got my results: negative.
I sent a prayer of thanks. I called my sister and my aunt to give them the good news. Then I laughed at myself.
Philosophy is great to read. It’s even great to share with your friends. But more than anything, you have to embody it. You have to use the words on the page to make changes in yourself.
Thanks for the lesson Life. Message received, loud and clear.
Kristen Merriwether can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org