Fear is a normal human emotion triggered by a real or perceived threat. It is a primary survival mechanism that triggers our bodies to react with a fight or flight response. It causes a change in our metabolic and organ functions. Fear can cause us to flee, fight, or freeze.
The fear I was living with wasn’t because I was in physical or emotional danger. Instead, it stemmed from the fear of the unknown and the loss of perceived control. I have a terrific imagination. I am exceptionally skilled at imagining the worst.
Fear and I
Fear and I have danced from time to time (it’s a lousy partner). It doesn’t help that I am an obsessor. I pretty much obsess about everything. So it’s only natural that in moving, I would obsess about the unknown. In fact, from the moment I hooked up my tiny house 3 months ago and pulled out of Montana, I started to worry. My daughter and I had been excited about our tiny house adventure for months. However, in the days preceding our move fear cut in and excitement cut out. It had been a long time since I had moved.
My first real pang of panic happened when my truck refused to start at a gas station. I had towed my house 350 miles without incident. Because I am not an experienced tower, I had my truck thoroughly inspected by a very reputable mechanic before I set out. Now here I was stranded at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, with no cell signal and a winter storm on my heels. I jumped my truck with my car (my daughter had been following behind in our car). Two gas stations later, I was stranded again! What the heck? It wouldn’t jump. But after about 15 minutes it started up by itself. I had a brand new battery and it wasn’t overheating. All of my fluids and electricals had been checked. I was well within my weight limit. Why was Major (my nickname for my truck) acting up? Again I hit another gas station without incident, only to stall on a Washington State ferry less than 5 miles from my destination. Major and Ginwitty (my tiny house) had to be towed off of the ferry. I was embarrassed and terrified. It was midnight, and I had no idea what to do. Nothing on the island was open this late. Twenty minutes later, in desperation I tried to turn the engine over one more time, it took. Our new landlords couldn’t meet us until morning. We drove to a dark, deserted road and spent the night dry camping. We had outrun the storm, but we did not outrun our fear and exhaustion.
For months I had planned and prepped to rent 5 acres just outside of Seattle on one of the neighboring islands in Puget Sound. After emails, texts, and phone calls with the owners, everything was settled. My brothers had even driven to the property months before to check it out. It was a little rough, but the owners assured them everything would be set up and perfect when I got there. It wasn’t. The road to the land was dark, overgrown and muddy. The land we rented was far from prepared. The well was new, but the water hadn’t been tested. The temporary power pole didn’t have the correct size power breaker. We could have hot water or heat, but not both. There was no cell service, not a single bar. It was a saturated mud-hole. The wind had cracked a 40-foot tree both vertically and horizontally earlier in the week. It was hung up on a neighboring tree right in the path of my tiny house pad. The landowners didn’t want to take it down, for fear it would hit my house and they would be liable. The whole thing was a disaster. We couldn’t sleep, the tree creaked in the high winds at night. We were terrified it would come down at any moment. My brother came down, and we took the tree down ourselves. Still, landowners asked us to leave as they didn’t want to be held responsible for any of the trees that might come down on our vehicles or house. We had just driven 600+ miles and had nowhere to go. Our friends on the mainland offered the lawn next to their garage. We were there less than a day before the neighbor (who had never acknowledged them in the 10 years they’ve lived there) came over and told us we weren’t allowed to stay. After a week of frantic searching, we found a campground (an hour away) willing to take us.
We went from having a secured place to living in “limbo.” It’s frightening to be faced with the prospect of homelessness when you have a house, but nowhere to park it. Fear started to consume me. My daughter, who struggles with Aspergers, does not do well with change. All of this was just a little too much change. She was freaking out, and behind my brave, reassuring face I was drowning in fear.
For weeks I was consumed by fear, obsessing. I couldn’t sleep; I couldn’t focus on anything other than where we were going to live. Finally, I was so overwhelmed by fear, I had a bit of a breakdown. I had the realization that I am not in control. I was never in control. As one of my friends is fond of saying, “Control is an illusion.” Uh… yeah!
I may not have control over where we are going to live, but I do have control over my thoughts and reactions. I can either surrender to fear or surrender to God. I had already surrendered to fear, so now it was time to surrender to God. Every time a fearful thought entered my mind, I would have the mental picture of tossing my fear to God like the fishmongers pass fish to one another in Pike’s Place Market. It’s a stinkier version of hot potato. I didn’t want it. Sometimes I fail and hold on to my fear just a little too long. It takes practice. The truth is I am not homeless. I do have a temporary place to park. Rather than obsessing on what I don’t have, I am grateful for what I do have. The rest is God’s business. I’ve done my part (looking, putting ads out, spreading the word), God’s going to have to take it from here. Operating in fear is unhealthy for me, and succumbing to it is unhealthy modeling for my daughter. If you are struggling with fear, here are a few things I do. Maybe they will work for you too.
How to Handle Fear
- Recognize it. You may not be able to stop yourself from becoming afraid immediately, but you do have the power to recognize when fear is moving in.
- Stop and take a long, deep breath (maybe several).
- Take a mental inventory of what you do have in that moment. (“I have a place to park my tiny house at this time.”)
- Ask yourself if what you are afraid of is real or imagined. (“I am afraid of the future, not the present.”)
- Ask yourself what you can do, realistically, about the situation. (Have you done all you can?)
- If there is nothing you can do, release it to God.
- Depending on the situation, you may want to seek counsel from others. (Ask family and friends for their advice.)
- Lastly, pray. Yes, pray. There is an old military expression, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” It might sound old-fashioned, but there is power in prayer. If doing things in your own strength hasn’t helped, why not pray?
I am ditching my relationship with fear. I don’t like the way it creeps like a fungus into other areas of my life. What about you? What are you afraid of? I am compiling a list of the top three most common fears. Please, send me yours. Besides fear, you can read what else I am giving up this year in, 7 Things I am Giving Up This Year For a Happier Me.