How to Relax and Enjoy Life in a Fear-Mongering World

Safety is something you carry inside yourself not in a holster, amulet or pill

Posted Nov 05, 2016

How do you reassure yourself and your loved ones during frightening times? We crave reassurance because we know we can't live in a state of perpetual fear.

We can't stay in the basement with a pillowcase over our collective heads because the world seems like a scary place. Even if you choose the basement-and-a-pillowcase route, don’t kid yourself. Is your basement 100% safe? Wasn’t there a question about tricky wiring or black mold? Radon, perhaps? You could also be extremely allergic to the fabric softener used this week that is heading swiftly into your nasal passages via the traitorous pillowcase.

Your laundry could be out to get you. Everything could be.

And that's why we can’t tell our kids to hunker down with the lights off for the next sixty years: nowhere is safe and cellar-dwelling is no way to go though life.  A true sense of safety is something you carry inside yourself; it doesn’t come in a holster, an amulet or tinfoil helmet.

Of course, nobody can blame us for being jittery these days: politicians, newscasters and spokespersons from various organizations are selling fear like it’s a hot new item. They don’t call it “fear”, naturally, but label it as “the real information” or “the story you won’t hear anywhere else.” They also smuggle vicious and narrow provincialism under the label of “patriotism" and mask cheap, tawdry cowardice under the name “cunning.”

It’s a scam. Fear-mongers profit from our trepidation. They’re acting out of financial self-interest not out of national duty. Think about the phrase “fear mongering” and then consider that the only other word we ordinarily link to “mongering” is “fish.”  Fear and fish are healthy in certain doses, but both start to stink if they come from bad sources or if you don’t put them to good use.

They put manacles on our imagination and increasingly encourage us to frame ourselves as victims; they make us feel as if we can’t trust anybody, shouldn’t do anything, and that we can’t go anyplace.

Yet, as Martha and The Vandellas told us back in 1965, if there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, why bother trying?

Here’s my answer: This is our real, non-imaginary world and this moment in history is ours. Since the one thing everybody on the planet has in common is that not one of us gets out alive shouldn’t we spend less of time being uselessly anxious about the next bad thing that’s going to happen?

Statistics indicate that never leaving your basement will not necessarily make you less vulnerable to danger than waltzing across the globe--or at least flying around it.

I’ve taught myself to accept reassurances about air travel despite remaining a terrified flier. Why bother? Because I can’t write and speak about extracting every moment of richness, inspiration and exultation from life, saying “Go on out there and be brave!” and then say “But me, I’m taking the bus.”  

Also, because according to the National Safety Council’s “Odds of Dying” chart—something to check regularly, right along with new releases on Netflix—in 2016 we have a "1 in 9,737 chance of dying in an air or transport incident" but a much higher "1 in 113 chance of dying in a motor vehicle crash."

I’ve heard this refrain from every flight attendant who notices my ashen face as I board the plane; they all chorus, “The most dangerous part of your trip was taking a car to get here.”  

On my last trip to the airport, I heard Martha and the Vandellas telling me  that, “The time is right for dancing in the street." She’s right. It doesn’t matter what you wear, but leave the pillowcase in the basement—right along with your worst fears. Don’t you want to be remembered for what you embraced and not for what you avoided? Take a pen or pencil with you and write out what scares you. Make a story out of it it. Then it's yours; it's not something that happens to you. It's something you own.