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Fear of the Unknowable, the Unknown, the Known

It's 4:00 AM when I begin this post. I've been awake for a while, thinking about the trigger finger release surgery I'll be getting later today. I'm not worried about the surgery itself, which I watched being performed on YouTube and seems quick and relatively simple. But I do worry about pain and about possible complications. Not a lot of worry, but enough to keep me awake. My worry falls somewhere in the middle of the fear scale, higher than mild concern but much lower than full-blown terror. I'll call it a "3".

This got me thinking about fear and how they say we are afraid of the unknown. I don't think that's true. When we're fearful, we're afraid that what we know might possibly occur (because we've seen it happen or know of it happening to others) will actually occur. This is fear of the known. We know what we know, and it scares us.

Sorry, Mr. Roosevelt, but I'm not afraid of fear itself. I'm afraid of pain. I'm afraid of being vulnerable. I'm afraid of sharting on the operating table. (8, 9, and 2 on the fear scale). These are fears based on history--either experienced or observed--versus abstract thinking or pure conjecture.

Maybe that's why it doesn't help when friends and especially mothers tell you not to worry. What they're really telling you, is that they don't want to worry, and that they might have to worry if they watch you fret. When someone says, Don't worry, what they are really saying is, Don't worry me.

Perhaps it's better to calm a frightful person by reassuring her, saying something like, I'll stay with you instead of telling her, Don't worry. And if you can stand it, when someone in pain tells you that It hurts, try not to tell her, It can't hurt that bad. Maybe say something like, I hope this feeling passes quickly or, I'm sorry. That sounds awful, or better yet, I'll call your doctor and see if there's something stronger for pain. Sometimes there's something stronger and sometimes there isn't. Any thinking person is afraid of that. Maybe the best thing you can do is just listen.

Stuff happens. We all do what we can to minimize the distress. If you're the observer and not the participant, know that it helps us manage fear to know someone is looking out for us.

Friends are the readers of our life stories, willing to follow along through difficult pages with the hope that things will turn out okay. They follow because they care about what happens next. Thank you to my friends, family, readers for caring what happens next--in the book and in real life. For this and so many other things (including the fact that there's a surgery to correct the thing that ails me!) I am grateful.
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