it’s okay to be afraid.

“Release” by Adelaide Crapsey

With swift
Great sweep of her
Magnificent arm my pain
Clanged back the doors that shut my soul
From life.

photo (60)

Fourteen years ago, Mike and I went, as usual, to a friend’s dorm room for our regularly scheduled Tuesday night TV watching. But instead of teenagers with big words and romantic triangles, there were images of a school surrounded by police. Columbine.

The high school I graduated from was nothing like Columbine, much smaller and more rural. But that did not keep me from being afraid. The talk (much of which turned out to be wrong) of jocks and outcasts, the fact that students were shot in the library, the familiarity of the idea of a school–these things had me panicked. I had seen scary things in the news before, but this one hit so close to home that I sat in my college classes and calculated the fastest way out, fear in the pit of my stomach if someone walked by the open door of the classroom. I prayed and sang out loud any time I had to drive home in the dark. I worried about my brother, who was still in high school, and the bomb threats his school began receiving. I felt silly, because of course I didn’t know anyone there. Of course I wasn’t directly affected. But the world was suddenly an evil place and I was not sure how to fight the darkness.

Eventually the fear receded and I was able to function again, but I felt twinges of that same panic last week when the news was relentlessly bad. I was afraid to go to work on Friday because the anniversaries of Columbine and Oklahoma City and Virginia Tech loomed large over an already dark and heavy week. And I felt shame for feeling that way, safe in my North Carolina home.

What helped me last week was not when people dismissed my fears, but when people affirmed them. The world is a scary place sometimes. I’m edgy, too. It’s understandable that you are scared. This has been a tough week. Those were the things that cut through the fear and the shame and made me brave. I say these same words to Atticus all the time: it’s okay to be afraid. But it was nice to have someone say them to me.

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