My girl was home sick from school with a fever. She curled up in my lap and we watched the weather channel, worried for our friends and family in New York, waiting for Hurricane Sandy. I looked down and she was crying.
"What's the matter?" I asked her.
"I'm worried that the hurricane will twist, like in the Wizard of Oz," she said.
Her cheeks were flushed a perfect pink, her eyelashes impossibly long and wet with tears. I felt something like fear in my heart. I always feel afraid when my girls are sick. I carry it with me, breathe against it, cradle it in my chest. It needles me, presses on my throat and turns my stomach.
Later, I went out to pick up Indian food, before the storm hit. It was the anniversary of my first date with my husband. We fell in love at a friend's wedding seven years ago. We couldn't go on a date to celebrate, not with the wind and the rain and our little one's temperature rising. We settled for not having to cook or clean up after ourselves.
Sitting in my car in the growing wind in the dark, it occurred to me how worried I am about losing the things I love. Every fear I have is a fear of death, in one way or another. Every moment of panic is an acknowledgement that death could take me away from something I love.
After my oldest daughter was born, I had terrible problems with anxiety. It was the first time I had a reason to live, and I couldn't take it, the terrible knowledge that I wouldn't live forever. I feel a little bit of that primal fear when my babies have fevers, when I watch buildings topple into the sea. I feel a little bit of that mama fear when I think of New York, of my brave friends there, of how they've been hurt before.
Anxiety, at its heart, is nothing but an attempt to push away my fear of dying, to deny it and keep it in the dark. The trouble is that anxiety grows, in the dark. Everything bad does.
I forced myself to sit with my fear, to work it through to its end, to try to drag it into the light. I watched leaves blowing past my car windows and imagined the worst thing, the thing I can't speak. What would I want to be, if death touched me, took away something I loved? Was I serving my love by giving fear a place inside of me, by worrying and making myself sick?
If death touched my life, would I live with its terrible mark on my skin, all over my life, forever, from that moment on? Would it honor my love to become obsessed with what I'd lost? Or would I be brave enough to live gratefully, even in the face of unspeakable loss?
The truth is that my daughters are beautiful beyond reason; they are the people I've always dreamed of being, they are good and pure and wonderful so that I can barely breathe. They are why the sky is blue, why the moon shines on still water. They are everything, and I get to share my life with them. Anyone who has met them, even for a moment, has been made immeasurably better by their little hands' touch. And I belong to them.
I am not living with my whole heart, allowing myself to be crippled by a fear of losing them. That dark thing should never enter me. There shouldn't be enough room for fear, in the midst of all this love.
My sweet girl has a fever, and she will have many more. I hate that she's sick. I want my loves to be safe and warm, and it's not always in my control, but I shouldn't let that scare me. I shouldn't let my fear trick me out of a single, even fleeting, moment of thankfulness for my love, of acknowledging it, basking in it, washing my body in its light, holding the heft of it in my palm, warming myself in the wash of its beauty. I wasn't made for being afraid. I wasn't given this gift of love to hoard it and scramble with blistered fingers to keep it, afraid, always, of losing it. There simply isn't room inside of me for both love and fear.
This post was originally published on Last Mom On Earth