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Freedom from Fear

There is never enough time -- even in retirement.  One measure of that is the length of time since my last blog posts, which were supposed to be for my mental health and yet have been allowed to lapse in the mad rush of juggling innumerable other activities -- effectively valued as higher priorities.

Is it because I care about too many things?  Well, if so, is that also a measure of how serious I am about the importance of taking the time to be quiet, to think -- to write?

Working for a living, I always felt the pressure of competing priorities that included both my own interests and standards and those of my bosses.  Now that I'm theoretically free of bosses, my relation to these pressures is more directly under my own control.  Why, then is there not enough time for the priorities that are supposedly only as many as I choose?

I do care about many things, care deeply enough to spend very rewarding time on them, enough to squeeze them into the limited time we all are "allotted".  And while there are no bosses to call me to task, the very caring calls me just as insistently.

It's a delightful thing to be called by the things I like so much.  But it's also a difficult thing to juggle the variety of choices I face constantly.  It's disappointing to see how inadequate to the value I place on them is the amount of time, of work, of accomplishment I provide to each of them.

How is there such similar pressure now as when I worked "for the man" and yet so much joy compared to then?  It is because I am free, because I can lay down the burden for a few minutes when I feel the need, fail without the same acutely painful cost as when I was "gainfully employed", allow a target date to slip if I decide it is necessary (for my own mental health) without thinking of it (in debilitating fear) as a "deadline".

As Aung San Suu Kyi has said, "It is not power that corrupts, it is fear."  And I find that this is so not only in the big things, the temptation to use power overly selfishly, unjustly, uncaringly.  It is so also in the "smaller" way of personal disintegration.  Fear is debilitating, and when I faced my own limitations with the fear that they would "bring me down" in so many ways -- end my income security, end my self esteem, end my ability to accomplish what I cared so much about, make life more difficult for those I love to the extent that their comparative happiness or success was influenced by my financial contribution -- I very nearly disintegrated.

I say "very nearly" because fortunately my personal integrity remained intact, I honestly admitted my failure and accepted the very consequences I most feared, but I lost much of my ability to function for very many months -- I lost a lot of myself during that time.

The difference now seems largely that I am not fearful of failure.  I take on too much, and move forward juggling a complex mix of disparate elements, confident that enough of them will be successful to make a positive difference that would not result otherwise, and prepared to accept the failures that will also inevitably come alongside the successes.

And the difference seems to be that I am choosing the priorities, not selfishly in a destructive way that doesn't care about "the hindmost" (as in "let the devil take...") but while still caring fully about them all yet accepting the reality of my limitations, the reality that some valuable goals fail.  I am choosing, I am free -- and mostly I am more free than ever before from fear, even while I am incredibly aware of the many possible ways I can fail along the way toward the ultimate success I still hope to achieve.

Somewhat like the biblical Job, I lost "everything", but I gained it all back "with interest".  However, the biggest thing I lost (or at least severely diminished) was fear, and that has made all the difference.  Now I juggle an impossible load of priorities of my own choosing, and choose among them conscious of the losses as I let some of them succeed less fully or less immediately than others yet comfortable in my own skin even with the "failures".