St. Patrick’s Day 2020
Friend or Enemy:
The Fear Of Missing Out — FOMO — is a fear that I have very rarely felt or given into to. Perhaps it is because my primary fear is FOGO — fear of getting out, or the fear that I won’t be able to get out, or escape — from any of a number of situations, fear being one of them.
To some people, this attitude has been interpreted as contrarian. No, it is not. That stance of mine is, instead, a highly developed survival mechanism, but I haven’t bothered to explain to the Others that truth about myself. For most of my life, I have not bothered to try to explain myself to others at all. It’s been work enough to explain me to me! This resolute approach to life has permitted me to progress enormously in areas and in arenas where many other people stay stuck, congealed, in fears about what other people think — or might think — about them.
Long ago, I jettisoned the need to keep up appearances and to put up a front, false or otherwise. Not that I do not wish to present a kind face or non-threatening image, but it always seemed to me an enormous waste of time, caring about what others think, or say, or might think or might say.
“What will the neighbors say?!”
was a phrase oft-repeated during my limited time in my household-of-origin. I was routinely excoriated for causing chin-wagging that might actually point to the truth of whatever it was that Someone Else wanted to hide.
Hypocrites work hard at hiding the truth about themselves.
Let me tell you, there is nothing more telling than the henna-haired church lady, your next-door neighbor, almost wrenching her neck, while doing the dishes and peeking out of her kitchen window at a teen-aged girl, in the side-yard, with her boyfriend.
That voyeuristic scene was followed by:
“Do you know what the neighbors will say?”
My response then, and now, and for always:
I would rather give the neighbors something to talk about — than to leave it to their paltry imaginations to gossip about me.
The image consultants in America still cling to that East Coast respectability that perhaps no longer exists in that region, or anywhere in the United States. The pants-suited shrew, trying to ape the Victorian maiden, stricken by the vapors, is a hideous sight. The hag clutches her pearls whilst she swoons about the brashness of any man who dares to utter the truth about . . . anything. There is the latest lamentable pitch to voters.
Ah! The truth, so difficult to tell!
Over the course of time, Fear of What Others Might Say has become FOMO. Both fears have produced entire industries, based on fomenting those fears and profiting mightily from them. Entire segments of populations worldwide live in FOMO. It is how those people are fear-mongered, manipulated and gaslighted on a routine basis. Every 4 years we in America hold an electoral event to enact and re-enact FOMO. It is a morality play that reaches crisis proportions — on a daily basis.
One major reason why I, out of sheer survival, refused to yield to FOMO, or, at a much earlier phase in my life, to the Fear of What Others Might Say, was my rather passionate repudiation of permitting another person to control my passions which, admittedly, run deep. I am in charge of my passions, and if anyone ever doubted that statement, he barely lived to regret it.
Your enemy will know you in ways that your friend never will. You possess weaknesses that you probably do not even perceive within your every day life, vulnerabilities that an enemy will spot, and then wait until the time is right — to exploit for personal gain. A friend will love you for your strengths even as he ignores your weaknesses. The enemy will turn your weakness into his advantage, and, before long, you will doubt you even have any strengths.
Having watched friends who do not comprehend they are married to abusive people has been a lesson to me in the willing blindness of anyone who cannot face a mistake, an all-too-human error in judgement. Rather than admit that she blew it big-time in trusting a person who is a narcissistic con man of the heart, and mind, this woman will insist on defending him, placing in him the trust and faith and confidence that really ought to be granted to a caring friend, a loving ally, anyone who sees the situation and wants to call 911.
How does a person deal with the adamant, often self-righteous, refusal of another person to face reality, especially a reality that can prove even deadly if not realized, and acted upon? How does a friend convince a woman in a gaslighted marriage that she is being gaslighted? How does anyone speak the truth to a person who slavishly believes in a lie?
You don’t even embark upon trying to accomplish any of those merciful deeds. You will be attacked, shunned, criticized, even blamed for the problems that existed long before you even met this person. You will become the Villain.
Countless times I have had to walk away from someone about whom I’d cared deeply, believing that my efforts were for naught, save for helping myself to understand that there are none so blind as those who will not see. It is never a pleasant feeling, knowing that you are walking away from a person who has doomed himself or herself to fates you prefer not to contemplate.
And, yet, there is always the hand of God in every doomed dashing of hopes. There is the truth that was “seen” in some way by the unseeing. There is the moment of reckoning that comes to us all, in the fullness of time. There is the miracle, the hand that reaches out toward the Light, in those final moments when all else is dark, and life becomes the unknown dimension.
Grieve not the moments when your voice fell upon deaf ears. Grieve only your own lack of faith that your voice would ever be heard. A soul hopelessly emptying itself of virtue can, at some point, unbeknownst to us all, reach its epiphany, its rapture, and all of your prayers will become answered.
First, you must pray, and not with rote duty or half-hearted whispers. Pray that the Almighty can help you to pray, for only then can miracles have a prayer of a chance.
Walking away from a tragic figure here on earth is not the end of the story. The page is turned not by you or by that person, but by the Author of life. How little we know when we think we know it all. The human need for certainty is an impulse that can create poetry and potions that cure. That all-too-human need can also conjure up the worst of fears, and provoke panic into fostering the type of irrational deeds that feed upon the worst of humanity.
I was told once by a woman who had backed herself into a corner of self-destruction: “I am hanging by a thread.” And I attempted to strengthen that thread, even as she tried to form a noose with it. I had to let her go, toward her fate, knowing that she was both to blame and not to blame for her destiny. For she had dealt all too willingly with the devil, her intimate enemy, in a marriage that was born not in heaven but in that other place. The road from that point was not ever gonna be smooth.
“Oh, the choices people make, that surely doom them to their fate.”
I wrote that line in a poem decades ago, in an attempt to sort out the despair around me. I removed myself from the despair, but I had little doubt that despair would wreak its havoc within the human hearts I’d known and loved.
I am a realist and a romantic. Those two impulses shape my vision. I dare to say that all works out, in the end. I dare to have the courage to be who I was born to be, regardless of what someone else might say or think!
We must care about what we think about ourselves, but, even more, we must care about what our Maker thinks of us. Otherwise, the enemy of all that we hold dear gains too great a foothold in the romance of life that is called reality. For life is not about fear and loss and losing. Life is about courage — and gaining that victory over fear, and winning.