you've coasted through life so far and have been fortunate enough to avoid truly painful
or tragic happenings. You may
have even developed the illusion that bad things won't come your way, at least not really
bad ones. If so,
your mettle has yet to be tested. In all
likelihood, it will be someday, and when that day comes, you may experience a new kind of
fear and vulnerability.
never realized how fragile I was inside," he confessed, holding himself tightly as he
rocked in his chair.
of us don't until the hard times come. It's
easy to feel strong when your life is squared away," I suggested. At 46,
this successful tradesman with a solid middle-class pedigree had been jarred out of his
illusory sense of personal control, well-being and normalcy. For the first time in
his life, he felt emotionally vulnerable and existentially afraid. The
catalyst for this rude awakening had been discovering that his 12 year-old son was gravely
ill with a rare form of cancer. Fate had
punched a deep hole in Dennis' heart and had knocked his mental and spiritual legs out
from under him. "It
just hit me how up in the air everything is in life.
I mean, we really don't have much control over anything," he went on.
"What scares you most about that?" I asked. It's just
the luck of the draw. When fate decides to
mess with you, there's nothing you can do about it," he explained.
later, most of us get pushed off one of life's existential cliffs. The shove from behind may be sudden, like the
unexpected death of a loved one, a serious illness or accident or some other manner of
trouble or tragedy.
who have been blessed with so-called "easy lives" may find such an unhappy turn
of events particularly taxing. Like Dennis,
they may have assumed they were somehow immune to fate's slings and arrows. "I've
had little things go wrong now and then, but this thing with my son...well, I just wasn't
ready for it," he lamented. "I've
never had to deal with anything like this before."
often, the challenge is not so much contending with the actual circumstances of the
situation as it is coping with one's inner turmoil. It is
common for all but the supremely confident or battle-tested to wonder if they can take
what life dishes out in its darker moments. Still,
feeling afraid, alone, and plagued with doubt are not signs that one isn't up to the task.
was wracked with emotional pain and dread, but he continued to function, to do what needed
to be done. It is
true that in such unhappy instances one discovers, as the saying goes, "what one is
made of." However, part of what each of
us is "made of" includes being afraid, wondering if we can take it, and feeling
small and alone. These
unpleasant and disturbing emotions do not mean that we are weak or without courage. They mean that we are human.
is exactly what you want to be when all hell breaks loose.
with the permission of Philip Chard who serves on the ARDS Support Center's Board of
Medical and Professional Advisors. Philip
Chard is a psychotherapist, author and trainer. Call
his reader comment line at (262) 547-3986, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at http://www.healingnature.com/
timely and nice message of thanks to ARDS Support,
an example of the fear faced when confronted with ARDS
Date: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 9:33 PM
ago on April 20th our life turned upside down. I was so terrified. I never felt so
afraid. I wish there were words to express that kind of fear, but it is unexplainable. YOU
came to our aide!!! The other emotion there are no appropriate words for is our gratitude
because it goes well beyond that, for what you all did goes beyond simply helping out. You
gave so much to us. You gave us hope, you gave us strength, you gave us your time and
love, you gave us our family back!!! It was your prayers and encouragement and love that
help bring Larry back to us and how can we say thank you for that. We love you all!!! Mary
Ann, Larry, Kris, Jeremy, Jaime, and Daniel
Mary Ann Constanzer)