I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn’t
And she scared me
And I smashed her
I don’t think
To kill something
Because I am
– “Allowables” by Nikki Giovanni
Every bad thing I’ve ever done my in life I did because I was scared. Everything I regret was born of fear. Fear of death, rejection, ridicule. Fear of humiliation. Fear of retribution, fear of getting hurt. Fear of awkwardness or boredom or discomfort.
Unconscious dread coiled deep in my core, built up over lifetimes. Current terrors burning lightly on the surface like a sheen of lighter fluid.
Everyone I’ve betrayed, every feeling I’ve disregarded, every morsel of kindness withheld. Every time I’ve gossiped, every time I’ve lied. Every act of selfishness, mindlessness, cruelty. Every measure of harm to myself or others. Every question not asked, every assumption made. Every judgment cast. Every rejection of intuition, every lapse in integrity (there have been so many). Every act of violence. Every act of hate.
Every act of violence. Every act of hate.
Because I was scared. I am scared.
I’m forgiving nobody in our moment in history, making excuses for no one—least of all myself. I’m just pointing out that we’re all scared. We’re all so damn scared. Imagine if we could accept and admit that. Look into each other’s eyes and souls and mutually acknowledge our wounds and our terror, and that all we’ve done and continue to do are warped attempts to feel safe. We act in ways we’ve learned, that help us make sense of the chaos and the dread.
I’m not calling for peace—too late, too ancient, too moot. Fear began when humans began; it’s nothing we can untangle in a moment, a day, a lifetime, a millennium. Kindness must be radicalized now, the volume on courage and sanity turned way way up. Anger—worlds different from hate—expressed and heard. That’s what is happening during this sea change and that’s side I’m on. No way am I neutral on this.
At the same time, though, I pray to stay connected in every moment to the okayness of the greater surround (not this earth, this earth is mortally wounded, our fear has done this. Forgive us, Mother), but the infinite intelligence of All That Is. Aligning with that knowing, that all is well, that all is love, and that there actually is no need to be afraid. There never was.
“Hey – don’t worry, don’t be afraid – EVER – because… this is just a ride.” —Bill Hicks
I endeavor to recognize the fear behind the hate in everyone who hates, and in every shameful act of my own. Try, try to ask questions instead of making judgments. Keep unearthing layers of my own fear: its roots, its origins, the age I was or lifetime I was in when it formed. Nurture that little being, acknowledge her feelings and her fear. Shake and cry with her. Love her into maturity. Forgive.
Try to see past the defenses and glimpse the terrified, vulnerable kid in whoever I look at, no matter how odious. Tall order. It’s scary. I try.
And I’ll join the mobs of good, brave, scared people marching out to stop ignorance from spreading. The immune system of our shared humanity rushing to the wound. Triage, stabilize, and maybe one of these generations we’ll be well enough to begin healing for real.