[Noun; ~ Pronunciation: /ang-zahy-i-tee/]
- Definition: If you choose to do something that’s very much outside your comfort zone, only because the alternative just isn’t working for you, it’s time to reconsider what’s going on: are you in it to conquer your fears or are you dodging them instead? Can anxieties function as incentives to overcome other anxieties?
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”
– Plato –
My father scared me yesterday. Not in a childish trying-to-upset-me-for-a-giggle kind of way, but it was something he said during tea time (as if British folks are the only ones embracing their afternoon tea – come on!).
Yesterday I finally looked into husky safaris in Finnish Lapland. The idea was me and my mother would go together, but a few days ago she mentioned my father was really interested in coming along, too. I had a hard time accepting this, for two reasons:
- my dad absolutely hates travelling and only does so because my mother likes to go on vacations, and
- even more than travelling, my father hates the cold. Like, really loathes it.
So as I was sipping my coffee (yes, I sinned, but I still call it tea time), I chatted to my parents about the search results I’d come up with and I couldn’t resist stealing a glance at my dad. I asked him: “Are you sure you want to come along? You are welcome, but it just doesn’t feel like something you’d like to do, going on a husky safari and possibly a snow scooter ride.”
(I really, REALLY can’t picture my 66 year old father on a snow scooter, let alone behind a bunch of huskies. Not because of his age, but… You’d understand if you saw him)
My dad took a sip from his hot coco (we all sinned yesterday, I might as well just come clean. Nevertheless: it’s still tea time) and it was his reply that scared me: “I just don’t want to be home alone.”
My father has no interest in the trip, the huskies or the adventure. And he is definitely dreading the snow and cold. But he’s willing to put all that aside because of his other fear, an anxiety that outweighs whatever evil Finland could have in store for him: loneliness.
I never thought of my father this way. I always assumed he was a strong man with no fears but that of losing his loved ones (I have a memory of him when his mother passed away a long time ago; the only other moment I can recall seeing my dad cry was when my mother got cancer). But after hearing him say this yesterday I remembered how much he hated it when me and my mother went to the gym together and would stick around for a chat with other members after class. Sometimes we’d be home really late and one time my father confessed he doesn’t feel comfortable in an empty house.
His incentive to join me and my mum in Finland raises a question, though: if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone only to escape something that makes you more anxious, is this conquering your fears of the unknown or merely fleeing from a bigger anxiety? Or both?
When I travelled to China I was dead-scared, because I’d never travelled that far on my own and let’s face it: the unknown can be very intimidating. But my drive was positive as pandas don’t live in other countries, at least not in big reserves, and my love for them helped me overcome my fear.
My father has a fearful incentive to hop on a plane. In his mind, the alternative is sitting at home, alone, which is far scarier than sitting on a snow scooter with my mother (Although… I am not sure I agree with him on this one).
I thought fears always hold you back. But in a way, it seems, they can push you forward as well. In this case quite literally.