On anxious nights and fear / Arathi Devandran

In my dreams, on particularly anxious nights, I still remember that sound. What the cracking of earth would sound like, if I had ever witnessed it in my life. A large, thundering sound that reverberates in the back of your throat, eyes. That makes something in your stomach dip. Then the scene plays itself out in slow motion, lovingly filtered in dream-scape, cascades of snow falling, falling. Right towards me. Then, nothing. At this point, I start awake, my heart thundering. 

I remind myself that I am not in the mountains anymore. I am not on a trek witnessing a landslide. I am in bed. I am safe. 

That’s the thing about fear, though. Once it plants it’s tiny insidious seed anywhere, anywhere at all, the uprooting of that plant becomes the work of a lifetime. 

I watched Knock The House Down recently. Video footages of women crying publicly. Public figures, or soon to be public figures speaking about their emotions and their struggles. The daughter of a woman who used to clean houses, a mother who lost her daughter because of a lack of healthcare insurance, another lady who was propelled to fight the system after shootings etc etc. Stories of all these women doing their best despite fears bigger than all of them, fears of losing their livelihoods, fears of not knowing what to do next if they failed, fears of being a woman trying to make a change in a man’s world. 

I cried with them, understanding on an intrinsically basic level how much it must have cost them to admit these vulnerabilities and fears. Because for a woman, to show a chink in her armour is as good as admitting she does not have one. To step up to a fear and scream in the face of it is to exhibit hysteria. To be anything other than perfect, all the time, every single time, is a crime. 

So to see imperfect women, just like me, doing great and wonderful things, failures and struggles notwithstanding, made me cry. Because here was a army of women staring into the eyes of fear and saying, you will not make me bow down. 

So many of us build relationships on fear. We structure our relationships around ownership and our past wounds. We layer our hurts, one over another, carefully, forgetting that hurts, like debts, have a way of collecting and catching us by surprise when we least expect it. 

And then sometimes, if we are very lucky, if we are truly blessed and our souls are really ready, we find ourselves with people who make us unlayer. They force us to face the beginnings, of why we have become who we are. This is hard work, because there is nothing quite like introspection and self-awareness that will make you feel like you’re barely progressing in life. Slowly, slowly, you find yourself making peace with the past. Slowly, there is healing. Sure, there is still fear that will rear its head on occasion, but this time, you will be able to say, I acknowledge you, and I release you. 

And so, thought by thought, we nurture ourselves with the people who love us enough to stay, and we heal.

Arathi Devandran curates personal experiences, snapshots of the world and the stories people are willing to share with her through prose and poetry www.miffalicious.com

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