A little guilt goes a long way. You only need enough to understand your nature as a human being and your need to be redeemed. Enough said about guilt.
A little fear, however, is like a little dandelion; it can spread over you spiritual lawn in minutes. I’m not talking about physical fears or phobias. A healthy fear of heights and cornered opossums is extremely appropriate. I’m talking about emotional fear: fear of failure, fear of success, fear that one isn’t liked, fear of confrontation. These fears lead to a jumble of emotional problems that are hard to identify, let alone deal with.
I know, because I have lived with those kinds of fears most of my life. Friends may be surprised by that revelation because of my calm demeanor, but I have until very recently been afraid of most social situations. This is why I have always had a few close friends instead of many. My calm demeanor and sense of humor developed as ways of self-protection, especially in school. People don’t bother you if they can’t get a rise out of you, and a funny answer turneth away wrath.
So why have I changed now? Partly, the grace of God. I know I am accepted despite my many faults and have finally accepted that acceptance as real. In effect, I can do no wrong even when I do wrong. That’s what forgiveness and grace are all about.
My cancer has also helped. Soon after my diagnosis, I realized that whatever I did was OK. The pressure to advance, to write the great American novel, to make a ton of money, was removed.
Mostly, though, I am realizing more and more that nobody is out to get me. I’ve always been a bit paranoid in that way (again, despite my outward appearance). Now I’m seeing that people (to quote Sally Field} really like me. And if someone doesn’t, I no longer care. I am surrounded by friends, and the outpouring of help and friendship from all sides has given me ample reason to know that as a reality. People have given me aid and meals and moving muscle without being asked or wanting anything in return (OK, when I had people over to move heavy objects out of my apartment, they did demand coffee.) When I did a recent reading in distant Spring Green, Wis., friends came from as far away as Milwaukee, Aurora and Rockford to hear me. That is very gratifying.
So I’m now enjoying life, which turns out for me to involve a little walking, a little writing and a lot of reading. Oh, and enjoying my friends and family.