It was a Friday when I drove to that little coastal corner of Georgia. The highway was bare – the usual. The day’s sky featured an overcast film, the sun opaque and barely there as it faded into the gray.
Disappointment had begun to settle into my heart like a morning fog. It was a cause so simple as cancelled plans with friends, but why did the impact feel so much more?
These days I was running.
I was used to it – a constant dodging and running from something. Why would a young girl with a safe and normal lifestyle need to be on the run? What could possibly be endangering my clean-cut life?
There was something called The Fear.
It hunted me down so frequently. It hid in the shadows in my mind, stalking me. Planning strategic attacks.
That day was one.
Maybe surprisingly, it’s not an aggressor you’d be unfamiliar with. I’ll characterize it a bit better, see if you might know it too?
The Fear (also, Fear Of Missing Out) – being concerned with events (real or perceived) that you won’t partake in, to the point of causing distress and dismay
I’ve a long history with this mental antagonist, and it’s wild – the more conversations I have, the more I hear of the sadly similar attacks on others too. There’s got to be a way we can escape – a way we can live a life free of its unsettling invasions.
The relieving part is – I’ve found a way. I’ve discovered this arsenal of tools we can tap into, set this Fear running for its life.
The same Friday, I was with family. The outside snapshot showed a peaceful red brick home set in the backdrop of a small Southern town – normalcy, comfort. Inside, however, The Fear was really threatening to have its way with me. I reluctantly settled into my quiet weekend, distant from the events my peers would be attending, which unnerved me because oh my, here’s the scary thought again – what will I miss out on?
I tried to suppress the unhelpful assumptions.
I glanced over at my little blonde hair, blue eyed niece reading a book peacefully on the back porch, seated next to me on the couch. Her messily braided hair sat tucked behind her ear and her heart sat stuffed inside her chest, bursting with the virtue of simple, kind grace.
And in just a single second – I thought how good the moment was.
And how content I could be, right here, if I chose to be.
Joy - the ability to savor or appreciate what is before us, around us, in us
That second of contentedness when I looked at her was accompanied by Joy. And that brief flash of Joy was indeed an invitation to see my life.
I felt that this was an invitation that could be nothing at all – if I chose to ignore it – or everything at once.
Caught by the moment, I opened the invitation and let it dance around in my hands for a moment.
The invitation, what it read: Do you want to see what’s here?
And at once, so quietly – it wasn’t that my life finally came alive – it was me. I finally came alive.
I could see that my life has always been rich and real and full. The blonde hair, blue eyed girl was so softly radiant that I could have missed how she shined.
When I’m under the authority of Fear, it’s common to walk in those nightmares telling me I’m missing out on something else. Even when I don’t know what that something else ever is. And maybe that’s because I form these illusions in my mind of what life must be like for everyone else who has things I don’t have. And while I wonder what life is like on the other side, I forfeit an invitation and view right before me.
But I’ve got to know and so do you – how might Joy win? How can we keep letting it win?
I think this looks less like a hearty to-do list and more like using something we already have coded into us. The senses. How we smell, taste, feel. This is an invitation to see, after all.
Seeing your life – letting Joy triumph over Fear (The Fear) in your life - feels like this.
Tightening your arms a little bit more around the people you presently have in your circle. The ones sitting across from you at dinner, working next to you in the office, sending you texts to check in on your day.
It tastes like each small bite of the Mexican meal you’re sharing with friends at dinner. (Taco Tuesday, anyone?) The salt on the chips, the zesty bite of cilantro sprinkled on your plate. How unfortunate to gobble through a meal and miss all of those savory moments.
It smells like fresh laundry churning in the dryer and like silver rain on a musky, humid day. Maybe sometimes it just smells like satisfaction with the right now.
The beauty is that it will look, taste, feel, and smell different for all of us. The common denominator, however, will be that we all bask in contentment.
If you still worry, as I do, that The Fear of Missing Out will linger even still, let’s touch on that for a second. To put it frankly, yes – you will miss out.
But aren’t we all? No one can have everything. If you’re a mother, you miss out on the flexibility and freedom of singleness and caring solely for your own schedule. If you’re a celebrity, you miss out on the ability to quietly slip into public without being judged for your outfit, current boyfriend, or facial expression captured in a photo. If you’re a city dweller, you miss out on the quieter rhythms of small town life.
So in the end we have two options. We may be contented what we have. Or we may scroll on our phones, compare, and make a mental checklist of what we do not have – while ignoring that there is always an opportunity cost involved. We will always be forced give up one thing to have another.
This is how Joy can be brighter and louder than The Fear in your life. It’s such a lovely invitation we all have – Do you want to see this?
And because I have tasted how sweet it is, I hope the answer for all of us is an unwavering and resounding