Fear is insidious. It doesn’t show up when it enters. It hides disguised in the clothes of something else, behind the mask of another emotion.

Lately, for me it’s been hiding behind the mask of annoyance. This mask itself looks tall and oval-shaped, like the masks in a Greek chorus. It’s dark brown with ancient markings, faint dark-colored symbols on the front, like a giant, ancient shield. And fear, crouched down and brazen holds onto a metal piece on the back of the shield-mask, and hiding behind it, walks around inside my body, as insidious and undetected as a cancer. It pretends to be annoyance. And I feel annoyed at everything – from traffic and grocery stores to my husband to myself. I’m just so annoyed! Then after a bit of time, maybe a week, maybe a month or more, who knows, I start to question my annoyance. My psyche begins to catch on. It asks the question, “Why am I so annoyed all the time? This is tiresome – for me and the people close to me.” So I sit and meditate and breathe and start to zero in on this being-of-annoyance meandering around inside of me causing trouble. Then I see the mask of annoyance and taking a closer look, I ask what is this really about? And then I see the smarmy entity crouched behind the mask smirking at me, “Hahaha…got you again!” fear says as I escort it out the exit door. We both know he’ll sneak in again when I’m not looking. And maybe he’ll take up a different mantle – instead of annoyance, next time he might show up as inflated ego, as he’s been known to do. An inflated sense of self – that part of me that tells me I can climb a mountain I cannot climb, and then pushes me to take steps towards it, tells me I’m great enough to climb it, and that I have a responsibility to do it. So close to the truth. And I look at the mountain which in one light looks like a sun-lit, grassy path with a soft incline and in another light looks steep and jagged, dark and brambly. Which view is real, I wonder? Both are real, it’s one path that contains the opposites, and I know it’s my job to balance the dark and the sun-lit. But when I’m climbing the mountain in the nighttime, and that masked fear has dropped his façade, it’s then that I feel the impact of fear and self-doubt inside me. And I quickly make decisions that will bring me security, make me safe so I can breathe easily.

But now, I see this happening, a pattern that repeats. And when I feel covered in fear’s true cloak, I tell myself to refrain from making the safe choice this time – I am ok and can walk the narrow path at the mountain’s edge and even if I fall down, I won’t descend into the abyss. I will be okay. I will be okay.

And yet, I know he will be back to challenge me again, to test my resolve, and my physical constitution, and my mental health, and my strength, my discipline, and the power of my creativity and faith, and give me constant reality checks.

I know I’m not the only one who feels these things. In some ways, we feel it as individuals and also as a collective – a nation, a world even. We feel it because we are all part of each other, we are all sharing time and space together, we are parts of a whole, we are one. We feel each other’s fear. The question in front of us is complex – how can we as a group, as a whole, attain the group awareness to see the fear behind the mask and regain our true voice? How can our collective see the fear behind the viruses, see the fear behind the politics, behind the patriotism, behind the media? – How can we stop and pause and as a group detect the cowering figure of fear and show him to the exit door.

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