Thursday, December 31, 2015

A life without fear

If I had one wish for 2016, it would be for a life without so much fear.

Not just for myself, but for the whole wide world.

Because fear seemed to overwhelm too many people over the past year. Fear of change, fear of failure, fear of the unknown.

I have quite a few scuba diving friends who usually travel to Egypt or Thailand in search of sunshine and fun at this time of year. Now, for obvious reasons, they are abandoning their sense of adventure this time around.

People don’t want to travel in the face of the threat posed by ISIL terrorists, and who could blame them in the wake of attacks in Paris, Tunisia, and Egypt over the past year? 

Nobody wants to risk their life for a holiday and the fear is understandable following the appalling scenes in Paris in November. But it seems so sad that people are letting fear rule their lives.

By not travelling, they are not meeting ordinary Muslims, which is scary too at a time when xenophobia and racism are on the rise across Europe and North America.

How can we possibly understand each other if we never interact any more?

The saddest image of 2015 was that of a three year old boy from Syria washed up on a European beach in late August. His family’s bid for freedom, their desire for a new life, ended in appalling tragedy.

In the wake of the subsequent outcry, it was hard not to forget that some of the newspapers who raised the most concern had been referring to “swarms of migrants” only a week before.

Some papers used the migrant crisis, caused by military intervention by the West, as an excuse to generate fear.

Across Europe, people were being told that the migrants entering Europe included ISIL terrorists determined to cause havoc.

The reality was that toddler Aylan Kurdi and his family were fleeing fierce fighting in the northern Syrian town of Kobani. His parents took desperate measures in a bid to escape terror and to build new lives in Canada.

In my own case, fear dominated life far too much and curtailed my ability to live in the moment. I had a seven month battle with the MRSA bug, only getting the all-clear in late May, which seemed to be incredible timing just after I took voluntary redundancy from a job I’d held for 22 years.

It’s too easy to let fear take over, to worry about an uncertain future, when none of our futures are set in stone.

During my daily visits to the clinic in Galway, I built up a huge affinity with a small group of community care nurses who did wonders to boost my spirits and speed up my recovery.

When the nurse who took care of me most dropped dead suddenly, leaving a devastated husband and three young children, I had more time to contemplate how fleeting or temporary life can be.

I will never forget how much care and attention I received from that nurse during one of the most troublesome periods in my life.

She taught me a lot about acceptance and the importance of focusing on the positives in life.

During 2015 I completed courses in digital marketing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and I’ve experienced new jobs.

And yet I’ve allowed the judgement and uncertainty which followed the redundancy to dominate my life and take away from my sense of fun and adventure.

It’s too easy to close your mind, to allow your world to shrink.

It’s too easy for Europeans to distance themselves from ordinary Muslims, to build up an irrational fear of the unknown. Terrorists don't represent ordinary Muslims any more than the kind of people who shoot up US abortion clinics represent Christians.

And I've been guilty of my own irrational fears.

It’s too easy for someone who has been made redundant to despair that he or she will not find a rewarding job.

We all have spontaneity, adventure, bravery and excitement within us, if we don’t allow our lives to be dominated by fear. 

So that’s my only wish for 2016, not just for myself but for everyone on the planet . . . that our lives won’t be dominated so much by fear and that we will see the huge possibilities out there in this crazy, cruel, but wonderful world.