Geri-Antics: Nothing to fear but fear itself

Published 5:01 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

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By Anne Carmichael



I was not the class clown when I was in school….far from it. I was too shy and overly conscious of the need to fit into the mold to which every teen attempts to conform. 

How ironic then that as an adult and now as a writer, I often use humor when communicating my fears and anxieties to the world around me. 

In my tenure as the author of the Geri-Antics column, I often poke fun at the maladies of aging, rather than admitting that any of the physical or mental challenges that are creeping into my everyday vernacular are worrisome to me and keep me pondering at night. 

Over dinner recently, my twenty-something granddaughter prefaced a question to me by saying, “You’ve lived many years and seen many major events.” I could tell by the way she measured her words that her question was going to require serious consideration. 

I immediately began to index some of the major events in my lifetime…the assassination of a president, the scandal and subsequent resignation of another president, a terrorist attack on the most populous city in the U.S., and a worldwide pandemic. 

“Yes, I’ve seen a lot of things I never wanted to see,” I responded. 

She continued, “Have you ever seen the world like it is now? Is everyone anxious and depressed? Is everyone sick?”

The question took me aback and I was unable to answer right away. I paused because I realized that in the middle of the night, I had begun to ponder where the world was headed, in what time frame, what part I was destined to play, and for how much longer.

I wrote in this forum not so long ago about a movie that I’d just seen that required such introspection, an apocalyptic film called, “Leave the World Behind.”. The movie shook me to my core and left me metaphorically walking into walls for days.

What a coincidence that my granddaughter would pose this question at a time when I had begun reading a novel by one of my favorite contemporary romance writers. I had uncharacteristically determined I might not be able to finish the book because the setting of the story is NYC five years following 9/11. In this new book, the city whose wounds are still painful is once again attacked. 

The plot is eerily similar to the attack on 9/11 but with a disturbing twist. The terrorists are not from a foreign country but rather a faction of Americans who have banded together to attack even more U.S. cities and kill other Americans right here on our own soil.

I often hear other ordinary Americans discussing conspiracy theories. I have acquaintances who are doomsday preppers with basements and garages full of bottled water, non-perishable food, and emergency necessities (first aid supplies, medicine, batteries, etc).

Religious leaders, celebrities, and (even more disconcerting) civic leaders are joining the ranks of those who urge us to be proactive in emergency preparedness. Without eliciting panic, they ever so gently encourage the community to stockpile enough of these supplies to last a minimum of a week or more. 

I understand that especially now that spring has arrived with its annual weather alerts, it is wise to have just such supplies at the ready should we have power outages or, God forbid, property damage.  

I’m not talking about seasonal emergency preparedness. These warnings and urgings are frequent topics of discussion year around and becoming more and more urgent in their delivery.

Perhaps it is simply because, as adults, we have all lived through and been affected on some level by recent disasters so we’re all a bit skittish. Our sensibilities are on high alert. I tend to believe that the anxiety and depression most are exhibiting are influenced by the fact that this is all completely new territory and no one has any answers. 

Gone are the days when we could run to mommy to protect us. No longer can we go to an expert for guidance. Pardon the multiple metaphors but we are all flying by the seat of our pants while we wait for the other shoe to drop. 

In a manner of self-preservation, many have sought comfort in their religious beliefs and prayed to their deity of choice for guidance, protection, and comfort. 

Conversely, those who do not subscribe to an organized religion choose to cling to scientific and historical data upon which to predict and prepare for the future. 

I can say with absolute certainty that I am neither a theological nor a scientific scholar. I cannot advise nor predict the future of our world with any measure of accuracy. Today’s topic of discussion is not meant to exacerbate anyone’s feelings of trepidation or cause panic. I am, however, not the little girl who cries wolf. 

What I leave you with today is simply my observations and best advice going forward. 

To my granddaughter who provoked this deep introspection, I say, “Yes, my dear…we are indeed navigating uncharted territory. Just know that everyone around you is at least a little fearful and a whole lot uncertain, but there is safety and comfort in numbers. Lean on those you trust and who love and respect you.”

A wise man (Franklin Roosevelt) once  said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  My interpretation of that quote is that fear is paralyzing and if you are paralyzed by your fears and dreads, you cannot move forward. Arm yourself with the most trustworthy, honest, and dependable knowledge you can accumulate, and then choose your forward path wisely. There may be missteps along the way, but if you combine the knowledge you gain as you continue to grow along with your inner fortitude and courage, those missteps will be small and inconsequential.

And to you my readers, I leave you with a slogan you heard many times in recent years,we will get through this together.