“My Fears in Light of the Wind” by Taylor Thornburg

The Wind Rises is an aesthetically-stunning Japanese, animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, leaving its audience with a strong nostalgia and throbbing desire for beauty. The film contemplates the power of hopes and dreams, the pain of losing beauty in digustingly difficult times, and the fleeting nature of love and relationships in a crumbling world. I would recommend the film to anyone wanting to see light and beauty, animated images of Japanese hillsides, and a dreamworld consisting of planes—plus, it will definitely give you a good cry.

The film’s title is based off of a French poem by Paul Valery called “Le Cimetière Marin,” which also inspires the themes of the movie. The last stanza of the poem reads in English:

The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!
The huge air opens and shuts my book: the wave
Dares to explode out of the rocks in reeking
Spray. Fly away, my sun-bewildered pages!
Break, waves! Break up with your rejoicing surges
This quiet roof where sails like doves were pecking.”

The wind is rising, we must try to live…. things are changing, things are hurting, and we must try to be brave. We must try to pour out and flourish and frolic and love deeply.

This poem has sat with me in times that fear has hung above me so dark that I have not be able to see straight. No, the poem hasn’t saved me or brought me through these times or anything. Other greater things did. But the truth that this poem reminds me of can affect the way that I look backwards and ahead at the fear that can be anywhere.

In this post, I want to process fear and move towards a new stance, one I’ve been grasping for over the last several months, which have been marked by some of the hardest decisions and transitions of my life.  The way I will start to process fear for us is by breaking down the types of fear I see based on time, since time can be a helpful framework. Time also really affects and directs the way that I fear.

Fear for this purpose is the feeling of being paralyzed by, affected by, and discouraged by the unknown, or what we cannot control. To begin, there is certainly a fear of the past that is very realistic. We might not see it so much as fear but more unsettledness about what has happened and what it has done to us. What do my past experiences mean? Will I ever escape them? How have they changed me? Will I ever recover?
Sometimes I’m scared of the power that the past has over me because we remember things a certain way. Rememberance and forgetfulness—two opposite ways to interact with the past. Forgetfulness can be a blessing sometimes, helping you not focus on painful moments behind you, but it can also be a careless vice. Rememberance at its worst can be obsessive way to reflect on things, becoming toxic to the heart and mind. But rememberance at its best can be a tool to learn and grow from previous pain. Our fear and suffering of the past may never go away—some wounds never fully heal. And that’s okay. But we should work to have a rememberance of the past that is productive for our personal growth. From fear to brave rememberance.

Secondly, the fear of the present can be very real. Questions like these steal our daily joy:
Why is this happening? Why am I so unsteady? When will the next bad thing happen, and will I be ready for it? Will I be in this place forever?
That last one especially drains and paralyzes me—I feel like every state is a permament one. Everytime I make a decision, it is the final one that defines me for my whole life. It’s also easy to compare your present self with your past self, doubting  if you’ve even grown from any of your experiences and are a better person in the present.

Lastly, the fear of the future is the most obvious—what is to come? What will become of me, and this, and them? What is this happens again, because I am not able to handle it again.
The fear of the unknown is crippling, and I don’t need to prove to you why that is the case for every human.

But the thing is, we don’t have to be afraid. Because every experience changes us—we can choose to walk away and grow, or walk away and fear. This mindset shift is when we become brave. When we choose to step out into the unknown.
Transitions specifically, for this instance, are one of the hardest things that anyone can encounter, simply because there is not a guarantee of what is to come. I moved this year, and it’s been the hardest change I’ve ever faced.

Let me tell you briefly about my move and my fear associated with it:
I recently moved to Washington, DC away from my hometown of 22 years, my passions, my family, my house, the spaces and places that made my soul feel whole… No one truly knew me in this new city—the things I like, am scared of, dream about, struggle with, etc. I wasn’t known or really loved, and I knew practically no one. I regretted my decision to step out of my comfort many times. For many months I didn’t have a day that I wasn’t hit with a wave of dread for the next day because I was so paralyzed with self-doubt and loneliness. Ultimately, I was scared I would never find a “home” again. I was scared of who  the transition would make me into.

I’m still in the process of making  Washington, DC home for me, but being fed up with my own crippling fear helped me in that process. Fear is exhausting. It’s not worth it, because then we miss out on so much. You have to just keep moving forward, acting intentionally, stepping firmly, and loving boldly.

Bravery is rising to meet the terrifying unknown and the things we cannot control, yet continuing on afterwards. So then I’d say that bravery encompasses perseverance and endurance. Endurance even when everything else screams at you to flee or resist. Terrible things happen to good people, and this is a true truth of the world—one we will never understand. But it’s how we face that and step away from those things that matters. Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish theologian and philosopher, once said, “For it is not what happens to me that makes me great, but it is what I do.” And this greatness to me is what it means to be brave—facing whatever comes your way and living in spite of it. That is how we drive out fear.

The wind is rising—there may be times of peace and comfort… stages in your life that are soft and easy. I don’t think we are meant to desire this, though. We are meant to adapt, accept, and be brave. We need to step forward,  and no matter how fast and strong the wind is rising, we must try to live.

~ Taylor Thornburg

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