We Need Not Be Fearless

The photo ran in the local paper.

If you start at the top of the shot, you see my father’s face. He is unruffled and calm, looking forward.

Pan down, you see he is wearing a dark striped shirt. And resting on the chest of his striped shirt is a month-old me. I am wearing an eraser-colored onesie. My eyes are huge and deeply uncertain about what I’ve signed up for.

But if you pan down further, you see my father’s sure hand holding my back. You see my vulnerable little self leaning against him. And you see that my father is holding me and holding my fear.

I’m not sure we’re so different from our month-old selves sometimes. Who doesn’t carry real fear within them? Fear that we don’t have what it takes, that we’ll lose what we love, that there’s a menace around the next corner.

And one antidote to fear is having someone to hold it with us. Not someone to solve, fix, remove the fear from us. But to let us share our fears with them, to listen to us so we can listen to ourselves, to remind us we can be brave and scared at the same time.

When we are little ones, we wear our vulnerability on our sleeves. Adulthood says we need to look durable and not easily broken. We should be the big ones to hold the fear of the little ones. And still, our fear is there.

The photo was taken at a class for soon-to-be parents. I was brought in as a specimen; behold - a real human baby! I was not my parents’ first rodeo, there were three brothers before me. But my mother and father still had fears, for me and for themselves. Just as the soon-to-be-parents had fears.

And what the photo of me and my father doesn’t show, but what is unshakably true is we need not be fearless to hold the fears of others.

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