Facing Fears; Moving Forward

Posted on June 13, 2021


Hello, Reader!
Thanks for reading!

As I’ve mentioned before, I am using Good Grief Network‘s 10-Steps to Personal Resilience & Empowerment in a Chaotic Climate as a tool to process, feel, and heal my personal (not climate) grief. I have been doing Step 3 work: Honoring Mortality.

Having lost the two sisters who cared for me most since infancy, I’ve noticed that waves of anxiety and terror are a part of my grief in a way I’ve not experienced with other grief. It reminds me of the feeling of being a small child in a large department store, when I suddenly realize I don’t know where Mom is, and I panic.

Sheree was my “second Mom,” and cared for me as a child. I was seven when she moved into her own place, and she took me to her place for overnights and out for all kinds of adventures until I reached my teens. Of all my family members, she was always the most interested in me and the most supportive. When we were grown, she read and appreciated the academic articles I published during my teaching career; she visited my home and listened to me play with my band. She was the “hub” for the rest of us siblings; we all reported news to her and heard news about each other from her.

Karen and I were roommates, in the sun room, with glass doors, right off the living room, from the time I was age 4 until age 11. By then, the other three sibs had gone, and we each got our own room on the second floor. Karen was my first playmate and best friend. She had cognitive disabilities, but she excelled at love and joy. Laughter and play were the main ingredients of time I spent with Karen: we colored, we played board games and card games, rode bikes, took walks, watched TV, and did chores. Whatever we were doing, it was fun. When I was a young child, she loved watching The Partridge Family, The Monkees, Sha-Na-Na, and Dark Shadows. I recently heard a radio program in which the narrator attends a Dark Shadows convention(!), and I thought, “OMG. Karen will love this! I can’t wait to tell her.” But then I remembered that I can’t tell her about it–and I felt my anxiety rising.

When I left home in 1982, Karen and I began a new relationship as penpals, and SHE ALWAYS WROTE BACK. In the last year or so of her life, arthritis made writing impossible, but she still sent me mail every month: she would decorate the monthly activity calendar from the senior community where she lived with stickers–lots of stickers–and put it in an envelope, which she decorated with lots of stickers, and mail it to me. Although the calendars were of no use to me at all, I loved getting them, because they were love letters from Karen.

As I navigate the fear and anxiety that characterizes my grief, I often turn to parkour videos for relaxation and inspiration. I’ve never done the sport; my spine won’t even allow running, but the Youtube algorithm suggested a team Storror video a few months ago, and I quickly became as addicted to watching parkour as I am to watching dance. In recent weeks, a number of videos have come up in which the athletes allow themselves to be filmed as they struggle to face their fears and move forward–to attempt the challenge or leave it for another day. Watching the athletes wrestle with their fear, which is, at its root, the fear of mortality, really speaks to me. Seeing them processing difficult emotions in real time, balancing their “I can do it” self-motivation with their “It’s okay if I don’t do this today…” self-compassion inspires me, as I seek the balance between pushing myself to move forward with my daily challenges–while honoring my need to sit still, stay safe, and tend to my grief.

I’ve selected a few videos to share with you today. You may not be a parkour fan, as I wasn’t, as recently as six months ago, but even if you know nothing about the sport, you would have to have a heart of granite to be unmoved by the human drama that unfolds as these athletes face their fears. Check ’em out. You may, like me, find yourself subscribing and feeling your heart skip a beat when you see that your fave PK team has uploaded a new video!

In this video (14:26), Hazal Nehir, the one woman in this group of PK athletes I follow, takes on a scary spike challenge. Hazal is much less experienced than most of the folks she trains with, so just going out to train takes courage, but then she challenges herself every day to overcome her fear and do amazing things.

In this video, Josh, from team Storror, battles his fear of water (38:44).

In “Dom Tomato has officially performed the scariest move in the history of Parkour,” (17:42) viewers see the performer AND the audience battling fear.

Watching Parkour athletes battle their fears, I share their agony over whether to do or not do something that one wants to do, their disappointment and determination to try again when they don’t succeed, and their ecstasy when they DO succeed. Perhaps my penchant for parkour has been a catalyst in my return to a full range of emotion after the numbness of early grief.

Religious services manipulate the emotions in very similar ways: they start off by making us feel welcome and then build tension and emotion over the course of the service, through music, chanting, and other rituals, until the tension is broken with the promise of supernatural assistance for congregants in the coming week, and an encouraging send-off. Many PK channels even include an offertory (“Like, Subscribe, Join, Buy”)! Team Storror has way cooler merch than Jesus, though!

As I contemplate my mortality and the mortality of all beings, I feel gratitude for the parkour athletes who entertain and inspire me. After watching for a few months, I care for them like they’re my friends. Thinking about how PK athletes meet their challenges helps me meet mine.

I may not be hurling my body across huge gaps in space, but life without Sheree and Karen has created the biggest gap I’ve ever needed to navigate, and like PK athletes, I really want to see a good, safe landing on the other side. And whatever challenges you’re facing, dear reader, I hope the same for you. If we don’t get a good landing, I hope we (at least!) get a good save!

Whatever the outcome of our daily challenges, let’s all remember to balance “I can do this!” with “It’s okay if I’m not ready yet.”

Stay safe out there, friends.

lisa eddy is a writer and editor for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy
On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com