Having fallen asleep in front of his television, he was awakened by the sounds of something airborne and frantic. Baffled and disoriented, barely conscious, he had difficulty initially pinpointing the foreign source of the disturbance. Initially he identified the large, flying shape as a spectacularly overgrown moth or even perhaps a bird. When he deduced that it was in fact a bat making the erratic loops and altitude changes in the airspace of his once tranquil living room, he immediately departed for the safety of his apartment building hallway. This is how he found himself standing in front of Jessica’s apartment door in his underpants at 2 in the morning. It should be noted that my friend is single and so is his attractive neighbor Jessica and he’s been working himself up to ask her out. Faced with two of his greatest fears, public humiliation and bats, he had to make a choice. Go back in and face the bat, or stay put and risk having Jessica discover him, practically naked, outside her door, very, very late at night.
This story, after I stopped laughing, immediately brought to mind the nature of fear and our experience of it. Some fears are natural and keep us safe (like don’t touch a stove for fear of being burned), some are phobias and yet others well up from irrational, dark places in our psyches. Some fears arise from a lack of self-worth, or trauma while others arise from the feeling of being powerless. There are certain things in life we can’t control. Sometimes no matter how much effort we expend to fix it, figure it out — still it seems out of our control. When we find ourselves stuck in that scary and often paralyzing place, what should we do?
First, when fear comes in, ask ‘why is this coming to me?’ Break down the fear, meaning don’t become consumed with the emotion you’re feeling, try to recognize the thought creating the emotion. When the thought is changed, your feelings surrounding it change, as well.
The next step is to completely let go and trust. Recognize the fear exists because I am not evolved or connected enough to the Creator. For if I was, my certainty would be so strong that there would be no opening for fear. Certainty looks like this, ‘I don’t know what to do. I’ve exercised every option. I surrender and trust this process completely, because I trust the Creator completely and all that happens is in my best interest.’
I have experienced true surrender in my life on many occasions, but perhaps the most profound was this experience I am going to share with you, it was transformative on many levels. I was in labor with my oldest son, David, for 23 hours with contractions pretty consistently one minute apart. It was my first time in labor, and I didn’t know what I was in for. I was only 24 years old, and by the 18th hour I was so exhausted that I was passing out between contractions. I still didn’t want an epidural, but I was passing out, completely depleted of energy, and so I accepted it. As my friend’s grandmother has shared with me, there is absolutely no need to worry while you’re in labor, because let me tell you a secret, the baby always comes out in the end. He did and everything ended up great.
With my 2nd son, Josh, I again wanted to experience natural birth, but he ended up being an emergency C section, so that went out the window. During childbirth you’re at the mercy of the doctors and their care protocols. Some doctors have amazing bedside manners, while others don’t even bother to tell you after an emergency C section that the reason you woke up scratching your skin nearly raw and discombobulated is because they’d given you morphine. That was a really frightening experience, itching and feeling numb, I hated every minute of it!
With my third pregnancy I decided that this baby and I would come to an agreement. While she was still in the womb I told her “You’re going to come out with ease and grace. I’m not even going to make it to the hospital, that’s how fast you’ll be born.” I meditated on that, explained it several times over to Miriam (still unborn) but this was all for nothing, because I hadn’t removed the fear from my previous experiences and the trauma of the C section just one year earlier.
The blessed day Miriam came into this world looked like this… we go to the hospital, and naturally, after the very scary experience I had with Josh, I refused to get out of the car in the hospital parking lot. Clearly, I wasn’t really thinking straight, and I told my incredulous husband, “Let’s go, the doctor is not here, we can come back later.” He didn’t agree with my plan, and coaxed me inside. Once inside in the waiting room, surrounded by other women in labor, I tried to make my escape yet again, only to be stopped this time by my doctor. “Monica, where do you think you’re going?!” he asked. I then tried to convince him that I had time to leave and come back.
It was right before Shavuot, which is a holiday, and there were thousands of people waiting for my mother-in-law and father-in-law, The Rav and Karen, to begin services. They really wanted to be there at the hospital with me, they were very involved with the experience and circumstances around Josh’s birth and as they had been present with my other deliveries it was especially important for them to be there this time because of the vulnerable state I was in. With that said, I was still very aware they were on a time schedule!
There I was under pressure, in fear, in labor, and in pain, and Miriam, bless her heart, is in NO rush to join us. When I put it this way, I can’t really blame her! I wasn’t the best version of Mommy for her to meet that day. Everyone was looking at the clock, nothing was happening. So the doctor came in and broke my water and explained that they wanted to give me pitocin to speed things along. Very fitting of my daughter’s personality, (she doesn’t really want assistance in most areas, rather she wants to do things on her terms, a characteristic I respect) as soon as they did that, my labor basically stopped. Having had two children before I thought I knew what it meant to experience pain, labor wasn’t painful compared to what this drug did to me. It felt like a train running through all my organs at maximum speed.
I was about 17 hours into labor and well into exhaustion once again when I felt like she was ready to come out. The doctor suggested an epidural, telling me I was holding onto fear and not allowing myself to relax enough to deliver the baby without assistance. I was then given an epidural, and I remember seeing my husband pacing and looking at the monitors I was connected to. For the first time that day, I was feeling really relaxed, and now looking back, kind of lightheaded. I was not making connections properly and I didn’t know what was going on, but at least there was no anxiety associated with the state I was in. The next thing that registered was the anesthesiologist in some sort of panic, throwing things around, looking for something in a cabinet, madly shoving things out of his way. He found a vial of something and injected the contents into my IV, and then I started to be coherent again. Later I was told that my heart rate had dropped, and my daughter’s had dropped as well.
After I realized what had happened I didn’t want any more “help” from the doctors, because I remember thinking ‘what will they offer next?’ I knew the assistance I needed would come from somewhere greater. I remember looking up from my hospital bed and saying, “You know what, I’m yours, I surrender. If it’s my time, I’m fine. I trust you.” I can still get emotional about it, because it was that raw, I just said “whatever should be, should be, I trust you, I’m completely yours.”
Did I want to leave the world? No! But I was ready to just be, whatever is supposed to be, I surrender. And that feeling was the most freedom I ever felt in my life because I wasn’t attached to anything, I wasn’t ruled by anything, I wasn’t fearful of anything, I just was. I had complete trust in the process of life, in the Creator, and that whatever would be would be the best thing. Total freedom. And that is the ultimate level, removal of fear. It’s the ultimate level we can get to.
Everything turned out just fine. Miriam decided to be born a few minutes after that. Exactly when she wanted to. (I failed to mention earlier she was ten days late and lateness is her modus operandi to this day.)
It turns out that my friend’s fear of public humiliation is greater than his fear of bats. He marched back into his apartment and with the help of a broom, and with minimal girlish squeals, shooed the bat back out an open window.
Meditating on the Tetragrammaton when fear arises will give you the impetus to trust in the Creator. It is one of the most powerful tools that I have ever came across and I’ve shared it with many people through the years.
October 5, 2023
March 2, 2023