Fear has a posture. If you sustain a violent blow to the heart – if, for example, your hometown is terrorized by multiple indiscriminate acts of unspeakable carnage – you’ll find you’re always bracing for the next blow.
Although you’re probably not literally ducking with hands over head, covering for the next explosion, unconsciously, you’ve drawn up your shoulders and, chin tucked, back hunched, heart compressed, you’re curling in on yourself. Angst and self-protection have turned you into a nautilus.
I’ve known the nautilus. While I wouldn’t compare this with our Parisian terror, I lived in a self-made nautilus for months after a violent accident took my eldest child’s life. Grief, trauma and fear weighed across my shoulders. Dread wedged my hope into a dark, airtight corner of my torso where despair dried my heart to the point of brittleness.
A brittle heart in a cramped nautilus? Was this any way to live?
The antidote for fear began when I first unfolded my arms and stretched them toward others in need. I was sobered finding there was pain everywhere, and always someone in greater need than I. Arms extended, I began to breathe more deeply, in sync with others. This softened my heart, revived it. Hope, that thing with feathers, caught an exhilarating updraft.
And the nautilus?
I fear I outgrew it.