The following is an excerpt from Educated by Tara Westover, one of my favorite books from 2019. This passage made me consider the source of fear and if fear serves me.
Finally, the staircase opened onto the roof, which was heavily slanted, an inverted V enclosed by stone parapets. The wind was gusting, rolling clouds across the sky; the view was spectacular, the city miniaturized, utterly dwarfed by the chapel. I forgot myself and climbed the slope, then walked along the ridge, letting the wind take me as I stared out at the expanse of crooked streets and stone courtyards.
“You’re not afraid of falling,” a voice said. I turned. It was Dr. Kerry. He had followed me, but he seemed unsteady on his feet, nearly pitching with every rush of wind.
“We can go down,” I said. I ran down the ridge to the flat walkway near the buttress. Again Dr. Kerry followed but his steps were strange. Rather than walk facing forward, he rotated his body and moved sideways, like a crab. The wind continued its attack. I offered him an arm for the last few steps, so unsteady did he seem, and he took it.
“I meant it as an observation,” he said when we’d made it down. “Here you stand, upright, hands in your pockets.” He gestured toward the other students. “See how they hunch? How they cling to the wall?”
He was right. A few were venturing onto the ridge but they did so cautiously, taking the same ungainly side steps Dr. Kerry had, tipping and swaying in the wind; everyone else was holding tightly to the stone parapet, knees bent, backs arched, as if unsure whether to walk or crawl.
“I’ve roofed my share of hay sheds,” I said finally.
“So your legs are stronger? Is that why you can stand in this wind?”
I had to think before I could answer. “I can stand in this wind, because I’m not trying to stand in it,” I said. “The wind is just wind. You could withstand these gusts on the ground, so you can withstand them in the air. There is no difference. Except the difference you make in your head.”
He stared at me blankly. He hadn’t understood.
“I’m just standing,” I said. “You are all trying to compensate, to get your bodies lower because the height scares you. But the crouching and the sidestepping are not natural. You’ve made yourselves vulnerable. If you could just control your panic, this wind would be nothing.”
“The way it is nothing to you,” he said.
Two lines in this passage stand out for me – “The wind is just wind,” and “There is no difference. Except the difference you make in your head.” When I read this a year ago, I stopped to read it over a few times. These words caused me to consider the ways in which I work myself up or let fear and doubt creep in, over things that are either not in my control or smaller than I have let them appear in my mind. I consider a situation to be a stumbling block, when if I would look at it for what it is I would see it as more of distraction than any real obstacle.
It is easy to get so caught up in the swirl of perceived problems that I can miss the solution. There is usually a way through, but first I need to settle myself. Sometimes the wind is just wind.