By Alice Herb
Now that I’ve written two posts on “anxiety,” I’ve become fascinated with the meaning of that word. Looking it up, I also turned to the difference between “fear” and “anxiety.” According to my Google search, ”Fear is an emotional reaction to a specific real danger while anxiety is an excessive and unfocused fear that may be triggered by a variety of stimuli.” They may overlap but may not.
I finally admitted to myself that I was afraid of so many things that I was consumed with anxiety. Dogs frightened me and so I was anxious on the street should I encounter a dog. That is an overlap I think. And I got over that and now love dogs.
Coming out to the beach, I was anxious about three things I needed to do to make the house functional: turn on the propane gas for the stove, attach a tank to the grill, and turn on the internet and the TV. But these weren’t fears at all, just pointless worries. I can live without them. They did not threaten my life, just my quality of life. Anyway, the internet is working, the gas is not and now I have to tackle the TV.
What I should have worried about was the outside of the house. Could I lift the gas tank to position it on the grill? I don’t know. I haven’t tried as yet. I am overwhelmed with pine needles and other foliage that evidently came from the many storms this past winter. What I should have feared was that I had forgotten my cane at home and I had to walk over uneven ground, pine needles, and unseen debris to get to the tanks of gas – unfortunately all in vain. Fear of falling was quite real, as I would never have been able to get up if I had fallen. It might have been some time before someone walked by that I could call for help.
I also realized that my fears and my anxieties more often than not overlap. As we grow older simple tasks that I didn’t think about in the past now require careful planning. How could I get to the gas tanks while preventing a fall? I found an umbrella, those large ones meant for men, and used that as a cane. Certainly better than nothing. I do fear falling. I have fallen frequently but so far have never incurred major injuries. Subways and buses do provoke real fears. I have fallen on both and fortunately with the kindness of strangers was able to carry on. These are overlapping anxieties and fears. But I do continue to ride buses and subways.
I am making a point of these words because I am fiercely independent and I want to confront fears and anxieties to assuage my awful feeling about both.
I am also overwhelmingly, according to my family, anxious about each of them. It has taken the better part of my 90 years trying to overcome those anxieties and fears. I am much better now than I used to be but still not cured. I keep asking how can I be blamed for all these anxieties and fears since I lost two husbands and a child years before their time and I am not even mentioning the fear and anxieties engendered by my Holocaust experiences.
I do want to point out that I am still leading a very active life, continuing to confront my fears and anxieties much to the annoyance of my family. I do not need nursing home care. I do not need paid companions. I do not want to be restricted from LIFE. And so I carry on the best I can. I urge you to do the same. I do know that the years of overcoming fears and trepidations have served me well, and so I am relying on those skills to continue to overcome whatever challenges me, so as to enjoy my current life!
Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 90+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
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