A member of my extended family is seriously ill. The past few days have been touch and go. She is in her early thirties. I've been feeling a shudder of fear in my body. Fear: an easy place for my mind to go at a time like this, but not the place I want to stay. Below are a quote and reflection from my 2014 book The Inconceivable Surprise of Living that I reread this week. Sometimes it's good for an author to heed his own words!
Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.
Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)
The first apartment I ever rented was a two-room efficiency in a large, old house in a run-down part of town that had been split into several rentable units. It had a closet under the stairwell wide enough to accommodate a twin mattress on the floor. For two years I slept on that mattress in a sleeping bag. The woman upstairs, separated from her husband, was carrying on a torrid affair that kept me awake at night and woke me often in the morning. The eighty-year-old man who lived alone next to my unit kept telling me that he could still “lay pipe” with the best of them. A prostitute made regular visits to another of the tenants upstairs. Maybe I should have guessed this would be a place of interesting characters when I saw pornographic pictures displayed throughout the owner’s unit in the same house when I met with him to sign the contract. But at $165 per month, my efficiency was the cheapest room in the house, and so I signed.
The problem Hafiz’s words above point to is not just that fear houses the soul in cramped quarters like the efficiency I rented many years ago. When we live in the cheapest room in the house—that is, in fear—there are other less-than-uplifting characters hanging around the same complex. Doubt and shame live next door, obsession rents one of the units on the second floor and hopelessness the other. It doesn’t make much sense to continue living in fear and complaining that the owner doesn’t evict some of the other questionable characters. We need to move out of fear and the others will be left behind too.
How do we move out of fear? It’s difficult if we haven’t secured a new place to live. I recently signed a contract for a much nicer unit called Peace. The cost? All of my notions about how my life should go.
Kevin Anderson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, author, and speaker who lives in the Toledo, Ohio area. His latest book Now is Where God Lives: Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul is available at Amazon or thewingedlife.com