I’m writing this for all my children, but also for anyone who struggles with fear and anxiety, which these days is almost everyone I know.

Here’s what I want to say: Whatever is your greatest weakness – if you get sick enough of it – becomes your greatest strength. Silo called that “the slingshot effect.”

I’ve had experience with this. Until I was in my mid 30s, I was morbidly shy. I felt like I lived in a bottle, unable to speak, hands tied, terrified that someone would smash my glass container and leave me bloody and exposed…

At last I couldn’t stand it any longer. The isolation and silence, self-imposed out of fear of rejection, became unbearable. The only thing I could do was reach deep inside and find the strength to launch myself, defenseless, into the world. There was no other way.

Which is what I began to do, little by little, inch by inch, burst by burst – until, more and more, I grew able to be with people the way I wanted to – freely and joyfully.

It didn’t happen all at once, and the struggle isn’t over yet. It won’t be over until I die – and who knows, maybe not then either. But increasingly, freedom and joy have the lion’s share of my life.

The fight goes on, but it does get easier and easier – because I keep having to practice. When I start getting a handle on one fear, my little fear monster it reaches behind it and pulls out a new squirming and be-fanged terror. It can be anything – the monster knows my story and my family’s story, and so knows the most tempting morsels to offer: fear of loss, fear of pain, fear of something nameless that will drag me down and destroy me. It gets the fears from its mother, Death, who sits behind it spawning her fear-children, making them fat and strong and pushing them out into the light.

It’s ok. We have to let our fears have their place – after all, they’re part of this world, and they are what allow us to emerge from the darkness.

But we don’t have to let them run us. My fears are learning that. More and more now they sit meekly where I put them, slathering and growling under their breath, but not daring to move – because of course fear is, above all, fear. It’s cowardly. Not so hard to overcome.

And this gives me the courage to whack the head off of one of my most potent fears: the fear of seeing you, my loves, suffer. Because when I look at each of you, and see you fighting your own fears, I know you that like me, you are drawing on your own deep strength. And that will make you a bastion of courage, a source of strength and inspiration for others.

It will take time – your whole life. And you will need help, because we don’t live in a vacuum, we all need to help and be helped. But you will find the way, because of who you are: a lover of life who plunges into the darkness to bring forth the Light.

The Slingshot Effect – reflections on fear and other inconveniences
Trudi Lee Richards

Trudi Lee Richards

Trudi Lee Richards, a poetic and musical member of the Universal Human Nation, is the author of On Wings of Intent, a biography of Silo; Soft Brushes with Death, a Jorge Espinet Primer; Confessions of Olivia, a fictional autobiography; and Fish Scribbles. She has also co-authored two books: Experiences on the Threshold and Ambrosia - Poetic Recipes/Recetas poeticas. Exactly two of her poems have been published by anyone other than her less-than-modest self: “The Great 21st Century Poemic" appeared in the April 2021 edition of Global Poemic (globalpoemic.wordpress.com); and "Fairies of the Forest" appeared in the Palo Alto Times "Youth Said It" column in 1957. In the '90s she also wrote for, edited and published an independent San Francisco newspaper, Human Future; and in the '70s she co-founded the San Francisco arts publication La Mamelle, which morphed into Art Com before it died, and whose remnants are now housed in the Stanford Archives. A graduate of Stanford University, she helped raise several humans from infancy, and is now enjoying their friendship. Currently she tends to wander between Oregon and California, enjoying the company of her beloved community of friends and family. She can more or less reliably be found at the west coast Park of Study and Reflection, outside Red Bluff in Northern California, on the third Saturday of every month.