Almost everything in Buddhism boils down to fear. Suffering is caused by fear, and either panic or freezing stops us from speaking up against injustice and often causes people to leave the path of goodness (i.e., the universal truth). When we get too deep, fear smacks us across the face and says, “This is no longer good.”

In meeting my case manager for the first time since March, I admitted to a host of fears: mainly losing my compass (i.e., the fear of the unknown); that I hadn’t processed my Parkinson’s Diagnosis; the fear of being unable to work; and, (after seeing many COVID-19 patients) the fear of dying a long and painful death (as opposed to quick and easy).

The compass throughout this ordeal was Ms. K. I have been successfully able to communicate clearly and thoughtfully since early 2019. As advancing pain presses, I fall asleep during meditation and fail to seize the opportunity for reflection of world’s events. (Ok. Maybe it’s about my circumstances.) 

“I know she’s still there,” I told my case manager. “. . . but I can’t communicate as clearly as I could before. I want her to know that I miss her and our conversations. However, it seems I’ve misplaced the phone number.”

In M*A*S*Hs’ “Pressure Points” episode, Sidney Freedman claims he’s conducting fact-finding medical research on stress. After making the rounds, Freedman meets Col. Potter. 

Truthfully, Potter called Sidney. Potter shares his feelings that his surgical skills are “. . . a lot less perfect than I can accept.” He’s worried but insists nothing’s wrong and wished to vent. Near the episode’s end, Potter tells Freedman he’s anxious about losing his touch (as a surgeon), and the idea of performing surgery fills him with terror. 

I’ve joked to colleagues and friends how surprised I am that my employee badge still works.

“Hey. How was your weekend?”

“Great,” I noted.

“Anything new or exciting?”

“Well, my badge worked.”

As M*A*S*H’s “Pressure Points” episode concludes, Sidney reminds Potter that someday he will get too old to be a surgeon. At this moment, the fear of failing has taken precedence. Whether or not that affects him is purely under Potter’s control.

My world is not as nuanced as a surgical room, for it is abundantly clear people are unobservant and aren’t paying that much attention. I come and go, and any notation of a trembling hand can quickly be dismissed to a remote COVID shift work or lack of sleep. When my work starts going downhill, I’ll have to recognize that the time has come to discuss the issue. I know that as time goes on, it’s going to get tougher to do the job. However, fear cannot be the driver of that moment.

As noted, there are other issues besides work that require my attention. However, it’s essential to remember Buddhism 101: fear must never be the driver of anything.

~ Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life. ~

Buddhist Teaching