There were a lot of posts on social media after the attack in Westminster, which said simply: we are not afraid. Terrorists aim is to insight fear, so this show of resistance is truly admirable to me. However, unfortunately I can not agree.
I am afraid.
I grew up not far from Central London, and loved visiting the City. By my early teens I could confidently navigate the Underground independently. It was my ambition to leave Suburbia and live in ‘proper London’. i did this in 2006 when I started University. It didn’t disappoint, I loved the atmosphere, the buzz, the architecture, the insiders knowledge. Public transport was a daily part of my life, and I even loved that. The throngs of people and no eye contact unspoken rules on the Tube all made me feel a proper Londoner.
It has now been over six years since I last lived in London, and I certainly didn’t live in the Australian equivalent. Our home was in a small, rural, Country town of around 20,000 people, several hours from a major City. Although the relative isolation frustrated me in many way, it also made me feel safe. I am pretty sure no terrorist would endure a V line Coach even if they did know where Moama was.
I am sure to some extend heightened awareness is a normal part of Motherhood. Your life is no longer just your own. I have become a little more risk averse, and my survival instincts feel pretty heightened. I have talked about this fear a little more here. But I also must be the first to admit that, since the birth of my Daughter, I have been far beyond the ‘typical range’ of anxious. On returning to the UK I have really battled with my own anxiety. Especially when it comes to anywhere I perceive as a potential terrorist target (which of course I know, sadly, could be anywhere). I can rationalise that it’s far more likely that we would have a car accident, or quite possibly be eaten by a shark (perhaps not in Surrey). But the fear has still been very real.
So if you are like me, and events like this do make you afraid, I want you to know it’s okay. Fear isn’t a comfortable emotion, but it is a valid one. Trying to suppress and ignore it often doesn’t work. You aren’t being weak by feeling afraid, and you aren’t letting terror win. Whilst getting straight back on the Tube Train is great, you aren’t letting terror win by deciding you feel more comfortable walking today
What you do with that fear is what matters. I believe fear and anger often sit side by side. It’s ‘fight or flight’. When we don’t take the flight option, sometimes our hormones surge and we got into battle. Fear can insight hatred, and that is what the terrorists want. Attacks often do exactly what they’re intended to do: they insight fear, they divide communities and they promote hate. So let’s not give them what they want. Let’s make the horrid events in London, and around the world insight love, unite communities & promote kindness. Take that fear and let it make you love harder.
So yes, I am afraid, but I will not let the fear make me look differently anyone I walk past in the Street. It will not make me stop chatting to the Lady because she is wearing a headscarf, nor move away from the Boy with a different accent. I will not stop smiling at the Man who walks out from his place of worship just up the road, or become suspicious of my neighbours. Nor will it make me teach my Daughter that race, religion or colour makes anyone any different from her. Because most people are good. And if the ‘terrorists’ make you stop believing that, and make us turn against one another, that’s when they win.