a digital image of a person crouched over with their head between their arms. There are ropes tied around their arms and legs pulling them in different directions.
(Inti Gonzalez)

Fear is a familiar frenemy if you are in a continuous struggle for survival. You might hardly remember a time in your past when you were not afraid. Fear can take hold when we have an idle moment, or it can happen when we face the specter of trying to maintain a viable budget on a small source of income. The idea that we could become homeless worsens this. If disabled and if one has health issues, we might not physically be able to survive a period of homelessness–it could spell the end. Many of us might rely on our fear as a method of keeping ourselves grounded. If we were to take fear-controlling medication, it could be uncomfortable because we might believe we need our fear. 

Lack of money is a source of fear because we don’t have a financial cushion to insulate us from many of the hard circumstances that arise. Under some circumstances we might be in a position of begging for money from family. 

If we live in poverty on public benefits, we simply can’t afford numerous good things that mainstream Americans enjoy. The government provides, if we’re lucky, enough to pay subsidized rent, some utilities, a modest amount toward food, and, when that’s paid for, there isn’t much left. Having a savings account doesn’t happen. 

For some disabled people, family could be unwilling to help, or they may be unable to help. Or the family member who helped in the past might be getting old or might have died. 

When we get older, we aren’t surrounded by the protective coating that comes with youth. Our bodies often produce pain, sometimes on a constant basis. Our minds may not be as sharp. Predatory people could begin to see us as potential targets. Someone who can’t readily defend themself is an easy target for violent thieves. 

The future must always contain one’s eventual death. One of the primary truisms taught in Buddhism is the rule of impermanence. Everything must change. Yet, in sufficient pondering, I am far more afraid of death under horrible circumstances than of dying itself. Life has to be good. Life can’t be a continuous struggle to stay alive, to stay housed, and to keep what I’ve got. 

For those of us getting older with a disability and lack of significant income, this is frightening. Yet it should be even more frightening never to be happy. Fear is a murderer and a thief. It robs us of any shred of happiness we might have. It can kill us with the stress it brings or with its effect of impairing judgment. 

Money doesn’t actually bring happiness. I see the Kardashians on television and I’m not envious. I see Donald Trump, I’m not envious. If it wasn’t for the existence of human fear, we might be able to do away with war, injustice, and poverty. This is because fear makes people afraid to speak up. Conformity is a symptom of fear. 

I didn’t have conformity when I was a teen. I suffered substantially because of it. But I wasn’t happy with how my peers were all struggling to fit the expected norm. Now, I’m older. I don’t have money to speak of. I have a longing to experience wealth and recognition in my lifetime, and not be poor and deprived my entire life. I live in hope of a better future, but I get afraid, even of my own shadow, when I see how bad it could be.

Jack Bragen is author of Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual. Additionally, he has three collections of short fiction/science fiction for sale, and lives in Martinez.