What the bunny finally taught me

One summer evening many years ago, my sister, a bunch of neighbourhood kids and I tied a string around the stuffed bunny of an annoying little brother (sorry Shawn) and dragged it across the road as cars passed. This is what brats in semi-rural Ontario did for fun before the internet. Anyway, one of our dupes was not amused and stopped to share his anger with us. We, of course, ran!

I remember the sound of my heart thumping in my ears as the occupants of that car disgorged with flashlights and searched vigorously through the brush we were all cowering in. That was the sound of fear, and it was warranted. What if I got caught? Were these guys cops? Would I be arrested and thrown in jail? Man, my mother was going to kill me.

Just like pretty much everything else in life, I did it to myself. I agreed to be out there when I probably should have been studying. I, like my partners in crime, thought it would be fun to trick drivers into thinking they were about to crush a fuzzy little mammal. I took a risk and would thus suffer the consequences if I got caught (I didn’t). It took me a long time to learn the lesson, but I think at 40+ I finally get it.

Fear is a powerful motivator. Every day, so many of us make choices that allow fear to be lorded over us, and then believe whatever it tells us to be the truth. We buy things we can’t afford and then worry something will happen that will take it away from us. We’ll get blamed for something. We’ll lose our jobs. We won’t be able to get another one, or one that pays what we need to live on. We’ll lose our house and have to live in our mother’s basement. But rather than fixing the source of the problem – in this common scenario, coming to grips with our financial insecurity – we just believe fear’s press. And we become more and more entrenched in a fearful and unhappy life.

Life is tough enough without the added layer of confidence crushing fear. So dispense with it. Don’t let catastrophic thinking be your guide. Step back from the brink and assess the real risks and consequences from a neutral position. And for your own sake, start living within your means. Financial security and better still, financial freedom are the great slayers of fear.

I’m not saying there’s no time to be afraid (like, for example when you’re shivering in a bush waiting to be collared by the cops) because sometimes it’s warranted. And anxiety and stress can be good in moderation. They keep us sharp. But as a society, we lean toward constant fear, and that’s neither healthy nor sustainable. It makes us dupes, just like all those drivers who thought that bunny was real. I, for one, refuse to be fooled by it.