Moving Through Fear- Life Lessons from the Death of Julie Yip-Williams

I am reading The Unwinding of the Miracle. I purchased the book after hearing a TV host gush about its lessons on living and dying. Miracle chronicles the life and death of Julie Yip-Williams. She wrote the book while battling colon cancer. The book is a gift to her two young daughters, left behind when Julie died at age 42.

I was drawn to Julie’s story because I find myself (after eleven years in the same job) unemployed, and for the first time in a long time — really afraid.unwinding

Now, I know unemployment is nothing compared to serious illness. It doesn’t even come close. Yet, I’m not usually fearful. So, I found myself desperately seeking an escape from this totally normal human emotion. Julie’s story seemed so much scarier than anything I was facing, so I started reading.

This morning, I came to a part of the memoir that talks about turning to one’s past to find a time when you felt a comparable fear. For Julie, nothing could compare to finding out she had stage four metastatic colon cancer. Yet, she analyzed her past to find her truth. Julie looked at her life and decided to take these brave steps:

  1. Acknowledge the fear.
  2. Do everything she could to control her destiny.
  3. Let everything else go.

Sounds simple, right? I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to manage these steps when faced with your own mortality. For me though, the steps helped me to frame this feeling of being in free fall.

The last time I felt this fear, was the day my mother, brother and I left a New York shelter for battered families. Interestingly, I was not fearful when we escaped my abusive father. Instead, that day was cast with relief. At the shelter, we were finally free (still aware and alert to the possibility that Dad might find and kill us) but free to laugh, play and ease our defensive postures.

Upon leaving the shelter, we were cast into a frightening world of need and struggle. Mom had to find work. We had to apply for welfare. We had to live in a crime-ridden apartment complex after only knowing a middle-class life. We had nothing except each other. No child support. No income.

Yet, somehow we struggled through and made it. Mom worked three jobs. We knew hunger. But, my family survived. Julie Yip-Williams knew that she would not survive her disease and yet walked through her fear with fierce honesty and determination. If she could do so, who am I to do anything other than move forward?

We’ve all felt fear. I still do. Taking the three steps will not make it magically disappear. But, Julie’s story helped me to identify why the fear feels so crippling, and to put it into a better life perspective.

We live in fearful times and perhaps, by admitting our fears to each other, we can build a community to help us push through them.

What are you afraid of? I’m listening. 

Blessings for finding a way through,
V.L.

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