Fear is one of those emotions that can save a life, or slowly destroy it, depending on how it's used.
When it's a stranger, who is sending out the wrong vibe, it can be the feeling that gets us to walk quickly in the other direction. That's a good thing.
In this job market, fear can be the trigger for millions of job seekers who have been turned down until they're hoping that Starbucks is still hiring. That's a good option for a lot of people, Starbucks offers benefits to their employees, but fear can make it difficult to see whether or not that's the right option for you.
The kind of fear I'm talking about is the one that seems to gnaw at the middle, and has a lot more to do with not being able to control the situation or predict an outcome, rather than the reality.
I've been known to start out on job hunts with a sunny disposition, confidently sending out resumes and filling out applications. Even after the first time they choose someone else, I'm still thinking that it's a numbers game. It's only a matter of time.
But, if we let it, there's that small idea in our minds planted back there by a third-grade teacher, or a well-meaning parent, that we're shooting too high, or just don't quite have what it takes. We start to feed that idea just a little, and before you know it, that becomes some kind of new truth about us.
I've had friends point out that it took them a year or two years to get another good, job accompanied by plenty of wincing facial gestures and deep sighs.
So, let's take a motto from FDR and remember that, in cases like these, fear is really the problem. Take a deep breath and turn away from the future you've dreamed up for yourself where you're living on someone's couch.
Write down what's working out in your life. This is key in order to turn our attention away from what's really a giant lie we're gazing at, and back to a little reality.
Next, look around at who's also suffering in your realm from a long job hunt or a serious illness or any kind of heavy heart. Call and give them a few minutes of your time. Resist the urge to jump in with both feet about your calamities. Send out a note through the regular mail to a friend who is now an empty nester. In other words, stop making the day entirely about you.
Fear can make it seem like we're the most important thing going on, and until our problem is solved, everyone should hear about it. Reaching out to help others can put us back to the right size in our own lives.
It also has the added benefit of being a confidence booster, because when we help someone else, we realize we still have valuable things to offer. It's like a civil service reminder.
Then, say out loud with a little force that you're not going to pay attention to this nonsense anymore. You have better things to do -- and you do.
There are always things we can do instead of staring off into the distance wondering where we'd find enough boxes to store all of our possessions. Vacuum, take a walk, polish silver, do the taxes, clean out the fridge or fill out paperwork.
There's bound to be something. A lot of people refer to this as the next right thing.
Even if it takes some effort, get up, get moving and do whatever is right in front of you. In order to stop inviting in useless fear, a lot less thinking, analyzing and plotting is required.
And, take this part as an absolute truth. The Great Recession will end, jobs are out there and there is definitely one waiting for you. Now, take another deep breath and go. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.