If I were walking on a beach and I found a shiny magic lamp with a genie inside, do you know what I’d wish for?
I would wish for (1) unlimited wishes, and (2) an Atlanta Braves bedspread. But my third and most important wish would be for you.
I would wish for the words within this small, insignificant column, drifting out into Internet Land, to help you feel unafraid.
I know you’re afraid right now. I can almost see you sitting there, staring at this paragraph on your phone screen, subconsciously worrying deeply about something. Something important.
You’ve been anxious for days, months, years now. I don’t know what you’re afraid of exactly, or which variety of fear keeps you up at night. But it hardly matters because fear is fear. And I happen to know fear.
I am a third-degree blackbelt in being anxious. I have my PhD in freaking out. I also know firsthand that fear does serious damage no matter where it comes from.
Fear keeps you from sleeping. Fear prevents you from living. Fear screws up your digestion and alters your brain waves. Fear will make it impossible to watch professional sports.
So even though I’m just some random guy you’ve never met, a guy with an imaginary genie, I know stuff. And I know that although these are just simple words on a screen, words can be more than mere words sometimes.
So for the sake of this column, let’s pretend that the sentences you’re reading are made of fairy dust. Imagine that, by some miracle, my third-grade-level syntax contains real magic.
If this were the case, do you know what I’d do with these quasi magical sentences? I would transform them into a giant word-quilt, and wrap them around you. Then I would give you the biggest, warmest, longest, hardest embrace, and hold you for a long time. I would squeeze you so tightly that your ribs creaked.
I would do this because this is what scared people need.
The one thing I craved as a child, shortly after my father committed suicide, was simply to be held. My needs truly were that basic.
What I really wanted whenever I was deathly afraid was for someone bigger than myself to hug me, to speak softly, and to tell me it was going to be okay.
And after all these decades, as a middle-aged man, if I’m being honest, I still pretty much want the same thing when I’m anxious. I just want to be held by someone who loves me.
If this makes me less masculine, well, so be it. At least I’ve got a genie.
When I was a kid, I had a volatile homelife. I developed gastritis from all the stress and fear. I worried myself raw until I was kneeling before a toilet bowl each evening, unable to keep food down.
Being afraid was my defining childhood characteristic. After my father’s end, fear was in my family’s drinking water. It was our way of living. Fear was a religion.
Sometimes my mother, sister and I slept with furniture barricading our bedroom doors. Sometimes we were too afraid to sleep at all. Sometimes I’d get so anxious that I’d go days without eating.
Was all this irrational? Yes. Was I acting totally ridiculous? Absolutely. But that’s fear. Nothing makes you look more idiotic than fear.
So anyway, why am I telling you all this embarrassing stuff? Because, above all, I wish for you to be free. I wish this with every cell of my soul.
One day, I hope you meet someone who has been through the same circumstances you’re going through. Someone who has survived and learned how to smile again.
These people are out there and, believe me, they want to help. They recognize that look of anxiety on your face. They know it all too well.
And if ever you approach one of these genuine people, do you know how they will probably respond? I’ll tell you. They likely won’t waste time giving you an oversimplified Doctor-Phil pep talk like I’ve just done here.
I’m willing to bet these people would drop what they are doing, rush toward you and wrap their arms around you.
Because some of us know how it feels to be alone. And many of us know from experience exactly what you need right now in the midst of your panic. You don’t need advice, you don’t need know-it-alls giving explicit directions. You need someone to love you.
You need arms to hold you. You need simple words to remind you that you will get through this. What you need is for someone to call you baby, hon, or sweetie pie. You need an ear. A shoulder. A hand.
Most of all, you need to know that there will indeed come a day when you will be writing these words to someone else.
So if you happen to find any magic lamps, let me know.
Kay Williams - August 25, 2021 7:25 am
Thank you. I needed this, and a big bodacious hug back atcha.
Chris Duggan - August 25, 2021 7:32 am
I could feel the blanket and the well needed hug. Thank you.
I hope you have that blanket and I am sure Jamie can give the best hug.
Julie Lane - August 25, 2021 8:45 am
Just what I needed to read this morning!! Thank you!
Deb Warner - August 25, 2021 9:08 am
It’s 5am, I’ve been awake for a couple hours because I’m afraid. My 83 yr old vaccinated mother is in the hospital battling Covid. I’m staying with Dad who’s in the early stages of dementia. Our family is very scared. What’s coming our way today, tomorrow…Thanks for making me feel just a tiny bit better.
Te - August 25, 2021 10:08 am
Sometimes a good remedy for fear is to get mad. Think about it.
Brenda - August 25, 2021 11:23 am
Thank you for your beautiful warm hugging blanket. I will hold it close to me all day removing all my fears and keeping me warm with your kind words. A mental healing blanket warding off all my fears is just what I needed. Blessings and hugs to you Sean.
Deanna - August 25, 2021 3:34 pm
I hope you can hug your dad and others are hugging you. May you feel Gods peace at this time especially.
throughmyeyesusa - August 25, 2021 5:33 pm
Praying for your mom today, Deb, & for comfort for you & your family. It’s awful, but you’re not alone.
Lisa - August 26, 2021 1:06 pm
Deb, lifting your mother and family up in prayer. May God’s comfort and peace surround you.
Donna - August 25, 2021 10:10 am
Thank you for this post. I lost my best friend, who was also my. Husband over five yrs ago and I still wake up in the early morning hours in unexplainable panic. I start praying for peace and composure for myself and for others that come to my mind as I feel that my unrest is because I know there are people all over the earth who are facing a lot worse than I am. With the present news coming from Afghanistan my prayers are more specific, as I know I am to pray for those. From my early morning prayers and your columns I receive peace to carry me thru the coming day and I thank God for your wonderful gift.
Te - August 25, 2021 10:22 am
Consider yourself hugged. A warm tight hug that makes it hard to breathe, and I’m telling you, “It’s gonna be all right. You will get through this.” One thing about a lot of old folks, they just don’t have time to be afraid. I will admit, there were a couple of moments (okay, a couple of weeks) when fear nearly buckled my knees this past year, but I got over it. And now I’m Fear’s worst nightmare! I got mad. I got informed. I hugged my dogs, who really loved it, and when I could, I hugged someone else. That’s Southerners for you, and especially old Southern ladies: We hug a lot!
Paul McCutchen - August 25, 2021 10:34 am
Patricia Price - August 25, 2021 10:43 am
There are no coincidences. I just signed up for this yesterday. It was the perfect message. Thank you.
Liz - August 25, 2021 10:45 am
I needed this today as well, thank you!
Bette - August 25, 2021 11:04 am
I think this almost every day after I read your column, but I REALLY think this might be my favorite. Thank you Sean and a big hug to you!
Private, Delta Company - August 25, 2021 11:34 am
Indeed, something sinister is afoot, and many of us know it. In any emergency you have three choices: fight, flight or freeze. It’s time for the strong to stand up and take care of the weak. Get your affairs in order. There’s no doubt about it, we’re in for a rough ride, so keep the faith and prayers coming, we’re going to need all the help we can get!
P. S. Sean, keep doing your part, you make a difference and you help more folks than you know.
P. P. S. I’ll be on the lookout for a Braves comforter 🙂
Tommy Neuman - August 25, 2021 11:44 am
Thanks for the big hug. I promise to pass it on to those people I meet.
You and your words are a blessing.
Shalom my brother
Debbie g - August 25, 2021 11:54 am
Peace. Inspired by Sean. Thank you dear heart love to all
Kathy - August 25, 2021 11:58 am
What a wonderful quilt you created with your words! I hug as often as I can. Wish I could hug Jamie and you.
Camilla - August 25, 2021 12:15 pm
Beautiful sentiment. Sending you mega hugs.
Ned Wheland - August 25, 2021 12:22 pm
You column today could not be more meaningful to me. I am afraid, starting my first treatment of Chemo for Prostate Cancer. Nightly prayers for the cure, concerns about the side effects. Don’t do nausea well. Preparing for my hair to say goodbye. Thank you your messages are my first read in the morning.
I hope you and your family are at peace with the passing of your Mother-in-Law.
Trudy - August 25, 2021 12:49 pm
My mother passed away a few weeks ago. I need hugs but with covid, that’s not happening. I miss human touch.
Kerrie L Hollihan - August 26, 2021 2:31 am
I’m sorry. Please consider this a hug. When I lost my mother long ago, I discovered that it had changed my
place in the universe. Do take it easy on yourself as much as you can in the coming months. And when you pull out a note or recipe she wrote, give yourself some time with it.
Linda - August 25, 2021 1:04 pm
I LOVE this. Just what I needed to read today. Well, I really need a hug.
Linda Thacker - August 25, 2021 1:06 pm
I love this. I needed to read this today. Actually, I need a hug.
Pinny Bugaeff - August 25, 2021 1:13 pm
Sean…your words wrapped around my heart and I could finally take a deep breath. My childhood was, like yours ,filed with fear and yet , you and I are still here ..cheering each other on ,sending .”.there. there it,’s gonna be ok ,” to fellow travelers trudging
the road towards peace and love . Thanks for your daily dose of kindness . You make my world a sweeter place.
Betty Lavender - August 25, 2021 1:15 pm
Sean, I thoroughly enjoy your thoughts. No doubt you have a beautiful soul and I am thankful that you have chosen to share it with us. I especially liked today’s thoughts…..they are mine as well. I have had an anxiety disorder for about 50 years and I know all about those restless nights when anxiety robs one of sleep, and harms the body in so many ways. No better cure than a meaningful hug from someone you love who loves you back. Even if they do not understand this anxiety state, the willingness to reach out and hug and say, “you are going to be all right” is the absolute best one can do. Hugs to you and your family as you grieve the loss of your mother in law. So thankful your wife has such an understanding one to hug her often.
Lewis - August 25, 2021 1:23 pm
You have struck a rare cord on your guitar strings today, my brother, and it is music to our ears!
Rita Munoz - August 25, 2021 1:25 pm
Thank you Sean for the hug. I’m sending one back to you.
Lee - August 25, 2021 1:28 pm
Absolutely. Yes. The good book puts it this way.
There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18a)
That is a message we need all the time.
Seems more needed now than ever.
May God’s perfect love drive out all fear in all who read this.
Robyn - August 25, 2021 1:35 pm
Thank you Sean and sending you a great big hug back. A special one too for your wife and the fam. You are the best and i am so grateful you write and share your gift every day.
pink13 - August 25, 2021 1:37 pm
And time after time, you save my life. Thank you, Sean. It has been an awful five months. You made it better.
Mackie Jordan - August 25, 2021 1:46 pm
Oh, Sean. You were speaking directly to me. You understand. Many years, numerous counselors, & all the understanding of the “why” can never overcome that childhood of constant fear — always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It infects you for life & prevents you from enjoying the people & things others take for granted,.You & I understand that it can all disappear tomorrow. Sean, it may be a blessing that you have no children. Mine believe I am an annoyance who tries to tell them what to do. They have no idea what a burden it is from this side — feeling responsible for everyone & everything. Be grateful you had siblings to share your mutual fears & support each other. An only child didn’t & still doesn’t. Thank you for understanding what it’s like on that island of fear.
Shelton A. - August 25, 2021 1:47 pm
I’m just now getting over an infection in my eye after cataract surgery. My lower lids turn inward and my lower eye lashes constantly rub my eye…thus the infection. My dog is prone to pancreatitis and has chronic, unstoppable itch. She’ll be forever prone to skin infections. My fear, my worry is that putting her to sleep is the most humane thing I can do for her. She can’t be on endless antibiotic doses. She can’t live like a normal dog, not with that itch. I love this dog a lot. I got her from the Humane Society when she was 5. She had been abused and food deprived. I gave her love, attention, and regular, full meals. She is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had and I’ve had my share of dogs. I don’t know what to do and I’m afraid that the best thing I can do is the worst thing I could have to do. Pray that I figure something out with the vet’s help. I really love this dog and need her in my life. So, I know fear all too well.
throughmyeyesusa - August 25, 2021 5:42 pm
Oh, Shelton! I’m so sorry. Heartbreak is as inevitable as responsibility when we link our lives with those far shorter than our own. Do the right thing as you see it, then rescue a new companion to fill the void as soon as you are able.
Daveywayne - August 25, 2021 8:58 pm
Shelton – it may be the hardest but it is not the worst. God bless.
Shelton A. - August 25, 2021 1:50 pm
Here’s a big hug for you and Jamie. Thanks for perfect words for these times.
Virginia A Johnson - August 25, 2021 1:55 pm
Judy Poag - August 25, 2021 2:11 pm
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this big hug today. You have no idea how much I needed it. Wish I could hug you back (and your wife too because I know what it is like to lose a parent).
Lois Lane - August 25, 2021 2:47 pm
Oh yes, fear is one of those universal equalizers. Even people who seem the strongest fear something. My husband and I are analytical people who like to have all the info we can get to make critical decisions. But recently we talked about how sometimes in a crisis, we don’t want someone to explain everything that is going on and try to rationalize the perfect response. What we need is for someone to listen and then tell us everything is going to be OK, even if that can’t be promised and might not be correct. H
ugs to you Sean for all the writing you do that makes people feel better.
Gayle Wilson - August 25, 2021 2:48 pm
Thank you Sean for bringing balance to the crazy world.
Suellen - August 25, 2021 2:50 pm
I discovered the value of a hug years ago. At one time I helped lead a support group for separated, divorced, and widowed people. People would come in broken. The unconditional acceptance into the group was healing but the hugs were life changing. I watched people who didn’t want to be touched change into the best huggers out there. You can almost feel the exchange of energy when you’re on the receiving end. As you have conveyed a hug is magical. For us as people going through the most stressful times of our lives and especially us huggers to be told to stay 6 feet apart is torture. I don’t think I’ve ever needed a hug as much as I need one now. Sending you the biggest virtual hug imaginable. P. S. I was told (as someone who also has bad childhood memories) to find a quiet place and imagine myself hugging that frightened child that was me. It’s cathartic.
Martha Fondren - August 25, 2021 2:57 pm
The Bible says do not be afraid 365 times. I think I used 364 of them the first 3 months of this year.
Kim Kennedy - August 25, 2021 3:17 pm
I am so fearful by nature but more so due to Covid. I’ve had to travel to Vanderbilt Clinic for tests and Dr visit with my husband. More fear of more Covid. Thank you for today’s article. It helped!
Karri Misky - August 25, 2021 3:27 pm
I know a lot of people really need to hear this. But I can honestly say that I do not fear. Anything. Praise God. And I wish I could wrap everyone who does in a big worry free blanket too.
Linda Chapman - August 25, 2021 3:37 pm
You are a daily blessing to the world and God is using you in a mighty way. Never underestimate the power of your words…..
Sandra Wolfe - August 25, 2021 4:43 pm
Sean, today was my lucky day. I had no idea there was someone out there that knew these feelings.
My dad didn’t kill himself but he and my mother fought like cat and dogs especially on the weekends. I hated weekends. Most kids looked forward to school being out. I didn’t. Fighting and cussing each other and my brother and me. I kept thinking, hoping that my real parents would show up and take us away. That didn’t happen. They were our real parents. This many many years later I’m still waiting for that someone to wrap me in a blanket and hold me and tell me it’s going to be alright. And i do mean MANY years later.
Thank you Sean .
Bill Harris - August 25, 2021 4:44 pm
Thank you Sean. Sincerely.
Ann Bodiford - August 25, 2021 4:57 pm
I needed to hear this today. I live in a state where Covid-19 has taken so many people I know. It scares me to go anywhere without a mask and gloves. I pray for everyone to be very careful and safe.
Christina - August 25, 2021 5:45 pm
Felt the magic. Thanks Sean!
throughmyeyesusa - August 25, 2021 5:55 pm
How timely a column, Sean!
I think, today, everyone is afraid! Have we ever, collectively, been in such peril? Has our nation? And how terrified must our fellow Americans be who are stranded in Afghanistan?
Throwing a blanket of prayer around our stranded, perhaps soon to be abandoned, fellow Americans in Afghanistan & our entire nation in this time of danger & fear.
Eleanor Dietrich - August 25, 2021 5:59 pm
Please do not describe your column as insignificant; if that were true, I wouldn’t be reading it every day
Peggy S Campbell - August 25, 2021 6:00 pm
Please be sure in a future column to tell us how many Atlanta Braves bedspreads were sent to you as appreciation for your column! I can’t wait to hear! PS–Thank the Lord, for once I finished without crying!
Linda J Hendrix - August 25, 2021 6:35 pm
Big Hug X
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - August 25, 2021 7:09 pm
MAM - August 25, 2021 7:40 pm
To me the worst kind of fear is that imposed on us by our government and media. I’m in the media business (of putting out FACTS), but we have no TV and never want one again. Do NOT listen to mainstream news and always remember NOT to believe it when the government says: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you!” They will just make your like more miserable. Sorry to be preachy, but it’s exactly what I believe! When I’m in an anxious state, I pray a lot, and God brings me through the anxiety. I highly recommend prayer. And thank you, Sean, for all you write for us! BIG virtual hugs to you and Jamie!
Linda Moon - August 25, 2021 8:26 pm
I’m not worrying right now. I might be later, however. I do not know. And that’s the thing: not knowing what might happen later that might cause fear or worry. Don’t be embarrassed, Sean. It’s brave to admit your fear. Four times in my life I have faced real fear. Three of the ordeals turned out well. One, like your father’s, did not. You’ve hugged me so tight that it made my ribs feel CRACKY. They didn’t break, so the hugs were worth the tight squeeze! I’d like to hug you right now because I love you and your extraordinary words. You are the genie, my friend.
Maggie Priestaf - August 25, 2021 9:59 pm
Thank you, Sean…
Joann Thompson - August 25, 2021 11:37 pm
How did you know I would be sitting on the side of the bathtub reading this and crying because I needed to hear such words today? Thank you.
Brenda S - August 26, 2021 3:02 am
Sean. You’re the best!
Karen Snyder - August 26, 2021 3:40 am
Years ago, nearly twenty of them, a co-worker sent an email to “everyone” in the office, probably forty or so of us at the time. I printed it and pinned it to my wall. When I retired, I kept it, and just pulled it from the file folder where it’s resided since
It read: “Hugging is healthy. It helps the body’s immune system; cures depression, reduces stress. It induces sleep; it’s invigorating; it’s rejuvenating. It has no unpleasant side effects. Hugging is all-natural, organic, naturally sweet and 100% wholesome. It contains no pesticides, no preservatives and no artificial ingredients. There are no movable parts, no batteries to wear out. No periodic check-ups, no insurance requirements and no monthly payments. It’s inflation-proof, non-fattening, theft-proof, non-taxable, non-polluting, and of course, fully returnable.
She was one month, to the day, younger than I, and she never saw her retirement. While I am fairly sure she wasn’t the author of this piece, it will forever be part of my memory of the cheerful, loving person that she was. Thanks for reminding me of her today. Sending you and your Jamie, and anyone else who needs one, great big hugs. ❤️
Nancy - August 26, 2021 3:09 pm
FEAR: False. Evidence. Appearing. Real.
Antidote: Pray. Trust God. He loves you more. He is in control.
Cheryl Peterson - August 26, 2021 4:42 pm
Thank you, thank you Sean. Your words make a difference. Sending you hugs.
Melanie - August 27, 2021 12:12 am
❤️❤️❤️(((((( HUGS))))))) ❤️❤️❤️ for Sean and Jamie and all their sweet critters
Greg Watson - August 27, 2021 4:23 pm
Thx Sean for another incredible column……can really relate!…..you are a blessing and a big hug to so many….God bless my friend!
Sad and Afraid - October 13, 2021 12:05 am
So afraid for us all. God, please intercede!