Counting the Hours to Counter the Fear

20-years-old, Village Pangmo, India

I want to enjoy the moment without worry, apprehension or anticipation of the later. I don’t know how to let go. I fear that if I let go, I will lose something. Maybe I fear losing myself, my history, my plans. I want to not be afraid. I want to allow myself to let go and dive in.

Why, when I am in the midst of an amazing, beautiful and rare adventure am I paralyzed by myself? Why do I fear life? I drift through the days, counting. I count the hours until the next meal, class or nap. I count the days until the next trip to Kaza, the weeks until I am home, the months until I turn twenty-one, the money in my wallet, the crackers left in my room. How much longer until something else happens? Why do I not ask: can’t we stay here in this moment for a moment more? Can we hold off the next mark on the calendar until this day has been filled to the brim? I come close to allowing myself, but then I pull back. I can’t forget this moment, as if all existence depends on me remembering, on me writing the history of my today.

As if me not remembering means it never happened at all. But still, I don’t record their faces, their spirits. I feel that I am failing at the impossible task of saving all the past because I cannot tell you about the way my heart jumped in my throat and I knew that all people are beautiful and in need of nurturing and kindness, the way I tingled with the love, the unconditional love, the love towards a new teacher, still a stranger when Dolma fell asleep on my shoulder. How the excitement of Kesang makes my body shutter with joy, how her innocent face looks towards me with wonder, with love. How does her face look? I know right now, her smile, her silent giggle and I know the feeling of satisfaction when she understands one more math problem, when she feels like she can do it, not just that I’m telling her she can. But you will never know what this eleven-year-old girl looked like when I drew two stars on her homework. You will only know the library if you see my pictures, but you won’t know what it feels like.

Students, all young Buddhist nuns, sit for lessons.

The library room at Yangchen Choling Monastery in Village Pangmo, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Why can’t I tell you? Why can’t I put it on this paper? I could write some metaphors, comparing it to things that are familiar to many but that isn’t how it really was. I suppose you could get an idea of how I really felt, but you’ll never really know how it was. Not for me, not for them, you can’t. You just can’t really know. If only you could, then you’d know why I don’t want to forget and why being completely here is scary. It scares me because it means I don’t need, I don’t need anything besides now.

When your life is based on dates and schedules and plans it is frightening to not base it on anything but Kesang’s progress or loving hugs or beautiful mountains. Mountains that you can’t understand until you’ve been there, been here and stood on a hill and looked up at the snowcapped peaks in all sorts of lighting. No camera can tell you how they look and how it feels to be in those mountains. What is it like when the weather happens below you?

Snow covered Himalayan mountains.

On the way from Manali to Village Pangmo there are Buddhist shrines and moments to breathe.

How does it smell, how does the ground feel beneath your feet? When it’s cold, is it ordinary cold, or is Tibetan cold? Nunnery cold? Cave cold? Even if I told you, could you feel it? Could you understand the way my eyes squint in the full sun, the steps I take? Is that the memory I should record? Or should I just do as I always do and write what I want, what happens, sometimes what I want, what I feel, what I think. Pass my judgments within the confines of my journal, judgments that someday someone besides me may read? What will you think of me? What do you think of these? Did you ever think of me as more? As strange? As however this journal remembers me…

Did I break down ideas? Shatter a pedestal? Can I help you know that all people are just people? Can I help you appreciate the flaws? Understand the idiosyncrasies? Maybe even love the horrible? If you don’t love those who are terrible, who will?

Don’t give away your soul for it, your heart, but give away the never-ending stream of kindness that we are capable of emitting. We don’t lose anything when we radiate love. I know because I’ve seen it, right now I see it. No, not your now, but my now, my summer of 2007, my 20th year of life. Yes, I was 20, don’t you believe it? It’s probably still happening somewhere in the universe, swallowed into the stream of all time, even your time is not now for everyone. It’s not now for me, not right now, not when I’m 20, not in June 2007.

I can only imagine who is trying to read my thought, trying to decipher my misspellings and horribly messy handwriting. I don’t know who, if anyone, will ever read this, I don’t know if you will be shocked, relieved, disgusted or anything when you read the way I recorded my history, when you read my journal. Do I have any wisdom to offer? At only 20 years old I doubt I have very much to give you in the way of wisdom and experience. Maybe something I did or saw or thought will spark an idea in your mind. Maybe my wisdom is only in my ignorance, in my naivety.

You have to steal bits of something from my ramblings, from my childishness. Sometimes I think I know everything, other times I think I know nothing. I suppose the truth is I only know what I know. Even when I try to plan and count and remember it is all happening now. I am never not in the here because that is the only place I will ever really be, as time changes so do I and I will never be exactly the same, I can’t be.

With love,

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call your local emergency number. The numbers listed here are the commonly used numbers for the stated region, the numbers can vary greatly depending on where you live. If you don't know your country's equivalent to 911, this wiki page and The Lifeline Foundation have comprehensive listings.



The Americas





112 & 999



112, 999, 110



112, 911, 999, 111, & 000


Find help for a crisis by texting, calling, or chatting online with these free crisis organizations. Looking for one outside of the USA? Check out our support listings.

Crisis Text Line
Text: “HOME” to 741741

Suicide Lifeline
Text: “ANSWER” to 839863
Call: 1-800-273-8255

Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

Child Abuse Hotline

The Trevor Project
Text “START” to 678678

These online and international resources may help you anywhere you are located. Looking for local support outside of the USA? Check out our support listings.

DV Support Abroad
Call toll-free worldwide

I'm Alive Virtual Crisis Center
Live chat with trained volunteers

Crisis Connections
24/7 crisis support with interpretation in 155+ languages

1 Comment

  1. Alice Lynn on January 4, 2019 at 11:21 am

    A fascinating, in-depth journey, not only across the world but across your life. Most of of us share common fears although they may manifest differently, like an actor who appears on stage in varying costumes. Is it the same person, the same fear? But we learn so much from those facing them, opening a dialogue with them, difficult as that may be. Keep writing, keep learning, keep growing.

Leave a Comment

Join the mailing list.

No spam and we will never share your information.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.