Part of me is afraid of ‘what could happen’. In fact, that part is one of my most creative parts. Free flying, without a care about ‘reasonable’ or ‘likely’, this part of me proves, should I doubt, the existence of a healthy imagination. This part can bounce reality around in a little box until all the pieces are broken and then reassemble them in some image of life gone completely wrong. She’s persuasive, this part. She has a wide dramatic spectrum, from a soft, endearing side to a sarcastic shrew side. She can be imperially righteous.
What the heck is that all about?
I think it’s about losing things. About how things that truly matter to us do fall apart. No matter how outlandish this part of me becomes, there is no denying her underlying message: Loss is part of life. Loss, in fact, may be one of the most defining qualities of our lives…. What we lost as a child or never had. The first searing grief in our lives especially if it burst upon us unexpected or unsupported. The knowledge we squirm from as adults, that no matter how well we live, we will ultimately die.
We will leave everything we know and love.
So fear? Yeah, pretty reasonable.
But not all fears are created equal. And they should not all be simmered together in a single stew where the celery is no longer discernible from the carrots.
Some fears protect life. Some validate higher morals. Some transmit instinctual knowledge.
But most of the ones that affect me daily? They are the darlings of my creative harpy.
Her little messages have kept my mouth sewn shut over small resentments (that later built into bonfires). She insists upon the urgency of being right (when finding common ground is always more interesting). She balls tightness into my stomach at the prospect of risking approval (which keeps me from genuinely earning it).
Usually, I don’t face her messages square on. Which means I’m shadowboxing with symptoms like procrastination, anxiety, avoidance. But, I’m realizing that not challenging these directives enslaves me to them.
So now, seeing this clearly, I want a fight. I’m in the ring. I’m swinging. Every day, I’m doing something I’m afraid of. If, like me, you have a lot of naggy little fears, it’s not that hard.
I try something intimidating at the gym like trying to drive my hips properly in a squat press. I speak up with my opinion right through the flush rising up my neck. I make a decision that needs to be made and move forward. I show up and write here. So far, I’m living through all this.
I started micro small. I want to succeed. If you do too, start with what you think you can manage. Commit. And see what happens. I think it might go way better than you think. But, however it goes, you have the knowledge that you stepped right over the line that fear drew in the sand. Your footsteps laid into ground and left an imprint. You took a chance to find the truth about yourself.
The idea here isn’t to test myself by doing the most terrifying thing I can imagine. I’m not bungee jumping off any cliffs. I’m finding little bumps in my road, the hiccups that preoccupy me and make me miss a chance to add to, or laugh with, or be grateful for. I don’t aspire to be Evil Knievel or Man on Wire. I want to gently, tenderly remove fences that keep me out of meadows where I truly want to walk through wands of bunch grass and swaths of wildflowers. For me, those green fields involve deep connection, challenges that create growth, attending to the things I’m passionate about. To walk in this field involves vulnerability and the potential for loss. Learning to face fear and move into it is what I think will let me climb over the fence. It won’t be just once, of course. There will be more fields, more fences.
Which doesn’t really discourage me now because I’m finding this process addictive. It’s powerful! Managing something that scared me, that I didn’t know I could do, is cool. Yeah, I look silly at the gym. Yes, I’ve stumbled and blundered on some things. But, I’m becoming more resilient.
And this is the power we have against the inevitability of loss–to let the losses we will have inform our lives. To let them help us clarify what we value and who we want to be.
My harpy creates a frightening specter. Reality will do this, too. There are risks in living, in caring. It takes courage. But I think that when we accept our vulnerability and summon up our courage we have the chance to venture into landscapes that truly satisfy us.
What is it you want? What fear is holding you back? Take a little step….