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  • On What to Do with Fear

On What to Do with Fear

"I'm afraid of everything," I blurted out during a phone call with my sister.

"You're kidding, right?" she responded. "You're the most fearless person I know!"

"Everyone seems to think that. The truth," I confided, "is that I'm terrified all the time."

It was in seeing this quote from Georgia O'Keeffe years ago that I felt I'd finally found---in words---the truth that my spirit speaks on a daily basis.  

I'm terrified of just about everything. Except cupcakes. And phenomenal lighting. Neither of those things terrifies me. To be clear. 

The horrifying truth is that I'm actually lonely without fear; it's been my constant companion all my life.

I've learned to see fear as protection, and I'm afraid that without it, I won't see something coming (which occasionally and unfortunately causes me to "see" something coming that isn't in fact coming at all---an ability that would be pretty cool if what I saw coming was a trip to Bali with Gregory Zarian, a guest spot on Jimmy Fallon, or dinner with Amy Schumer; but alas what I see coming is usually a bit more...shall we say...bleak).

Fear plays tricks on my mind. It makes me paranoid. It makes me question those around me. It robs me of joy and hope. It prevents me from living in the present moment. It ensures that "What if?" is followed by an unmanageable finale, not an exciting one. 

That meme above? I'm that girl. That's me all day; twice on Sunday. 

But we have two choices when it comes to anything that can hold us back in this life (and, for the record, most of those items boil down to fear of something).

We can let them define us, and hole up in a corner with lots of cats and magazines and be great contenders for a Hoarders: The Best Of episode, or we can look them in the eye and tell them to F*%& off (sorry, Mom). 

What saves me on a daily basis these days? 

That's my mantra. It's what keeps me from holing up in a corner of my own closet with cats and magazines, just rocking the day away. Because there's no triumph in that. 

If it were just me, maybe I wouldn't be this fearless. But I have these kids, and I want them to pursue their passions like a motherf*$^er (as Cheryl Strayed said; you can blame her for that particular profanity; I own the previous one). If they see me fearing everything HOW WILL THEY DO THAT? So for them I began practicing the art of mindful fear taming.  

What I've learned is that fear doesn't have to prevent you from actually doing anything. 

You just have to learn how to meet it and greet it. 

Just say, "Hello! Nice to see you. You're here because I don't want to screw this up. Thanks for that. Now get in the back seat and fasten your seat belt. We're going for a ride!"

In fearful moments, act as if---simply act as if you're not afraid. 

Work backwards. Envision the result you want, and work backwards to the present. Then you can see the steps, and you merely follow them. You remove the fear of the unknown because you know how it's going to work out. You adjust along the way as necessary, but each step isn't filled with the same level of peril it would be if you had no idea what was coming next. 

Be the caterpillar. That poor guy goes into that cocoon and doesn't know what the hell is happening. It's dark and crowded and lonely and there's no breeze or comfy hammock in that thing. But he patiently waits. He takes a nice nap perhaps, I don't know. And just when it seems like his life is over, he emerges with skills and colors and a life more glorious than he ever imagined. 

Don't feel bad about being fearful! Fear isn't "bad," per se. Ironically, it's usually indicative of a positive quality. I have fear because I want to do well. I crave control over outcomes because I don't like not knowing what comes next. I don't want to disappoint the people I care about. It comes from a place of great intention and love.

But there's a fine line between acknowledging it and using it as a justification and excuse for standing still.  

Look fear in the eyes, and simply say, "Man, you're powerful. But you're also like a bad dream. The more I believe that you're true, the more real you become."

Have faith. 

Pray. 

Breathe.

Center yourself.

This is how we grow. Sometimes, it's not about eliminating part of ourselves, it's about learning to live in tandem with it. 

My to-do list this week is a bit long. I'm sure I'm not alone in that. There are a few calls I need to make this morning that terrify me. What if they say "No?" What if they hang up on me? What if I introduce myself as Betty and have to start over?

Or, what if they say "Yes" and the person who answers the phone becomes my new best friend?

I'm also afraid of pushing the Publish button on this post. 

So. Breathe. 

Good morning to you, Fear. It's nice to see you. Now get in the back seat and fasten your seat belt. We're going for a ride.  

  • Author avatar
    Elizabeth Lyons

Comments on this post ( 1 )

  • Aug 03, 2015

    I read your stuff and it’s like you write this sh?t for me you look inside my head and know what to write that I wish I could put into words;

    — Debbie

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