In the steamy, fecund heat of a Virginia July, the milestones drop like ripe fruit from a tree. Three months blogging. Six since the reboot. A year of meditation, returning to work and almost simultaneously deciding to leave. Twenty-eight wonderful years of marriage.
Each among my best moves, ever. Every one of these fleshy, sweet fruit had seeds of fear within them. Fear of exposure. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of never being enough. I bit anyway, choosing to believe more in what I wanted than in what I feared.
In my work life, I learned that the more assiduously I avoided something, the more urgently I needed to address it. The difficult conversation, the simmering cauldron of civic unrest – the more I feared the confrontations and wanted to avoid them, the more I knew I needed to go there. This truth was vexingly persistent, my personal law of physics, as uncompromising as gravity.
I’ve never regretted the outcomes, only the delays. Inevitably, relations improved, systems thrived, problems resolved. Not always completely or permanently, but progress, always. Always movement toward better.
You’d think with all that positive reinforcement it would get easier, and I suppose it does, but not nearly as much easier as I keep wanting it to be. I try to remind myself that, as Rachel Huber put it, fear is the brain’s way of telling me there is something important for me to overcome.
My community of reflection practice this week is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.* It’s fertile ground, gotten us all churning and sharing — and daring, just a bit, just enough. Reminding us: we are enough. We have within us all that we need to face, and face down, fear. Or, as M. so beautifully put it, she “locates the origin of fear in our thoughts …Our hearts can cross the gap…It boils down to realizing that I have a choice.”
I remind myself: life begins at the edge of my comfort zone. I choose to damn the torpedoes. Even if they are scary.
Life Lesson #16: Go toward the fear.
*My Fear Album: It seems my community of reflection and I are not alone in thinking about fear. A quick scan of the web reveals innumerable sites devoted to the topic. Among so many thoughts, I especially like these:
The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. — Joseph Campbell
Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.– Mark Twain
The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear. — Gandhi
Courage is knowing what not to fear. — Plato
The only difference between fear and excitement is your attitude about it.. — Unknown