My new friend, fear
Originally published via WordPress — Oct 19,2018
I’ve never felt all that great about experiencing fear. I’ve never ever rolled out of bed and thought, “Geez, I hope I experience fear today!” Fear means that we are feeling and experiencing, that we are in uncomfortable territory and changes are happening, that we have something to lose. I certainly have tried to refuse the occurrence of fear among many other less than pleasant feelings in my life.
I’ll take it back to a few months ago when I packed up a minivan with my belongings and my cat and said goodbye to NYC (and the few months before that in deciding to quit my job and leave the city). Each year, and each time I was faced with re-signing a lease, I’d think about what it would be like to leave the city I came so well to know. The place that had allowed me to grow, change, meet amazing people and experience living in a different part of the world. And every single time I convinced myself not to do it because I was afraid of changing things — of everything falling apart because it wasn’t familiar. Even though I was unhappy in my job and leaving that job would allow me to leave the city, I was afraid to ruffle the feathers of my life. Because what if I did change things up and it didn’t work out? I’d be left to sit with my horrible decisions. It took 4 years, a lot of trust in myself (that didn’t exist before) and changing the question to, “but what if it does work out?” to get to a place where I could say that I knew exactly what I needed to do. It didn’t make the decision or the move any easier but it meant I could say that I was walking away and that was the first and only step I needed to make in that moment.
I’m living in a pretty nomadic fashion these days as I figure out where I want to settle. Moving from place to place without my own home has been challenging. I also recently entered into a new romantic relationship. I’m filled with fear for what will happen because for the first time in my life I don’t have a plan for any part of my life and dating someone through this time brings a lot of its own fear and anxiety. He’s so great and what if it doesn’t work because he’s not willing to deal with my current lifestyle? Fear was present when I decided to leave NY and fear is something I come into contact with almost every day — sometimes manifesting itself as anxiety. It can be exhausting.
On a long flight from Barcelona to NY I was brought back to the trust I have in myself. 8 hours and no cell connection allows you time to do a whole lot of nothing. I decided I was going to sit with my thoughts and reflect on my recent trip through Spain and Portugal. After about 10 minutes I decided to find a movie. That didn’t last long. But the universe wouldn’t let me get away from my thoughts that easily. Eat Pray Love flashed across my screen and I pressed play. It turns out I just needed a bit of encouragement from Julia Roberts to think about my thoughts. Thanks Jules.
About halfway through the movie the main character, Liz, visits some Italian ruins with friends. After her visit she writes an email to the man she was dating before she left NYC. In her letter she talks about ruin being a good thing and a catalyst. “We all want things to stay the same, David. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins.” She’s right. We don’t want to feel fear, we don’t want to see everything crumble, we don’t want things to change. But what if we listen to that fear, sit with it and offer it a cup of tea? It’s like getting to know a stranger. If given the chance to try to understand them and where they’re coming from, it usually makes for a joyful new friendship and a view of the world that we didn’t have before. But what stops us from getting there is that we don’t know what we don’t know and we don’t want to explore that unknown.
That’s when I had the realization that I might as well make friends with fear. That if I listen to myself, live the life that I fully desire and throw out society’s rules, fear will always be present. I might as well ask it some questions and learn about it. I’m not saying that I fully understand my fears at this point (or that I want to put pressure on myself to do so) but that I’ve been so afraid to let them even have space.
It makes it a whole lot more pleasant to live with someone or something you can sit and have a drink with. And so I say, “Hello, fear, welcome to my life. Please leave your shoes on the mat and come in.”