Last year I asked my 3 closest friends a scary question: what is it like for YOU to be my friend? I told them to be brutally honest…but please, please, PLEASE sandwich any “bad” stuff with “good” stuff. I mean, I knew how shitty I can be; my flaws flash through my mind unexpectedly throughout each day. I was terrified to get their responses. Would they confirm what I already knew? Would I survive and recover? Would I be able to face them again? I nearly vomited when I heard my phone ding with their responses. I was in tears as I read each one, not because the texts were what I expected, but because they were the absolute OPPOSITE of what I expected. They told me how much they loved me and numbered off my character traits that made it EASY for them to love me. And they all included the words “joy”, “strong”, and “brave”. Brave, me?
My mom describes me as a very Pollyanna-type child. I was regularly overly positive and talkative. My aunts have a long list of one-liners born from my cuteness that are still a part of their regular vernacular. However bubbly and adaptable I appeared, inside my little girl guts were in knots of fear. That fear never let me enjoy experiences fully. My mom, my personal self-historian, recalls irrationally fearful responses when I was a very small child—running to “take a nap” when the marching band would practice on the street in front of our house or when someone would fly a kite near us at the beach.
The truth is I feel like I have been wrecked by fear for as many of my 40 years as I can remember.
I now adore the driving rhythm of marching band drum lines and once attended a kite flying festival without needing to nap under a blanket. But new fears occupy those spaces now. I am afraid of heights, fireworks, walking on a frozen lake, and jumping off of a boat in the middle of a lake (what if there is a log jammed under the water and I jump in and get impaled…or what if my family doesn’t notice that I have fallen off the boat and another boat can’t see me, runs over me and decapitate me?). I am afraid of my children choking when I leave them at home for an hour or of a bear maiming my son as he walks from the house to his above-the-barn teen space. I’m also afraid, although to a lesser extent, of my shirt coming up in public and exposing my plumper-than-a-decade-ago belly. I’m afraid of thinking that people really like me then finding out they laugh at me behind my back. I’m afraid of being abandoned and rejected and wrecked.
When I step back and look at my life, I see that I have a fair amount of fear, yet I still live my life in a way that my friends can see strength, boldness and even joy. As adults we are expected to negotiate reality and fear without too much struggle, but really…HOW do all those contradictory things occupy space within us without us going crazy?
The next few posts will look at fear. What is fear? How do we combat fear? Can we defeat fear? How can we feel fear but still more forward on our path? What do we do with our fear?
For now, let’s try to notice fear in our lives this week. What physical sensations do you feel when you are in pain? Are there any patterns you notice, like time of day, or specific activity, or a smell or color?
Let’s tackle this together!!