Oh fear. You wily bastard.
I don’t know your story or how you move through life on billowed sails or why you show up ready for a fight … or the other shoe to drop. I do know my story. I know how fear has wrapped its tentacles so tightly around me that I have sabotaged damn near every good thing that summoned the courage to come close. As I move from the old story and into the yet-known story, I’m learning how fear wrecks us.
Fear makes us stupid. Dull. Tiresome in an infinite number of ways. I chose three that I am sorting out now to chat about. As I write this, I see how they are part of an infinite loop of smiling self-destruction.
Fear makes me worry about being judged.
If you grew up in a home where fear ruled, then you likely understand how fear tees us up to guard against judgement, (rejection and abandonment). Small people strike out at others who they perceive as a threat. These small-minded people tear others down the only way they know how – to be nasty, critical, “ugly”, and self-serving in their assessments of others. How many people in your world beat people up with judgement in an effort to be the biggest, best, brightest … huge in the sight or hearing of others?
You grow up this way and “learn” that everyone sees the world from a pernicious perspective.
Everyone is a threat and a target.
Everyone judges harshly.
Never assume positive intent. That shoe may not just drop, it may sling by your head at any time.
Fear makes me push people away who are trying to help and maybe even love me.
Once while playing volleyball with my CoRec team, the Isotopes, I mangled my ankle while diving for a ball. Instead of asking for help, I tried to keep it together and continue playing. My teammates, a goofy, fun bunch of coworkers and more, saw that my ankle was swelling. I was hobbling. One friend offered to carry me to my car and several offered to help me get to the hospital. (Please note, I had done this before and my stubbornness landed me in a walking cast for months during the university’s summer holiday.)
I couldn’t accept their help because I was too afraid they would:
think me weak
think me a burden
chide me for not being a size 2 and heavier than they expected
get bored while waiting on the doctor and blame me for their unhappiness.
Yeah. I missed out and had my leg in a brace again for a while. I missed on laughing in the ER and the care and comfort of people. Of letting someone know I loved them and trusted them – valued them and knew they weren’t going to blame me for a few moments of boredom. I took their opportunity to care for me away. And I needed them and was too afraid to admit it.
I still do it. “I got this” being one of those phrases I am phasing out of my lexicon and replacing with, “yes, thank you” when needed.
Fear makes me worry more about living the “right” life instead of my life.
When you are wrapped up in fear and know from tiniest experience how authority can eat your lunch and watch you fidget in hunger, you learn to survive either as a people-pleaser or as someone who can whip out a “screw-you” in moments. Most folks live somewhere in between.
I spent most of my life looking like I perfected my “screw-you” on the outside and desperately wanting to please (and fit in) on the inside. Pleasing people meant less harm, right?
Not so fast, kids.
Pleasing people has led to choices that eroded my own heartbeat, put me in unwanted physical danger (not the skiing-off-the-cliff kind that I like), and had me work long hours to make others look good while I only asked for scraps. That’s bullshirt. And it has delayed my knowing or acknowledging my own heart for these long years.
Fortunately, I have kids, framily (friends/family), a good place to work and a new growing sense of my self-worth that has finally jostled me into the light.
Actually, I got tired of living my own sorry story … tired of my own bullshit.
I pushed away from one too many people in fear. Worried about judgement one too many times. And wondered with great depth over thousands of miles what it is that I am looking for. What makes my heart go pitty pat? Who do I want to be? What do I want my tombstone to read (Oooh! I know this one, “I will return to the rock from which I’ve been cut.” I saw it in the Jewish cemetery behind my house in Neu Ulm, Germany.)
Is any of this familiar to you? Wondering where to begin to untangle YOU from the fears that keep you small, worried and living a life that may be noble, but feels hollow?
I can only tell you what has been working for me.
Ask for help.
Invite loving good-hearted people into your story.
Ask for more help.
Examine the story you are living and have believed about yourself.
Ask for help in deciphering what is true, what is lovely and what is life.
Leave the rest on the side of the road … or in your journal that you burn, or in the arms of a healthy friend who will let you cry it out – maybe even cry with you – and not let you stay there, in that place of sorrow.
I have a friend, Steve, who is a pastor. We don’t talk often, but when we do, he usually looks fake-shocked when a few words come through the conversation. But he doesn’t judge. He is not perfect. He loves his people. Even though I am no longer in the flock, he is a shepherd this sheep can understand. I have asked him for help. And the counselor he recommended … the second counselor he recommended.
I walk the dog rain or shine, day and night. Therein lies part of the miracle.
Yoga has returned my body to me, a governance of my own skin that was taken before I could write my name. Meditation helps in waves of solid practice and less practice. Books, journals, research and in this age of YouTube, resources online – carefully curated.
The kindness of my coworkers when I needed to bolt to Georgia helped.
All of the Reeses I’ve eaten since Halloween, probably have not helped.
Aunties, cousins and their spouses, my sister, Mimi … the people who I love. You know who you are. You have helped me realize how tired I was of my old bullshit and you loved me despite the goo still tracked in on my
soul … soles.
This is a lot to take in and may be a lot for you to navigate so here is a thought. Take one step today for you. Open your eyes and your good heart. Start the adventure to see yourself … be yourself for who you really are.
Then move to the next small step: Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Get that nose ring. Tell him yes. Sign up for that class. Be willing to be a beginner again and Begin Again.
Find who and what inspires you. Crank up Lizzo and flip your hair or let your neighbors know “This is me.” Keep an adventure journal. Make lists of your goals and lists of how you are going to get there. Show them to a trusted someone who will hold you accountable and breathe life into your tired heart.
Bravely, be you. You are worth it.
You are needed. (The real you, not the I-need-to-please-and-overachieve-to-be-somewhat-acceptable you.)