The Place for Fear

Two weeks from today, I’m moving across the country. More importantly, I’m moving away from home for the first time.

The entire experience of preparing to move out for the first time has been….well, whenever people ask how I feel about it, the answer is always “Excited and terrified in equal measures.” It’s a bit like venturing out into a forest, alone, at night, with only a vague idea of where the path is and no map to guide you – only the advice of others who have completed the journey and wound up on the other side of the woods no worse for the wear.

Okay, so that metaphor was perhaps a little dramatic (I’m a writer, cut me some slack!) but you get the picture: Equal parts thrilling and mind-bendingly terrifying! It’s been the cause of more sleepless nights than I’m willing to admit, my overactive imagination conjuring all sorts of “what if” situations, at all hours of the day (and night).

To be honest, I am really afraid. When I realized I had less than three weeks until I moved out, I actually dropped what I was doing, paralyzed with sudden fear and anxiety.

I’m afraid to be away from my family for the first time. I’m afraid of the unknown variables that this situation is presenting me with – rent, roommates, a full-time job, managing to move all the way across the country by myself. I was even afraid of really silly “what ifs” that my imagination likes to throw at me (“What if I get bitten by a mosquito and contract dengue fever? Will I be able to call into work sick with dengue fever? How many cases of dengue fever are there in that area of Florida, anyway?!”).

It’s kind of exhausting. After all, I haven’t even moved out yet!

Despite this, the fear isn’t as bad as it was at the beginning. Fear is….I view it as a kind of a tool. It has a purpose – to keep us sheltered away from potentially dangerous situations. The knot in your gut whenever you’re suddenly in a situation that might turn sour is entirely legitimate.  Fear keeps us safe, to a certain degree. Humankind would not have survived very long if it hadn’t been for a healthy dose of fear!

Simultaneously, humankind wouldn’t be where it is today without courage, bravery…whatever you like to call it. Fear can help keep us safe, but it can also hinder. The gut-rotting terror of an unknown situation – and subsequent avoidance of it – can mean  bitter regret at missing out on an experience , whether a learning experience, a thrilling story to tell later on, or a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Fear has a place: It’s just up to you to discover in which place, exactly, it is the most useful.

Once the presence of mind to know the difference between a real fear and an unfounded fear (“Will I get dengue fever?”) has been attained, a funny thing happens – things that used to be terrifying aren’t so scary. Especially when you ask yourself, “Will this keep me safe, or hold me back?” the place where fear actually belongs becomes very obvious.  Once the intuition knows what’s what, fear becomes a tool to gauge the world around you, rather than something difficult, heavy, and unwieldy to grapple with.
Your mileage will always vary on this, of course – I still have screaming anxiety sometimes – but it’s a freeing sensation. Butterflies in the stomach still occur, but they’re no longer steel-winged gut-tearing butterflies of crashing-burning doom. I’ve found the proper place for my fear, and I can move forward and see what adventures life will bring me.*

*But this knowledge of fear doesn’t mean that I’m going to out base jumping, cliff diving, or alligator wrestling. There’s a difference between “bravery” and “recklessness.” Sorry, base jumpers/cliff divers/alligator wrestlers – I’m just not that extreme. 

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About the Delay + Opening with a Hard Hitter

Yes, I know. I almost didn’t come back to this blog. After a two week hiatus – one of which was spent suffering from the flu – it’s easier to go, “Well, the blog is doomed, I give up” rather than sit here on a Friday night and struggle to come up with something to blog about.

But that flies in the face of everything that I’m holding myself to, so you’ll have to bear with me as I try to organize my thoughts around this glass of wine.

Lately on TV there’s been a commercial that’s caught our attention (and when I say ‘our’ I mean ‘mum and I, who share a brain anyway’); the theme being people doing their daily business dressed as who they want to be – who they really, really want to be. Princesses, superheroes, astronauts, race car drivers, knights riding fixies around the streets of some sort of vague New York-type cityscape. It’s attention-getting in the way that commercials are meant to be, with a listenable pop song and an inspiring message.
We love it. We exclaim every time the commercial comes on, and our conversation turns to, “What would you be dressed as?” “What would you be dressed as?” Imagining the lives we would live if we could just be us is a fun little mental exercise – what would your soul look like, if you allowed it to dress as it’s meant to be dressed?

I can tell you right now that my soul would look…interesting. It would wear a lot of hats. And a frilly skirt, a riding habit, and tweed everything all at the same time. But that’s just me, and you probably already knew that.

Regardless of what I would be in that commercial, why, exactly, the commercial itself is so appealing was somewhat puzzling until a convenient epiphany struck. This commercial, even though it exists solely to sell a product, is so appealing because we all have a role we know we should be playing.

“Realists” will argue that a reality where everyone follows their dream path and does what they think is their life’s calling simply wouldn’t be feasible. Society likes to gently remind us that dreams of quitting the cubicle job and going to open a yoga retreat in the Andes simply isn’t “realistic,” so you’d better keep your nose to that grindstone.

You know what? I call bullshit.

There’s enough variety in human wants and desires to support a world where everyone does what fulfills them. Some people love being plumbers and electricians – they like the satisfaction of knowing how things fit together to create a functioning system. Some people love working as accountants and tax preparers, and revel in finding incongruities in accounts and find joy in the simplicity of numbers. Some people love being farmers, working close to the earth, perhaps as their family has for generations. Some people love working in waste management or water treatment or bakeries or banks or this, or that, or….

See what I mean? It takes all sorts to make a world, let alone a functioning society. And I think that the illusion of a functioning “society” is what keeps people tethered down to jobs that they don’t want, working for people they don’t like, to pay for things that they don’t need. It’s a self-perpetuating circle of misery. Happily, I think it’s slowly starting to break apart.

In the past six months ~ year, I’ve noticed a trend of people starting, as if suddenly awoken, and realizing: “This is not what I want. This is what I want” and following what feels right and true to them. One of my closest friends quit technical school to follow her passion of makeup and cosmetology, and I couldn’t be prouder of her. My own mum has found a path in sound healing, which, let me tell you, suits her more perfectly than bookkeeping ever could. Even personally, I feel right and content when I say, “I want to study Medieval history” after several false starts down paths in the field of history that didn’t quite seem to fit. Collectively, I think humankind is starting to cast off what doesn’t feel right to them – and starting to embrace what they really want.

This is kind of too deep of a topic to open this blog with right away – I’m afraid I’m giving you all the terribly true impression that I am a crunchy soul-singing hippie –  and I wouldn’t have posted it if I hadn’t read this article from Mind, Body, Green.
The gist of it is, to fit in, we all embrace certain roles – regardless of whether or not they fit us. And the ill-fitting roles that some of us adopt manifest in negative physical and emotional ailments – our bodies and souls railing against what does not suit us. Just as in real life, if a piece of clothing does not fit, the wearer experiences discomfort – and the more it does not fit, the more uncomfortable the sensation.

So how does that tie in to the lovely commercial with the fun costumes? I think the article’s final paragraph sums it up beautifully:

If you are desirous of more than a costume change, remember genuine transformation starts and always from within and moves outward. This expansion from your authentic energy will burn away the habituated grooves and negative boundaries of all the roles you have been playing in life. It starts with  a recognition that you are something greater. Really, don’t be afraid. The only thing you can possibly lose is everything you don’t want.

So the question I would like you to ask yourself, darling reader, is what roles have you assumed over the course of your life? Does it fit true? Which costume would you wear if you embraced the greatness of your own being, and simply allowed yourself to?

Tiny Quail and the Year of Power

Statistics show that 78%* of New Year’s resolutions are doomed from their very inception.

*Okay, I made that statistic up.

And there are a lot of reasons why people don’t stick to them – and why, every time someone at a New Year’s Eve party asks “What are your resolutions?” it’s always with a sliver of a smile, as if they’re thinking Yeah right you’re not going to take that trip to Bali, I’m going to helpfully remind you that you didn’t keep any resolutions when we’re at this party this time next year!

My theory is that’s because people focus on their shortcomings – not only that, but they attach unrealistic goals to resolutions – that resolutions mostly fail. After two months of eating holiday cookies and tiny party Hors d’oeuvres that hide 200 calories a pop and all of that holiday stress, folks tend to look down and resolve to lose 20 pounds in two weeks or something ridiculous. On January 1st all of the gyms are full of good intentions that gradually peter off over the next two months. By April, we tend to get so caught up in daily life that the lofty goals we dreamed up during the week between Christmas and New Year’s are forgotten.

And yes, maybe it’s unrealistic to expect people to do as they say they’ll do 110% of the time, but I like to hold myself to goals – if only to prove to myself that yes, I can accomplish something I set out to do. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of crossing something off a list or checking a box, which might explain why I’m a compulsive list-maker. Making lists and finishing tasks in itself is rewarding – a sort of daily treat when, glancing down at the list, you find that there’s nothing left to do but bask in the glow of your own badassery.

My list of Goals for 2013 (not resolutions – goals, which has a much more finite connotation attached, don’t you think?) has a total of 23 new things to try and accomplish in the year to come – and keeping a blog is one of them. That’s where this tiny blog comes in, right at #7:

  1. Finish the 50 Book Challenge
  2. Go Raw or Paleo
  3. Try going pescatarian for a month
  4. Manage to do Pigeon pose without screaming (quite a lofty goal, if the way I feel during my yoga practice is any indication!)
  5. Meditate for 15 minutes a day
  6. Go swing-dancing
  7. Keep a blog at least somewhat-regularly
  8. Keep a gratitude list or Positivity Jar
  9. Complete a novel and pitch it.
  10. Learn to cross-stitch
  11. Learn how to bookbind
  12. Learn how to spin yarn
  13. Go to a burlesque show
  14. Eat foie gras
  15. Get a tattoo (preferably with someone rad)
  16. Try Cuban food
  17. Return all correspondence and run all errands in a timely manner (IE, no procrastinating until the very last minute and having a subsequent meltdown)
  18. Read Anna Karenina
  19. Take a CPR class

You may notice that I’m 4 goals short, but those are just the really personal ones that I’d rather not share – but if I manage to accomplish them, you’ll hear about it!

I’ve always had issues keeping blogs, having always run out of energy, enthusiasm, or things to write about. Something in the things I wrote about felt false, or the voice I wrote in wasn’t quite right, which was discouraging. My goal for this blog is just to keep it and keep it regularly- to post, to connect, and above all, to keep an honest and positive voice. Just by keeping these in mind, I hope to be writing through 2013 and beyond – and not having this blog be my own personal gym, to abandon in a month or two.

Of course, it would be nothing without an audience – which is why I should thank you. Personally. From the bottom of my heart – thank you for sharing this experience with me. Let’s take the plunge, check off some boxes on our to-do lists, and make 2013 the year of the badass!