When I’m interviewed, of course the questions are revolving in various ways around fear and courage–as in, how does one work with fear, and instead practice courage?
I (try to remember to) say two things. One: that fear shows up in different ways than most people typically think of. Forgetting, procrastinating, resistance, lack of motivation or inspiration, rationalizing that the time “just isn’t right,” using lack of money as a reason not to do something (there are about a gazillion ways to finance any project or raise money to finance a project), talking oneself out of doing something, strong inner critic voices that say it wouldn’t work out anyway or who do you think you are? or why bother? or someone else is doing it already–these are all forms of fear. They’re not “shaking in my boots” fear, that elevator dropping sensation that happens when, say, you round a corner and see some shadowy figures ahead that are up to no good. Nonetheless, they are forms of fear. And fear comes up not just around things like quitting jobs and starting your own business (which is not the right choice for everyone, as sexy and sassy as it may look online), but also in matters of the heart–communicating with others, dropping resentment, getting vulnerable.
Two, there is no “getting rid of fear.” If you’re living life big, more “stuff” is going to be coming your way, more invitations to spread a bit deeper and wider. Recently I had a situation where I was feeling stuck and conflicted about something, and I spent more than a little bit of time grumbling to myself about how lame it was that I was in this stuck and conflicted situation. And then it hit me–that my life vision is to “Completely and totally love and accept myself, so that I can completely and totally love and accept everyone else, and thus facilitate healing in the world.” This “stuck and conflicted” situation was causing me to expand–it was weeding out all of my places where I wanted to hide, where I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable, where I had a layer of armor up. If I were to practice courage–feel the fear (of expanding, stretching, growing, being in a new place) and dive in anyway, I’d inevitably transform.
And frankly, I couldn’t transform unless and until I’d had life throw me a few of these “stuck and conflicted” scenarios and I’d navigated my way to the other side with some love. If I didn’t get to the other side with some love, life would continue to throw me more of those scenarios until I did do that. And how funny that I would sort of resist that which I was asking for! Look at me–wanting to learn about and grow more deeply into love and acceptance, and then sort of mentally saying to life, “Well, only give me the love and acceptance scenarios that I want, okay?”
This is why one of the fundamental things that I teach in the Courageous Guides, or with my coaching clients, is to start BEing the journey. Start getting into acceptance of what-is. Start claiming your life, your ‘mistakes,’ your choices, and what you’ve chosen to do with that which has shown up in your experience. Start embracing everything that comes into the circle of your existence. Everything can be a teacher, if we choose to take on life in that way.
From that perspective, there’s room for a lot of courageous gratitude–courageous because it’s scary to say thank you in the middle of things falling apart (and if you haven’t read Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart yet, order it now–you’ll never regret it). It’s scary, yet it’s enlivening, because it’s a way of meeting our fear. Courage is: feeling the fear, diving in anyway (meeting the fear), and transforming. Acknowledging and being with our fear transforms us.
Perhaps the greatest gift meeting my fear has given me is teaching me that whatever comes up, I can handle it. I can handle it if the launch doesn’t go as expected, or if there are techie glitches. I can handle it if the “stuck and conflicted” situation rises up again. I can handle it if I have a dark night of the soul where I question myself. I can handle it if I don’t get into graduate school next year. I can handle it if every single one of my relationships fell apart (ooh, that’s the scariest one, yes?).
Can I handle it all alone? Probably not, and I wouldn’t want to. But I trust that I can handle it enough to find the people and resources to help me handle it, or I trust that I can fall apart for awhile and it’ll be okay (there are so many people I admire who have admitted to having a few trips to the looney bin that ended up being divine spiritual experiences, you know). Of course, in the thick of it, it’s hard to trust that, and it doesn’t feel graceful–in the midst of the really scary stuff, it feels shitty and like the last thing anyone would want.
But as I said, leaning into that, meeting my fear, going through experience after experience and choosing to reframe it as a teacher–that’s powerful. It’s better than money in the bank, because there’s more security in knowing that I’m capable–not that I know what each step will look like, but that I’m capable of stumbling and fumbling until I find the step that’s next.
It’s a beautiful thing to be grateful for every single life experience one has. Staggering. Juicy. Vital. Enlivening. Passionate. This is living.