If Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion that one must spend 10,000 hours practicing a task in order to achieve mastery is true, then I think I can safely call myself a master fraidy cat. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I can always find something to worry about, and I’ve been on the job since early childhood. From being terrified of balloons (globophobia) to being afraid of making mistakes and thereby causing or experiencing dire consequences to avoiding authenticity out of worry that people won’t like me if they know the real me (and I really like people to like me), I have spent many of my waking hours afraid. You might think I’d be miserable, and for awhile I was, but then I learned, and am still learning, to live with fear.
I am incredibly empathetic with people who are held back from wholehearted living due to various and sundry fears because I get it. I get what it is like to see the possibility for danger, rejection, disappointment, and pain around every corner and in nearly every situation outside of one’s safety zone. I have experienced jelly legs, sleepless nights, pit-of-the-stomach pain, and emotional catatonia. I have alternately raged against my own impotence in the face of fear and curled up in a sad little ball on my bed, crying silent, helpless tears. In the face of fear, I have procrastinated, avoided, and surrendered. But I have also analyzed, resolved, and overcome it. Not every fear and not all the time. (In fact, this post is two days late because I spent so much of my creative energy worrying about a particular situation that I cannot and do not need to do anything about at this juncture that my mind was too exhausted to string words together into coherent sentences for this post.) But I live a good life, a mostly-brave life, because I stopped waiting for my fears to diminish or disappear and started moving and living in spite of them.
My plan for May is to explore the topic of fear: where it comes from, the consequences (personal and global) of surrendering to it, and how to outlive it. My personal experience has led me to believe that waiting to live wholeheartedly until all our fears have been overcome is the same as waiting to die a half-lived life. For all of us, some more than others, fear is going to accompany us at certain points in our lives. It is inevitable. This makes learning to choose and move and act and work even with fear standing right beside us, whispering or screaming its protestations, vital to our own health and happiness and the health and happiness of the people around us and the world at large. I am a master fraidy cat. But I’m also becoming a master of refusing to let my fears diminish or control me–one decision, one minute, one brave act at a time. It is a journey fraught with real and imagined perils, but I believe the destination–a brilliant, full life–is worth the risk.