Feeling the Fear and Doing it Anyway
I am afraid.
I'm afraid of lots of things.
Bees. Sudden loud noises. Driving at night in the rain. Falling. Injuring myself doing something stupid. Missing out on fun (and probably stupid) things because I'm afraid I'll get hurt. Or look stupid.
Really, a lot of what I'm afraid of in my day to day life centers on me asking myself, "what if something goes wrong and I do something dumb to make it worse?"
That says something pretty significant: I'm not afraid of bad things happening, I just worry about how I'll handle them when they do. I'll feel icky, and scared, and probably do something dumb. At least I'm spending my energy being afraid of things I have a degree of control over?
I've recently found a new big thing to be afraid of. We've just experienced a third death in the family in 10 months, and I'm definitely hitting that everyone I love is going to get old and die feeling. (Everybody who's hit this same wall, clap along.) But I'm also scared that the most meaningful connections I've made with my family have been over these same effects. I'm afraid of having to relive this hurt over and over and over again.
But it strikes me that this is kind of the same thing: mostly, I'm afraid of facing difficult feelings. When it's a matter of physical safety, I'm pretty good at remembering that I'm generally unathletic and cautious enough not to hurt myself too bad. I don't wear a ski helmet, for example, because I know I don't actually go fast enough to do more than fall over in a snowbank. I've flipped a raft, both accidentally and on purpose, and I feel confident enough on my little stretch of backyard whitewater. But step out of that comfort zone, onto a new river or an unfamiliar ski slope or maybe I've just had an off day, and I'm terrified.
Terrified not of the physical danger, but of the feeling of being afraid. And I so dread this feeling that I elect just not to do it about every other time.
But some days, when I let myself feel the fear and do it anyway...Those are the best days. My whale-riding picture, the header for my website, is a photo from one of those days.
And it was spectacular.