This is a powerful word. A word that when spoken—better yet, whispered—can send a cold prickle down the back of your neck. Try it.
Nothing? Okay, go into the coat closet and turn off the light. Now whisper it.
Still nothing? Fine. Go into the coat closet, turn off the light and wait for your dead grandmother to whisper it. It’ll happen. Be patient.
Was there a touch of angst that crept into your mind? A slight uneasiness joining the flow in your bloodstream?
We all have fear to some degree: an anxiety about a work project, despair with a love affair, qualms regarding the choice we made selecting our new insurance policy, jitters because we just flashed, honked and gave a one-fingered salute to an old service truck that nearly cut us off in traffic, only to realize after another few miles that this is the guy you called from the office to please, please, please squeeze you into his schedule and come to your house to fix your piece of garbage air conditioning unit that’s broken down in the middle of a record-breaking, blistering heat spell, and he’s rushing to meet you at your house on his lunch break.
Yep. Cold sweat fear.
And we try to avoid it. Like it’s a bad thing. But what if it isn’t? Yes, the result of the bad thing we fear being realized is not something most folks want to welcome into their lives, but that state of being fearful might be.
Hasn’t being in that moment—that heart palpitating moment—oftentimes brought you a pure rush of excitement, of thrill, of accomplishment? Hasn’t pushing through fear helped you realize your new potential?
Lately, I find myself a fear magnet. Examples of it are popping up all around me.
– It’s the end of the school year. My kids are up to their earballs in exams. This is fearful.
– I’m in the process of collecting quotes for a major house repair that may determine whether I end up needing to auction off a kidney. This is fearful.
– Domestic terrorism and militant extremists. This is fearful.
– Global warming. This is fearful.
– My dead grandmother just spoke to me in our coat closet. This is fearful.
It is so easy to build a moat—abstract or concrete—around ourselves in order to shun that which frightens us, but it’s also easy to brick ourselves into the very castle meant to protect us. Now what have we got?
Even as I take stock of my library books, stacked on my bedside table and surrounding my desk, it’s no longer snort-like funny to grasp how many of them are addressing the voluminous boundaries of this one subject.
1. Places That Scare You : A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön (the most edible looking Buddhist/nun/teacher/author you may never come across.)
2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (Wayward woman + massive life challenge + teeth grinding grit = awesome story + bestselling book + scarcity of toenails.)
3. The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling by Stephen Cope (From Krishna to Keats, Jane Goodall to Ghandi, Ludwig van Beethoven to Susan B. Anthony—words meant to get you off your big, broad backside.)
4. Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration by David Roberts (Yes, expect more loss of toenails, blackened chunks of flesh and to be cold the entire time you read this.)
5. Daily Life in 18th Century England by Kristin Olsen (You’re right. This has nothing to do with the others—except for possibly the castle and moat theme.)
This is just a smattering, but the general theme is apparent: I’m guessing subconsciously I want to move to Tibet, find an iceberg and meditate through the pain of frostbite. Or it could mean that I need more iron in my diet and that my library card would benefit from a temporary suspension. Maybe I just need a walk.
Maybe … it’s worthy to embrace uncertainty. Perhaps wading through the turmoil, you find that you’ve exercised that mental muscle, that by wrestling with the beast of dread you’ve subdued the bête noire and tied him to a tree, that, as the Danish are fond of saying, Life is not simply holding a good hand. Life is playing a poor hand well.
There is so much more to do than tremble. Although tremble if you must as you do what you dare. Explore the edges of possibility. If there is no wind, ROW.
So when the world sends you messages—whether from the faces of your children as they pack up their book bags for the next dreaded round of exams, the rotting corner of your leaking, tarp-covered, held together by a handful of this and a whole lot of hope house, the collective alarm and despair felt by a nation as we trudge through another day of tragic headlines, or the titles that doubtlessly raise the eyebrows of the librarian scanning your books—it might be time to put down the trencher and ditch witch.
Be brave. Push through. And fail forward.
You didn’t need those toenails anyway.
Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott’s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.
- Brave (flyingsilk.wordpress.com)
- Embracing & Owning Your Imperfections Opens More Doors, Not Less… (downtheavenue.com)
- Brave – video by Sara Bareilles (suggested by reader Cassie Swan – thank you!)