So I’ve found myself in this uncomfortable pattern lately here on the blog. It’s like I can’t stop alternating between two widely separated points on my personal continuum.
And I suspect that this pattern — like so many of the ones I’m working on right now — has to do with pain.
Partly it’s that dealing with physical pain has seriously lowered my annoyance threshold. But another part of it is that I’m processing my pain here with you.
And now we have to talk about fear.
A couple of people mentioned how relieved they were, while reading my last post about working with my pain, to realize that yeah, I get scared of things too.
But for whatever reason, maybe it still seems as though I’m over it. So let’s be clear about that. I’m not over it. Fear? I know it pretty well.
And even though I have long conversations with it sometimes, that doesn’t mean it’s lost the ability to scare the living daylights out of me.
What am I afraid of . . . ?
- I am afraid of having to leave Hoppy House.
- I am afraid of getting burnt out in my work and that my arms won’t start working again and that everyone will say “I told you so”.
- I am afraid that my tired, overworked gentleman friend — who already is burnt out — will have to quit his job before my business can fully support us all comfortably.
- I am afraid that I might never get over the death of my friend and the pain that goes with it.
- I am afraid that I will one day get over the death of my friend. That I will forget.
- I am afraid that the next time I go to Berlin I will just stay there and not come back.
- I am afraid of the possibility that I might never heal.
- I’m afraid of remembering things that are repressed and forgotten for a reason.
- I am afraid of the part of me who craves new experiences and I’m afraid of the part of me who craves safety and comfort.
- I am afraid of turning into my parents.
- I am afraid that if I talk candidly about my fear on the blog, some kind, well-meaning people will try to fix it or solve it for me and then I will feel annoyed and resentful. Not that that’s ever happened before.
But I am not impressed by these fears.
Not that I don’t have days that include cowering on the closet floor, because I do and I’m human and it happens.
It’s just that — and this is the biggest thing that’s happened to me around fear in the past five years of having “working on my stuff” as a full-time job — I’ve stopped thinking that having fear says something bad about me.
I still get freaked out. I just don’t get impressed by the fact that I freak out.
Four things I need to say about fear.
Not to preach. Not even to teach. Just to talk out some of what’s in my head.
Fear is legitimate. Always.
The more I fight with it and resist it and struggle with it, the louder it gets.
But every time I remind myself that I’m allowed to be afraid, that it’s temporary and that it’s normal, the easier it is for me to come back down.
It does not matter whether or not you know why it’s there or what it’s about. Giving it the legitimacy to be there is what makes it easier for it to leave.
Fear does not have to be “rational”.
It really doesn’t matter how rational it is. If you’re afraid, you’re afraid. That’s just where you are right now.
Trying to talk yourself out of it (or someone else trying to talk you out of it) generally isn’t going to work until you’ve acknowledged its right to be there.
For example, my fear about having to leave Hoppy House isn’t actually grounded in anything. The owners have no reason to sell right now. No one’s buying in Portland anyway. I could buy it myself probably if I wanted to.
And anyway, there’s time.
All of those things are helpful after I’ve calmed down.
But when I’m right there in the fear, the best thing I can do is give myself permission to have a fit.
That’s when I realize (again) that this isn’t about Hoppy House. It’s about my stuff.
It’s about my history of loss. It’s about having moved countries three times. It’s about grounding and my love-hate relationship with roots.
And then I’m don’t have to be afraid. Or, I’m not so much afraid as curious.
Admitting fear is a strength, not a weakness.
I have a huge crush on Jennifer Louden. And one of the things I love about her is her complete willingness to engage with her stucknesses.
If she wanted to, it would be so easy for her to hide behind the super famous self-help author been-on-Oprah thing. To do the whole “Ah yes, I was once like you too” routine.
But Jen is so cool that she can post about her terror of being outed as a big fake. Which is awesome, because in my mind she’s pretty much one of the only self-help-ey people who isn’t fake.
Case in point: she’s consistently an inspiration to me through reminding us all how human she is and using her vulnerability as a practice. When I can’t put you on a pedestal, it means I have a chance of getting to be where you are too.
We’re teaching together at her Get Your Writing Done While Laughing Your Butt Off and Maybe Crying a Little Too Writer’s Retreat Week this summer in Taos. Am I scared? Oh, totally. I can come up with a hundred things to be afraid of. But I’m also excited.
Because she models the thing I admire most. Knowing what she’s working on and meeting herself there. And I get to watch and learn.
You don’t have to calm down until you want to.
When I was working on my Emergency Calming Techniques kit (or, as Stu, my voice-to-text software calls them, my Emergency Combing Techniques kit), I really didn’t want to call them that.
The way I saw it, when you’re in freakout mode, the last thing you want is someone trying to talk you out of it and make you calm down.
And the product I was designing was all about teaching people the trick to dissolving the fear while still allowing yourself to have it.
So I wanted to call it something like “Letting Yourself Be As Afraid As You Want For As Long As You Want Techniques“.
Which didn’t exactly go over well in the initial uh … market research. Everyone I talked to said “benefits benefits benefits” and I ended up going for catchy.
It still works. I still use it on myself. And I love reading the notes from people who no longer live in anxiety-attack stress-distress-worry mode.
But I still wish I’d had the nerve to give it a name that made it clear that no one is going to make you calm down. And that you’re allowed to just not be in the mood to calm down.
And that you can use it as permission not to calm down.
Yet again, this post is way too long.
And I still have a hundred other things to say about fear. Luckily, it’s not exactly a topic I’m going to stop writing about.
I’m going to keep having fears. And having a relationship with my fears. And talking to them. And reporting back. And getting scared about what will happen when I report back. And then finding out.