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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

 

Everything I’m afraid of.

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.

Either I’m letting you spy on my process as I do some deep, personal work on my stuff… or I’m ranting at you about whatever the latest thing is that is currently making me froth at the mouth.

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.

I had to think about that, because of course to me it seems as though I do nothing but talk about a. how fear works, b. different ways to interact with it and c. the things that terrify me.

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.

I know.

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.

26 Responses to Everything I’m afraid of.

  1. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga
    says:

    Havi,

    You and your fears and your vulnerability, and all the ways in which you let us see who you are, are an inspiration to us all.

    Tender hugs and love,

    Hiro

    Hiro Bogas last blog post..Creative Connection: Where’s Your Muse When the Baby’s Spitting Up at 3 am?

  2. Carina Kadow
    Twitter: chalcara
    says:

    I’m deeply afraid of going blind or losing the use of my right hand.
    I’m afraid of dying alone and unwanted, and I’m not even 28 years old.
    I’m afraid of giving into my passion of art, because something in me is sure I’m going to lose my artwork then.

    Right now, at this time of my life, I just want those kind of fears to pack up and get lost as soon as possible, but of course they’re not doing that. (Meanies.)

    But it’s incredible to know that other people are often scared shitless, too.

    *offers hugs to anyone who wants some*

    Carina Kadows last blog post..Lessons learned in the gym

  3. randomling
    Twitter: lucyviret
    says:

    Havi, you are so damn awesome. And I am hesitating to say that, because the comments on this blog are always so interesting and thoughtful, and all I want to say is “yay Havi!” (Which sounds patronizing, but that is so-so-SO not how I mean it.)

    It’s good to know that even the awesomest of us get scared.

    This new writing thing for me seems to be nothing *but* scared sometimes. Okay, with heavy doses of excited. But scared is a definite feature. Nice to see that I’m not alone!

    randomlings last blog post..A writing assignment!

  4. Anna-Liza
    Twitter: Divina712
    says:

    Not too long–just right. You’re allowed to write long if you want to.

    I’m still getting my mind around the concept of allowing myself to be afraid. I surprised myself (and my husband) by overflowing into tears when I was reading aloud to him something you wrote in your ECT sample kit about being allowed to feel what I feel! I had no idea unitl then that was such a huge thing for me.

    Anna-Lizas last blog post..Pollyanna Clues You In

  5. Mr. Firepants
    Twitter: sparkyfirepants
    says:

    Try to tell an upset 5-year old to “Stop crying and just calm down.”

    Go ahead. I’ll wait while you find one.

    Didn’t work? Made it worse, you say?

    Totally the same with adults, too.

    I read a quote somewhere by someone who I now can’t remember to save my life, but paraphrased it goes, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s moving ahead in spite of your fear.” “Brave” people are scared, too.

    Thanks for sharing your list of fears. It’s hard to do when you’re trying to establish yourself as an expert. It feels very… exposed. Wait. I think that’s one of my fears – being “outed” as a fake.

    Every time I grit my teeth and say, “Shut up. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” it always comes back to bite me. It’s like using otc cold medicine; it doesn’t end the cold, it just hides the symptoms.

  6. Sarah Bray
    Twitter: Sarah Bray
    says:

    I was reading this post thinking, “Oh, I love it, but it doesn’t apply to me.” And then I thought…wait a sec…aren’t I completely stressed out 99% of the time? Isn’t anxiety just another word for fear? Crap. It does apply. In the biggest way.

    Because right now I’m living my DREAM and I’m still scared. Whaa…? That was not supposed to happen. Of course, I’ve only been living my dream for 2 months, so I just need to give my 8 year old patterns permission to take longer than TWO MONTHS to re-position themselves.

    That means not feeling guilty for being scared. Because to me, scared is the opposite of gratitude, and dang it. If nothing else on this planet, I am grateful! Just a little bit terrified of this thing not lasting, that’s all.

    Sarah Brays last blog post..SEO myths de-bunked: Myth #1 – Link Clicking

  7. Josiane
    Twitter: kimianak
    says:

    So you are scared and excited about Jen’s writer’s retreat? Good to know because, well… I am too! I have just registered for it, and I did so in big part due to your presence there. It made the difference between me jumping on the last available spot when I’ve found out about it (thanks to one of your old posts), and me thinking it sounded great but giving in to my fears and waiting until it was too late.
    Will you accept a real life hug from me when we meet in Taos? I think it would really help calm my fears down…

  8. Dawn R. says:

    Oh Havi, I still read you every day in spite of no longer being a part of the Kitchen Table. I have such fondness and admiration for you, and I have been planning for months to write you an email explaining my departure, if that’s even possible. No worries, I won’t do that here. But the email’s coming, whether you read your email or not. I’m probably just afraid.

    As Sarah Bray mentioned, I firmly believe that anxiety = fear. Fear of the unknown. And the idea of not running away or pushing down fear *feels* counterintuitive, but folks like you (and the wonderful Jennifer Louden) show us every day what bravery it takes to converse w/your fear. It helps so much to watch this process play out, and then to read everyone else’s thoughtful comments. Such a beautiful community!

  9. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Josiane: Ohmygod you’re coming to Taos! Now I’m way less scared and way more excited. What fun. Can’t wait to give you a hug in person.

    @Sarah: Oh yes. Anxiety is probably a much better word. And two months is just a taste. You pretty much have to be a wreck for the first couple of months anyway!

    @Carina: nice list! Love it. And yeah, they’ll head out when they’re ready. Passing your hug offer around to everyone else.

    @randomling: No, that’s fantastic. And writing is (for me, at least) full of scary. I’ve finally gotten over the blogging-scary and the ebook-scary, but still have PLENTY of writing-related fears that I’m working on. :)

    You guys … it’s just so great to have other people working on their stuff with me. Makes the whole thing seem less isolated and more do-able. Love it.

  10. Chloe
    Twitter: chloewrites
    says:

    Havi, your posts are *never* too long. I would happily sit and read your writing all day long.

    And thank you for sharing.

    Chloes last blog post..Quote Unquote

  11. Jo Ann says:

    Dear Havi,

    Since moving from India to Siberia six months ago, with all of the chaos and confusion and DISTRACTION replaced by a backdrop of snow and ice, I have been drowning in fear. I have been unable to breathe from fear. No distractions.

    So I looked on-line (for distraction). And I found you.

    This morning as I was making my coffee I was going over some of your writing in my mind and I felt so intimidated then almost immediately I laughed. In recalling your recent posts about dealing with your pain, my feeling was replaced by a realization of your obvious determination to be vulnerable. How could that be intended to intimidate?!!

    Then I read your post. You have poignantly articulated everything which accompanied me on my long sleepless night vigil just past.

    I know the ice will melt and reform any number of times yet before spring will come but it will come. I look forward to sleep tonight and the remainder of my time in Siberia… without distractions. Here we go!

    Thank you Havi.

  12. Cheryl Binnie says:

    “…I’ve stopped thinking that having fear says something bad about me.”

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or read something similar to this. I always think, “Yeah. I completely agree.” For some reason, though, when I read this in the context of your post, it clicked for me. I mean, it *really* clicked for me.

    Havi, if there is such a thing as a good kick in the teeth, you have given it to me. Thanks for that. I’m already starting to think of my fears in a more forgiving light. Now if I can just do so when the fears strike…

  13. Steph says:

    So long as you’re saying what you need to say and what has to be said, there is no such thing as too long. Because it’s important and those who need to read it, will. Like me. All the way to the end. Which actually came too soon.

    I was just talking about you and your thoughts on fear to a friend today over London Fog tea at this cool place called The Tenth Ox. I haven’t been to your blog in ages. I’m delinquent at the Kitchen Table. Basically, I’ve been wrapped up in wrong priorities. But today I met with a wonderful friend I hadn’t seen in too long, and that brought out all sorts of wonderful things, like you.

    And then I come on tonight, when I should be editing, because I guess something in me told me I needed to hear what this particular post was saying. As usual, it’s perfect, perfectly relevant. And very meaningful to me right now.

    What do a million compliments mean until you actually believe them? I’m not sure, but there’s that thing that if you hear something often enough you start to believe it. So if you don’t already believe you’re a truly amazing person whom the world really needs, who has so much amazingness to give, and who has so much…power to share, maybe this is the one compliment in a million that makes it suddenly hit home.

    Namaste.

    Stephs last blog post..Good Friday Comes Early for Me

  14. Judy
    Twitter: Crazybasenji
    says:

    I just found this blog. I totally relate.

    Judys last blog post..My Sweet Little Girl…

  15. I really enjoyed reading your post. There’s something SO FREEING about sitting down & writing out one’s fears. I’m not sure why.

    Have you heard or read Theresa MacPhail’s essay on NPR’s “This I Believe” series? I think you’d appreciate it.

    After I heard her essay I took the time to write out my fears–and the weird thing is, since I’ve written them out, I’ve been face-to-face with many of them–and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

    “Courage isn’t a natural attribute of human beings. I believe that we have to practice being courageous; using courage is like developing a muscle. The more often I do things that scare me or that make me uncomfortable, the more I realize that I can do a lot more than I originally thought I could.”

    -Theresa MacPhail, Medical Anthropologist, from her essay for the NPR series “This I Believe”-

    You can read her amazing story at:

    Worried, Nervous, Anxious, Afraid? Remember – Courage Comes With Practice!

    http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/2008/07/worried-nervous-anxious-afraid-remember—courage-comes-with-practice.html

    Oops, I hope you don’t think this comment falls into the category of:

    “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.”

    It’s not my intention.

    The Healthy Librarians last blog post..Everday Insights by Ordinary People on Happiness & Health

  16. […] three blogs in my Google Reader subscriptions with a 100% reading rate is Seth Godin’s blog, The Fluent Self by Havi, and The Happiness Project by Gretchen. addthis_url = […]

  17. Gilbert (@CrazyOnYou)
    Twitter: CrazyOnYou
    says:

    I keep remembering being told, “How do you know your work on Earth isn’t done? You’re still here.” We’re all in the process of becoming and defining ourselves and few people have the courage to do it publicly like you do.

    I admire and respect you but think of you more as a really cool friend who’s good at looking at things in ways that didn’t occur to me than a heroine. You’re much more approachable and real than somebody who would stand on a pedestal. (For example, yours is the one blog I regularly comment on, not only because your posts contain so much meaning but also because of the way you interact with the folks who comment.)

    You gotta do what works for you, but know that I’d keep following you if it meant using carrier pigeons and waiting weeks for one of your wonderful posts. I offered to be Naomi’s enforcer, but if you ever need a cheerleader let me know.

    May your fears never keep you from growing and laughing, but serve to keep you safe and healthy. And may you experience some of the joy and wonder that you bring to me and others on a regular basis. Peace be with you and in you…

  18. Rachel says:

    Just one of your dedicated lurkers popping up to say that I LOVE that you’re doing all this out loud for us to read, mainly because I read your posts on fear and think, “OMG, she’s hijacked my brain and is writing posts about me! Stop that!” But, I don’t really want you to stop, of course. I just find it freakishly-comforting that the stuff I think is unique to my craziness is, apparently, not so unique. I love it.

    Also love that you have come to some of the same conclusions I have about fear (“I can remember it, without living *in* it.”) around the same time. I had that thought a couple weeks ago, and there it pops up, in your blog…

    I also have a serious crush on Jennifer Louden, for the exact some reasons… Her recently blog on worrying about being a fake really resonated for me, too. I thought, “OMG, she thinks that too! Is EVERYONE in my brain?! Or… am I in everyone else’s brain?!”

    It’s like an X-Files episode, only much cooler, and less scary.

  19. I LOVE the point you make about admitting fear and how this is a strength and not a weakness. It seems to me that so many people view the admission of fear as some form of weakness, when, in reality, we are ALL afraid of something. I think you did an excellent job of admitting you fears on this blog and I commend you for that as I’m sure it was not an easy thing to do.

    As for the last section about the post being too long — I disagree. I was very interested in what you had to say and really enjoyed reading all of it. Thanks for sharing it with the world.

    Positively Presents last blog post..i (want to) brake for happiness

  20. Sherri says:

    No matter what you write about, I find myself enthralled by your willingness to share. I appreciate that you let us in on your personal thoughts- what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, how you’re reacting, and that it’s okay to feel/think/react that way as long as you know how to move forward.

    Thank you so much for being personal and sharing your techniques. Thank you also for having the guts to say, “I’m not looking for [XYZ] so don’t leave that comment here.” I think it’s the fear of others’ responses that leave some of us hesitant to open up in the first place.

    Sherris last blog post..Photos: Sunday Cooking

  21. Oh Havi, ditto crush on you and so very, very excited to see what the Writer’s Retreat will be, how it will unfold. I know several people are coming BECAUSE OF YOU which is just the coolest thing ever.

    I’m back in Santa Barbara visiting friends this week and so being with lots of fears and regrets and my past life… and love. And sunshine. It’s a lot, so much so I put my friend’s electric kettle on the range this morning and burned it up… I just had to laugh, after I got the burnt rubber off the butcher block counter. Talk about being off kilter, Jen!

    Fear, oh baby, yes, and add to that mid life hormones and what a wild ride. I love reading your journey and you even gave me an idea for a fiction piece I’m working on!

    Jennifer Loudens last blog post..Retreat ReWiring

  22. stacey says:

    Thank you for writing this. It happened to coincide perfectly with my hours of ever-so-slight (complete) panic today.

    After ten years of stops and starts and rewinds, I finally graduated two weeks ago. Now I’m off on a creative business adventure — which is awesome and worth it, but leaves me vulnerable to feeling TOTALLY overwhelmed at semi-regular intervals. I’ve been struggling against the fear, too, feeling like I shouldn’t be feeling it.

    Been hanging around here for about a week now, and I sit here taking deep breaths and being reminded that I’m okay. Thanks.

  23. […] I feel I’ve nothing to post. Is this perfectionism or fear? Something’s holding me back, maybe fear; and even a conversation with Kitten couldn’t ‘de-stuck’ this […]

  24. Rose
    Twitter: celestialrose
    says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us and thus giving us a chance to meet our own fears and realise we can meet [instead of face] those fears.

    Take Care,
    Rose
    .-= Rose´s last post … Cottage Retreat – Recognition iii =-.

  25. […] special thanks to Havi Brooks for the inspiration for this post and for writing such an awesome blog, The Fluent […]

  26. […] today I write a list (inspired by Havi) of what I’m afraid […]

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