When I was 19, I signed up to go with the University of Michigan to a summer school program in Salamanca, Spain. So many people asked me, “Aren’t you afraid? You won’t know anybody!”
“Afraid?” I would reply, “No way! I’m so excited!”
And I was! I went and had an amazing time! So wonderful, in fact, that I asked my parents if I could extend my stay – and ended up staying 6 months instead of 6 weeks. I went back two years later for the wedding of one of the women I’d lived with. It was such a joyous time that I extended my time again from 3 weeks to 3 months.
I was kind of fearless back then. I didn’t always make great decisions, particularly when it came to men. I drank too much at times. I made mistakes. I put myself in some bad (and potentially dangerous) situations. I suffered here and there. But things worked out. Life protected me – or, when I fell occasionally, at least carried me through.
I got pregnant, and, at around 26 weeks, went into premature labor. She weighed just under 2 pounds and lived only 10 hours. The grief was unbearable. I was lost in it. Before that happened, I had a fairly easy trust in Life – that everything would work out, even if things went sideways occasionally. When that happened, I not only lost that trust in Life, but also was so angry at myself! I should have been more careful! I shouldn’t have lifted those boxes! None of it was true, of course. I couldn’t have prevented that early labor. But that feeling stuck in me that I had to be more careful – I had to think of all of the things that could possibly go wrong and prevent them from happening. I had to pay better attention! Be more cautious! Life started to feel threatening rather than basically benevolent and supportive.
Do you know that feeling?
When I got pregnant again, I was jubilant … and vigilant. Terrified. When my baby was born, I was joyous – and more afraid than I’d ever been in my life. I checked multiple times a night to make sure she was still breathing. I was over-protective to an extreme, always imagining worst-case scenarios and doing everything possible to prevent any harm befalling her. When she went on her first kindergarten field trip – and I wasn’t chosen to be one of the chaperones – I cried until I threw up. I was so scared for her safety! She’s grown now – and it has been a series of moments of letting go – of me continually letting go of my illusion of control and the over-protective instincts which have been centered in my life for so long. It’s been a continual surrender back into trust – trusting Life, trusting her, trusting our paths – whatever they may be. It hasn’t been easy for me.
It struck me hard the other day how strongly that “Mom voice” – the one that catastrophizes everything, always imagining all possible dangers that must be avoided! – has become such a prevalent part of my thinking and personality, not just in parenting, but in every area of my life. This fear-based thinking has been controlling me for a long while now, shutting down almost everything that I start to get excited about, keeping my expectations low, silencing my voice, making me so much less than I am. I basically shut myself down at almost every turn.
I think of a business idea, then think of dozens of reasons why it won’t work, why it’s too risky, why I might as well not even bother, all of the stuff I don’t know or don’t understand, all of the resources that I don’t have. Or I look at job listings and focus on what I wouldn’t like rather than what could be fun about different jobs. I’ve got a patented, kick-ass invention – but I rarely talk about it and haven’t pursued opportunities with it as much as I could. I’ve given up so easily, time and again – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, allowing fear and discouragement to easily overwhelm me.
I sign up for a dating site, all excited at the potential of a loving relationship and finding someone to share my life with – then get nervous and quickly close down my profile, thinking about all of the potential dangers and how it could really mess up my life – whether I get involved with the wrong guy, or caught up in a cat-fishing scheme, or attract some kind of violent stalker (thank you ever so much, Criminal Minds, for making me a paranoid wreck).
Rather than focusing on all of the good things that could happen, I’ve fallen into the dreadful habit of considering all of the potential risks, disasters, or various other “bad” things that could happen – and have managed to basically shut down my life, locking myself into a prison of my own fearful thinking. All of my caution and “control” hasn’t actually kept me safe at any time. On the contrary, terrible, painful things have still happened – and my fears and caution have only inhibited my aliveness and my life choices. My fearful thinking has shut me down and sometimes even left my will to live hanging by a thread.
Oh, sure. I’ve made a point to “live in the now” and “enjoy/appreciate every moment.” I have done that sincerely – and I am grateful for my life. I’m a generally happy person. The friend who has taken me in and is currently saving me from homelessness tells me that I’m one of the most cheerful people she has ever met. I wake up in a good mood. I’m always pleasant. It’s true. I’m good at being appreciative for what I have and feeling blessed. The reality is, though, that my life experience has been and is so diminished by my fear-based thinking. I know there is a life for me outside of this little room I spend most of my time living (hiding?) in. It’s time for me to expand my thinking and my life – and take some chances toward creating the life of my happiest dreams.
I’ve been working on living authentically for a few decades – speaking my truth (often in writing), being “real” (whatever that means, LOL), moving past my fears, releasing my shame. I’ve done a lot of things many people would be afraid to do. I’ve lived at a nudist resort. I’ve explored (a little) the world of BDSM. I’ve attended many workshops on intimacy, love, and sexuality. I’ve gotten up on stage and poured out my heart. I’ve had a kamikaze sort of style of vulnerability, though. I dive in, but then I pull myself back. I’ve done many things that might make most people feel a little (or a lot) uncomfortable – but the reality is that it’s been a long while since I’ve (voluntarily) done anything that makes me uncomfortable – or that I felt was the least bit threatening in any way. My risk-assessment hypervigilance has been off the charts – and I’m so tired of living this way.
So, here’s what I’m going to do:
- I’m going to look for what could go right rather than what could go wrong.
2. I’m going to fantasize about what I want to happen, rather than what I fear could happen.
3. I’m going to take chances. I’m going to leave my profile up on the dating site and talk to some men. I’m going to move ahead with business ideas and/or job opportunities. I’m going to allow for the unexpected and move toward the unknown.
4. I’m going to allow myself to stay in a certain level of vulnerability and not pull back from it. I’m going to be curious. I’m going to admit, “I don’t know” about all kinds of things. I’ve started sharing my thoughts on Instagram Live – just jumping in and taking a chance! I’m allowing myself to be “good enough” – and to share who I am and what I do in a bigger way.
5. I’m going to trust that the Universe has my back – and lean into the belief that everything happens for a reason – and that I’m always in the right place at the right time – and that everything is always working out for my highest good – and that it’s okay to take chances, play, and even make mistakes. I can’t bubble wrap my life or keep myself or my loved ones “safe.” And there is no level of perfection required for a happy life!
6. I’m going to talk back to the voices of fear inside my own head – and allow myself to move past those fears and take chances. I’m going to do things that I don’t know how they’re going to turn out. I’m going to have adventures and meet new people and stop playing small.
7. I’m going to give my time and energy to thinking about all of the things that could go right – and to allowing whatever is ready to manifest to come forth.
8. I am going to move toward all of the things that I want in my life and stop allowing my fears to keep me stuck, playing it “safe.” I’m going to allow myself to live.
If you can relate to any of this, I’d love to hear what you’re doing to push past your fears and allow yourself to live your best life! Feel free to comment or send me an email.
Also, if you’d like to explore these ideas further and move more into living your own authentic, sacred life – I’m offering a workshop on 9/12/2021 (check it out!) – and I also offer one-on one counseling (check it out!).