In truth, I should just copy this chapter word for word. So I will say this because I haven’t yet…buy the book. Seriously, this chapter is worth the cost of the book (I benefit not one iota if you do buy it). If I could have thought about fear this way my whole life. I’d probably be the leader of the free world or a rockstar, or an EGOT. Instead, I sit in my room alone feeling like this message came five decades too late.
It did not. I’ve known most of what I needed to know about fear, through my own life experiences. I’ve let fear get the best of me, and I have blown right past it like it didn’t exist. I faced fears and I’ve let fears stop me dead in my tracks. I chose when to blow past my fears, to face them, and knock them back, just as surely as I chose to let them overwhelm me. There is no one to blame but me. That’s the thing about fear. It’s a choice.
Fear is also a habit. I’ve lived comfortably in fear for a long time. I think it was a slow transition from the fearlessness I had as a child, to the adult woman who says (lying to herself) that she likes to be behind the scenes. Don’t get me wrong. I am an excellent behind-the-scenes person. I am organized and I can get all the trains running on time. I can make other people look really good and more competent than they actually are, but the truth is I have some resentment. I know I am a good, maybe even a great leader. When I have been in positions of leadership, I was respected by my colleagues, I was highly skilled at building consensus and building up other leaders. I felt vital and necessary. I also felt brave.
The past ten years of my career have been largely behind the scenes. I’ve gone from leading groups of people in civic projects, sitting on boards, meeting with and presenting to political bodies, to sitting in my home office, selling podcast advertising, and running logistics for a small company. I’m an administrator. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I am paid well and I like the team I support, but I can’t get rid of the gnawing feeling that this is NOT who I am supposed to be.
What led me here? Ease and habit I think. Certainly not fearlessness. I liked the idea of building a company from the ground up. I’ve helped many others build their small businesses and I love being part of that. I feel like I did that here and now, my contributions no longer challenge me. I feel in truth, that I could train someone to do what I do in very short notice and I would be utterly replaceable.
It’s occurred to me while writing this, that this is precisely why I am working on this particular book at this particular time. I want more, and perhaps even need more. I have more to give than I am giving, and I actually want the work I do work to matter. So the only fear, I can really point to is the fear of living with less financially. Maybe somewhere in my psyche, is a voice that’s telling me I won’t live as comfortably if I am fearless. That’s just insane.
I realize the irony of writing about fearlessness in the middle of a pandemic, that truly, as a person with pretty severe asthma, that scares the hell out of me. I am coming from a place of extreme caution in relation to the outside world. I am so self-isolated I fear I may never touch another human being again.
Last Friday, my asthma was so severe, I was truly afraid that I wouldn’t survive to see the end of this horrible time. Saturday, my medication arrived and today, I am feeling healthier than I have in probably a month. The days I skipped writing, wasn’t due to laziness, I was really very ill. Breathing was so difficult, I couldn’t sit upright. I’m sharing this because I was truly scared. I feared that all this work had come too late, that I had wasted my life and the writing I had done in the last two months would be meaningless. Less than a week after feeling that lost and afraid, I feel strong again. I know that the fear that was overtaking me, was not unfounded, but may very well have exacerbated how badly I was feeling.
Fear can be debilitating, but only if we let it. I need to remember the next time I feel that sick and that afraid, that today, I feel more myself than I have for a long time and I can always come back to this place anytime I choose.