After my last post “What About” a friend tweeted me the following:
“interesting. Not entirely correct, though, I think. You can want to but your fears can hold you back, for example.”
It’s not that I don’t fear things. I fear things every day. All fear is in our head and all fear is real. Some fear is there to protect us and other fear is just there trying to protect us from things we may not need protection from.
It’s hard to tell one from the other.
We can listen to fear and not do what it is telling us not to do.
Sometimes that’s the right response.
We can study fear. We can spend the time to understand why it is that we fear something and look at the roots of our fear and work on that.
Sometimes that’s the right thing to do.
We can also welcome fear, notice it, and do the thing we need to do anyway.
More than ten years ago I had a friend say to me, “You travel all the time, you must love to fly.”
No. Actually, I hate to fly and it’s gotten worse. Cleveland is no longer a United Hub so it always takes me an extra jump to get where I’m getting. The flights are more full and seem to be less convenient. The environment is often unpleasant. I don’t really like to fly.
I’m also afraid to fly.
It might go back to Elena giving me a wave as I headed out the door and saying, “Bye daddy. Don’t die on the plane.” It probably goes back before that.
I fly anyway.
I’m giving a talk in a month that terrifies me. The level of talks at this conference is top notch. I would never be mentioned in the same breath as the names of the other speakers. I will stress over this talk from now until at least a week after I’ve delivered it.
I’m afraid. I will deliver the talk anyway.
I am, by nature, an introvert. This doesn’t mean I’m shy so much as it means I get my energy from small quiet encounters and am exhausted by large groups.
And yet, I spend much of my time speaking at conferences and teaching large groups. I enjoy the people I meet there. I just need to go back to my room and rest afterwards.
There are so many things I fear or that make me uncomfortable that I do anyway.
And yet my friend isn’t wrong when he says “you can want to, but your fears can hold you back.”
It’s why I shared the story in “She said ‘no'” about asking a woman out on a date. There wasn’t a happy ending to that story. And yet there was.
The happy ending was that I did something I was fearful of and I would do it again.
I don’t always “do it anyway”.
I’ve thought about writing a novel or some other fictional creative endeavor over NaNoWriMo for years. I’ve used that month to write non-fiction, but I’ve never written a novel. I suppose it’s because I’m afraid. It might be because I’m fairly certain I won’t be very good and I don’t want to spend the time.
“But Daniel,” you say, “how will you ever get good if you don’t spend the time.”
We keep from trying because we’re afraid we won’t be very good and therefore don’t put in the deliberate time and practice it takes to be good.
We are what we feared. Not very good at that particular thing.
My friend, the one who tweeted me about fear holding you back, has suffered the loss of a child.
He knows that the things we fear can be real.
Every parent worries that something might happen to their child. I don’t think that most parents ever expect that day to actually come.
I never worried that Kim would die suddenly in a car accident.
Would it have been better if I had worried about that?
I don’t see how. I worried all sorts of things about her. None of them ever happened.
Would it have been better if I’d never worried about any of them?
What about the many things that I fear?
I take a moment to feel my fear.
I take a breath. I smile a real smile. I picture Kim encouraging me by saying, “just do it, honey.”
Soon we’re cruising at thirty thousand feet and my fear is off doing something else.