This article was first published on The HuffPost.
Today, I let my fear get to me. I let the what ifs, and the never wases and the should haves and the baggage and the insecurities and the doubts creep in my head. They were sly buggers. I was having a hard day and just off “my time of the month”, so I was hungover from chocolate and hormones. I let my guard down and they scurried right in through the crack in my carefully crafted door.
Fear sucks. It’s immobilizing. It’s paralyzing. It’s depressing. It’s the enemy. It’s necessary.
Sometimes our fear teaches us what we must strive for. Fear is a call from the past giving us clues about what we still need to work on. About what wounds still need healed. About what demons still need dealt with.
Fear still sucks though. And how do we normally handle fear? We fight or flight. Right? We fight the fear or we run from it. Really?!? Those are our only two options? We can’t invite the fear over for coffee? And talk about things? We can’t give it cookies and sit it in front of the TV while we think about how to deal with it? Our fear can’t even be helpful and show us home movies that illustrate why it’s our fear in the first place? That would be so efficient, right?
It might go something like this:
Me: Hi, Fear. How are you doing today?
Fear: I’m great. How are you?
Me: Well, I mean, you’re here.
Fear: Right. Sorry about that.
Fear: Hey! I’ve got your file right here. It’s complete with the exact moment I was born and what led to my inception. And back here is the exact 12 step process on how to overcome me.
Me: Really?!? Great! Thanks!
Fear: No problem :)
Yeah, that would be super helpful.
And I don’t know about you but my fear shows up out of the blue and then disappears for a while and then comes back again. I wonder where he goes and what brings him back. Maybe he knows I’m only able to tolerate him for 24 hours at a time. Maybe I’m actually wearing him down little by little each time he visits.
I don’t remember when I first met my fear but maybe he was a lot bigger then.
This fear reminded me of the fear I felt after leaving my ex-husband and knowing we were going to get a divorce. The unknown of divorce and the gloom of loneliness shove you into a pool of thick fear. Sometimes you can’t catch your breath and you don’t know where to go or what to do. Sometimes you drown in it. Sometimes the fear is a shadow in the corner, watching and waiting for the moment when you finally acknowledge it.
Here’s the thing about fear: it’s based mostly on the unknown. This fear, this intangible thing we are so afraid of, isn’t even real yet. The only place it is real is in the tiny neurons in our brain. We can’t even see these neurons with our own eyes. We need a high powered microscope to see the neurons that make up the storage centers of our thoughts. That’s literally how small our fear is. And yet that fear is big enough to stop us in our tracks. It’s big enough to prevent us from chasing our dreams. It’s big enough to stop us from telling someone how we really feel. It’s big enough to keep us in an unhappy relationship while our soul slowly dies. And it’s big enough to silence us from asking for what we really want.
Thinking about my fear as the size of a neuron is actually helping. I’ll probably be visited by my fear many times before I die. Fear sucks. But fear is healthy. It’s a reminder of what we have to lose. It keeps us on our toes. Fear keeps us fighting.