What is Fearless?
First, some housekeeping before a long overdue reminder about being fearless. I offer my continued gratitude for the support I continue to receive from everyone. It means so much. I may have not been able to respond to all of the messages, well wishes, and comments sent my way during the past few months, but I appreciate each of them deeply. For those who are wondering, life is good, and weird, and sad depending on the day. Finding my new normal is becoming less difficult each day, but some days are still tough.
As the one year anniversary approaches, I am taking the time I need to continue to process and grieve but also looking ahead to the future and keeping the promises I made to Yvette at the end of her life. She said she’d haunt us if I didn’t so here goes…
We recently moved out of a subdivision and in to a part of town which is more rural. Our family has been adjusting to the darkness at night and the roaming bear, coyote, and possible chupacabra population. Fortunately for us, we live with a woman who is a bit of a security guru and has outfitted our driveway and property with various motion sensors, driveway alarms, and cameras so we can be prepared.
She calls it being prepared and safe. I see it as an invitation for squirrels to make us think bears are coming for us. My son is on the fence. We awoke to the sound of driveway alarms early this morning. Our phones began blowing up with texts from him asking us to look out every window to see what was there. The trash cans on the street were untouched and the place was lit up like the Las Vegas strip. But nothing was there.
Our hearts were racing, but nothing was there. I began to think about fear and more importantly being fearless. There it is. Broken record warning. Be fearless. Simple right? It is not as easy as you think, but the easiest thing ever. What? Think about it. Being fearless is a choice but does not mean you are never afraid. The contrary is actually true. First a story about fear.
Outside the Comfort Zone
This week reaching outside of my comfort zone looked like seeing the newest movie from the Halloween series at a theater. I was seven when the first one came out and think I am among the handful of people who never saw it. The fact that I missed the original release forty years ago still made me feel ancient though. The movie was gross and gory, which I can handle, but the trailers for upcoming films were absolutely terrifying.
I remembered why I do not enjoy scary movies before the featured show even started. My beautiful date was amused when one mind fuckey trailer jolted me out of my comfy seat. She was amused by my reaction and reassured me none of it was real. I agreed but explained that for her, and many others, that feeling is exciting. For me, not so much.
In my experience, a racing heart is anxiety running wild and something I have contended with my entire life. Historically, adrenaline rush moments are nothing more than panic attacks waiting to happen and something I have spent the majority of my life trying to avoid.
Fear is a healthy part of our human experience, yet many struggle to find the sweet spot between fearful and fearless living (raising my hand.) Finding the wisdom to balance these two extremes is more of an art than a science. Learning the difference between feeling genuine excitement and anxiety has been life changing for me.
The past year has been spent learning how to discern the difference between anxiety and excitement. The two feel very similar yet are very different. Being able to distinguish and wrap my brain around this has only been possible because of medication. Yep, I said it. After 46 years I finally decided to try anxiety meds. Duh.
Cognitive and behavioral therapy gave me the tools I needed to manage it, but it still impacted my daily life, career, and relationships. Prior to November of 2017, my biggest fear was something happening to my best friend and wife. When she died from metastatic breast cancer within a week of diagnosis my fear turned in to grief.
Fearless Reality Check
Worrying and anxiety about her health took up a great deal of my time for two years. When she passed, the worry and anxiety fell away. Granted I was numb, but as time went on the realization hit me. Reality check number one: when you feel like there is nothing left to lose being fearless is not as frightening. Living my worst fear and not crumbling was surprising but encouraging.
Reality check number two. Sometimes being fearless is not actually being fearless at all. Many times it means doing whatever it is that scares the hell out of us while afraid. The truth is we are wired for fear. In its purest and most primal form it is meant to protect us from harm and keep us safe.
Facing your fears looks different for everyone. For some, just going outside is a major victory. For others, it may look like wrestling an alligator. Some try to eradicate all danger from their environments in order to keep fear away. Good luck with that one. No two people are the same in how they respond to or rise above fear.
Halloween is here and along with it are many opportunities to be fearless, also known as reaching beyond our comfort zones. For someone who suffers from anxiety, this time of the year can be challenging to maneuver through. Haunted houses, chainsaw wielding deranged clowns, or the threat of zombies are not my cup of tea but I am a work in progress.
Removing the idea that facing fear looks like a super hero saving a baby from a burning building is a good place to start the lesson on moving through fear.
Whether you are afraid of Michael Myers, bears, losing a loved one, the color blue, or the number thirteen is irrelevant. Sometimes we must run from the fear in order to protect ourselves. Think bear. However, most of the time our fears are rooted in feelings which may need to be addressed on a deeper level.
The fear we cannot run from is the fear which changes us when we dig deep and uncover the source. Trauma can create fear which becomes deeply ingrained in our lives which then affects our choices, quality of life, and ability to feel peace with ourselves. Little events or things can also cause the same result.
If we look at fear as an opportunity for growth, our response to it will no longer paralyze us. When we are afraid, we are being challenged to think, react, and change. Taking steps to root out and address fear in our lives often requires help from a professional or even medication.
This is the second step to moving through fear. Please do not be afraid to ask for help if fear is keeping you stuck and affecting your life in a negative way. The most fearless act any of us can engage in is the act of asking for help. Trust me. It works.
By asking for help, we choose our wellness and reclaim power over fear. This week take some time to write down the areas in life where fear is rearing its head. Before you begin, take a deep breath and know that you are not alone. Choose one small step you may take to help alleviate fear in your life.
Start small and go from there. We all have the ability to move through our fears, even if it means kicking, screaming, and hulk smashing our way through. It can also mean quietly tackling the fear of saying no, changing our minds, not being good enough, being our authentic selves, or making decisions which might ruffle feathers.
With the holidays approaching there will be plenty of chances to flex these muscles. Let the idea of doing it afraid become your new best friend and watch how things change.
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