If you are like me, you read inspirational quotes like the one above and for a moment you gain a burst of some secret power. Of course, I don’t want to die an unlived life. Of course, I don’t want to live in fear. Of course, I want to do something daring and be something daring.
Yet, the feeling of fear is very real. It stares us in the face every day. Fear of disapproval, of being wrong, of not being loved, of not being enough, of not being safe, of not being in control, not having enough money, of not being attractive, of making the wrong decision, of being alone. Phew- that’s a long list, and yet I could go on. Fear is very real.
Kim-Elisha vs. the Cockroach
Since landing on Kaui, I’ve been adjusting to what it means to live here. I was pre-warned by the woman that I was house sitting for that her house had geckos and roaches. I’ve also heard stories about sugar cane spiders and centipedes. Bugs are not my favorite and I was determined to not let them bother me.
During my first week on the island, I had chosen to indulge in a late night movie in bed. Still adjusting to the time change from California, the lull of sleep began to call me more than finishing my movie. It’s then that I heard the noise. I could feel my internal anxiety alarm issue an alert. What was that? Ok- I’m in a new house and there are noises here I don’t recognize yet. It’s all good! Just as I calmed myself down, I hear the noise again. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a cockroach scurry up the wall to sit on a ledge opposite the bed. I officially freak out and run to the closet to get something long to kill the cockroach with. I come back with courage and a swifter in hand. The cockroach was gone. Damn it! Trying to assuage away my fear, I decide it was a good time for me to learn about cockroaches. That was a dumb move. My fear grew as I found youtube videos about cockroaches in someone’s ear. I’m now appropriately freaked out. I sit in bed with my swifter by my side. I stayed up for at least another 30 minutes with adrenaline slowly tapering off. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.
FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real
This was fear. Yes, go ahead and laugh at me. I’m laughing at me! Yet, the story proves a point. At that moment I had a belief that if I went to sleep the cockroach would decided my ear would make a great home. Now that I type this it sounds ridiculous.
The thing is, fear feels very real. Fear is an appropriate response. Like the rest of the animal kingdom, fear was given to us to keep us safe. It just wants to protect us. If all the animals are hanging out at the watering pool at night and something scary is around the corner, without that fear factor an animal would walk right into the lion’s mouth. My concern is that fear, can hijack us and it can rob us of freedom, joy, and willingness to take risks. Or in my case an hour of sleep.
Letting It All Go
This Spring I felt exhausted. I’d often repeat in my head I’m tired of being tired. Not a great affirmation to say when you are exhausted. It just made me more tired. I couldn’t get myself into a good place. After six months of no energy and cold after cold, I was tired of siting on the couch and watching Netflix. I was tired of having a 30-minute walk take all the energy I had. I was struggling. I felt lost and started to question who I was. I let go of my career, moved to a new city, was learning to be a wife, was healing through Stage 2 Adrenal Dysfunction, far from my friends, and now it was very clear that my marriage was in trouble. Our weekly and sometimes daily fighting left me drained and anxious. I needed a reset and to gain clarity fast. So I packed up my stuff and retreated into nature, ceremony and ritual, introspection, and coaching to get a new perspective.
During my week away, I facilitated a series of ceremonies using the Inanna myth as my map. In this tale, Inanna, Queen of Heaven, goes on a quest to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Dead in the underworld. Before seeing her sister, Inanna crosses the threshold of seven gates and at each, she gives up a prized possession. At the last gate, Inanna gives up her life. The rest of the tale is how Inanna gains her life back. I choose this tale because I resonated with Inanna and her loss. I was hoping this ceremony would give me some clarity on my own loss and how to gain my life back. After creating a sacred space and 7 gates to step through, the journey began.
At the end of the ceremony, I felt naked. Everything was gone. Looking back at each gate, I realized how much I held onto that item because of fear. Days later when I was ready to facilitate another ceremony to claim my life back, I realized the price I paid was my freedom. I held onto stories, habits and fear because it was comfortable. They kept me safe and they kept me small. It’s time to face my fear. It’s time to face the bull.
5 Steps to Navigating Fear
Facing our bull takes courage. There are many things in life that are truly horrifying and scary. Our best approach is calling in some courage and compassion to help us through.
1. Recognize you fear.
Think of a recent time when you were scared. Close your eyes and visualize it. What happens in your body? How did your breath change? What did you tell yourself? Personally, I feel the anxiety and nervousness in my body rise, my breath gets shorter and feels like it’s stuck in my chest, and my inner critic becomes louder.
2. Be with your fear.
For this moment, can you invite in fear and feel it? Just sit with it. You don’t need to do anything about it.
3. Get to know your fear.
All anyone in this life wants is to be seen, understood and appreciated. The longer you sit with fear and get to understand what it wants, fear becomes less scary and less irrational. Does it have a message for you? What’s the fear really about? What does it want for you? Gathering this information can help you make a well-informed decision.
4. Say thank you and make your own decision.
I’ll tell you this, it sucks and it’s true, the only way through fear is to do what you’re scared of. Through taking bold steps you gain courage and confidence. If helpful think of– Face Everything And Rise (FEAR).
Once you’ve sat with fear and made a decision, celebrate. Pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a gold star. Be proud. We deserve to celebrate our victories.
And sometimes fear still gets the better of us. In that case, find a good kick ass song that pumps you up, get a pep talk from a friend, take a deep breath and try again.