Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fear Factor.

What a powerful entity fear is. I was about to call it a demon instead of an entity, but I am starting to come to new understandings about fear and I don’t think “demon” provides a fair or accurate description.

Fear drives much of our daily lives. Fear does not move mountains; fear fuels inactivity and indecision. It stokes the ego and egoic actions. I have learned that many of us are hounded by two basic fears: the fear of not having enough, and the fear of not being enough.

The fear of not having enough keeps us in jobs, homes, or even entire lifestyles that don’t make us happy. Fear of not being enough keeps us in unhealthy relationships, forces us to react out of ego instead of out of good intent, keeps us from discovering our authentic selves...and that’s just the beginning. There’s fear of the unknown. Fear of being alone. Fear of not realizing our true potential. Fear of illness. Fear of coming to the end of our lives and realizing we have not yet lived. These are but a small fraction of the fears I have struggled with.

Fear has a whole closet-full of costumes it can don, to suit a huge variety of situations. I find it to be extremely versatile and accommodating, this fear. And it pops up often unannounced and unexpectedly...but always ready for action.

Still, I don’t view fear as the enemy. On the contrary, I’ve come to be quite curious about it and I want to get to know it better. More on that in a bit.

Someone’s at the door. Who is it? Oh...my trip. Aren’t you here awfully early?

One week until I leave. One week! How did this happen? Time is a peculiar thing. It’s hard to believe I’ve been unemployed for over 4 months, out of my house for just over one month, and that a week from now I will be checking in to my very first hostel in Zagreb, Croatia. In MFL (My Former Life) I would be sitting at my desk right now, where I sat for almost 15 years, surveying the results of the back-to-school campaign and gearing up for Christmas and Boxing Day marketing strategies. For some reason this makes me giggle.

This trip has been months in the planning (albeit in fits and starts, in between the packing and the surviving); yet somehow it still feels like it’s here too soon. (Hello, Fear of Not Being Prepared...how are you?). I want to push the date away. I don’t want September 10th to be next week. Yet like an impending trip to the dentist, I can’t put it off any longer. It’s coming, whether I want it to or not, and whether I am prepared or not (I’m certain I’m not).

I’m scared. But that’s ok.

When one teeters at the edge of a precipice of change, between old and new, between the known and the unknown, the fear can be paralyzing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a job, a relationship, a new school, a new tattoo, a different colour of paint for your bedroom, or a trip around the world. It’s all relative to one’s experience and they can all be equally terrifying in their own right.

The key is not to run from it.

Oh, I know, that sounds over-simplified, some quote you’d read in a pop psychology book or scrawled on a wall somewhere. But read it again with fresh eyes. The key is not to run from it.

Because, I’ve come to realize, fear is not a separate entity. It doesn’t have its own mind or soul or body. It is within each of us; it is part of us. The voice we hear inside our head is actually our own voice. Just today it reminded me how much easier it would be to stay here, in my old bed in my old room, in this city where I don’t have to look at the street names to know where I’m going; where everyone you pass in the street says hello. Where I know the score, every day. It’s as safe as a warm blanket.

But that blanket also acts as an insulator. And while that may feel safe and warm, it’s not healthy in a grander sense. I can’t live like this forever; with no job, no home, no responsibility. Mom taking care of me. It’s been a lovely respite, but it’s not the real world. And to face the real world after the havoc I have wreaked on my own life in the last few months, it’s going to take an extra dose of courage.

The trip is by far the hardest part of this journey. (I know I said in the previous entry that this trip IS the journey. In fact, the journey began the moment I walked out of my career. This trip is just the continuation of it.) This is harder than quitting (I have to confess that that was kind of fun, actually); harder than giving up my home (that was not fun). I was going to say this is harder than having my heart smashed in a million pieces by the one man that I ever loved, but, no. Nothing to date has been harder to overcome than that.

That fear is in no way rational is proved by the following: walking out of a high-paying, stable, 15-year career with no job to go to and a mortgage to pay seems like small potatoes in comparison to stepping out of the airport in Bangkok and having absolutely no idea which way to turn, who to trust (actually that’s easy: no one), or where to go.

We’ve been programmed to react to fear since the beginning of mankind. It’s one of the parts of the brain that has never evolved. Something is scary? Elementary! Just run the other way. So it takes a superhuman effort to jump that circuitry, to override it and to instead walk into the fear. Sidle up next to it, get to know it, even make friends with it. It’s a part of us. And it’s not such a bad guy after all. It’s sneaky and conniving and full of shenanigans, but it’s not evil.

Time waits for no one. September 10th isn’t getting any farther away; I’m not getting any younger, and my bank account balance certainly isn’t getting any bigger. It’s time to face the big scary monster. My plane ticket is bought and I’ve spent the equivalent of the GDP of some small country on travel gear, gadgets and guides. Might as well put it to good use.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”Ambrose Redmoon

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Consider this:

Isaiah 41:9-11

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its remotes parts
And said to you,"You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not rejected you. DO NOT FEAR, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous hand.

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