Tonight I find myself on the couch. It’s late. I should be sleeping but my brain won’t be quiet. I have learned that this is a signal I’ve been slacking on my mental hygiene. By that, I mean that I haven’t been doing all of the practices I usually do to keep my mind uncluttered. I’m still recovering from the respiratory infection that besieged me last week. I’ve been resting, which means there hasn’t been a lot going on to mess with my brain. But tonight I’m solving. This is what my brain does when it senses a disconnect between what I’m doing and what I really want for myself. It feels like a constant stream of thoughts, one after the other, each offering a solution. Tonight they are solving for fear.
Fear is probably my least favorite negative emotion. I have spent a lot of time in fear so I recognize it pretty readily now. Tonight I am fearing disconnection from someone I care about. Any fellow people pleasers out there? I hate disappointing others and avoiding doing this has driven much of my behavior since I was about 11 years old. I have become a near-expert on anticipating the wants and needs of those around me and it’s exhausting. I now know that this life approach is driven by fear. Fear of not being enough, of disconnection, etc. And my main striving at this point in my life is to not let fear sit in the driver’s seat. I absolutely do not want fear driving my choices. Elizabeth Gilbert describes it this way:
Dearest Fear, Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently. your job is to induce complete panic when I’m about to do anything interesting, and may I say you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must.
But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home. But understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way.
I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still, your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps, you’re not allowed to suggest detours, you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you are not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you’re absolutely forbidden to drive. (Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, 2015)
What a great analogy! Because here’s the thing: I can’t do anything I really want to do without some fear. The times when I feel most alive are the times I’m doing something with courage and courage isn’t even required if there is no fear. So fear is absolutely coming along. It is essential–but fear will not drive.
So I’m going to keep showing up, because maybe not being true to myself is the scariest possible outcome. Even scarier than being alone. I’m learning that the more authentically I live, the easier it is for me to find my people and for them to find me. That is the basis for the most meaningful connection.