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What I know About Fear – Part 2

Firstly, I have to thank you all for the wonderful responses to my last post – Part 1 on Fear! I have been blown away by the positive response… particularly because this was a vulnerable post to share. I found myself immediately wanting to take it down, totally unsure of what the response would be! Yup, I was… what’s that word? Afraid! ;) All of your comments have really proven to me that is was worth putting out there though. So thank you!

In the first part of this series on fear, I told you a bit of my personal history with fear and how it has evolved through the years and through experiences that life has brought me. In this post, I want to share some of the things I’ve learned about fear just specifically in the past 4 months since losing Andrew.

Having had to face one overwhelming fear after another in the past months has given me a perspective I did not have before all this happened. The funeral arrangements, the viewing, the funeral, designing the headstone, going back to Dallas to clean out his apartment, trying to go back to work, deciding not to go back to work, packing up my cats and a carload of stuff and saying goodbye to the city we called home, packing my apartment (that part is still in progress, I decided to make a slow move to it wouldn’t be quite to overwhelming, still is), birthdays and holidays without him… every single huge, unthinkable, insurmountable task screamed “this shouldn’t be happening. This is wrong.” And each of those things feels like a ladder that reaches up into space that must be climbed. Hell, even a normal day sometimes feels like that still. But I did discover something of value in each and every one of those steps…

I discovered first-hand that human spirit is a remarkable thing. We can withstand absolutely incredible amounts of trauma and pain… far more than we ever truly know until it happens to us. I am dumb-founded still as to how I manage to get out of bed everyday and find some level of joy somewhere in that day. Some days are better than others, of course. As each painful task or event comes, I think that surely I will drown in the pain of it – or get halfway up that ladder into space and slip and fall. Aside from the overall living with this loss, speaking at his funeral was the hardest thing I will probably ever do in my entire lifetime on this earth. It was at his family’s church, the church where I sat by his side for Christmas service the last 3 years. The service was horrible and beautiful all at the same time. I remember afterwards so many people coming up to me and saying how much grace and poise I had and just how beautiful my words were and how it helped them… and I remember how odd it felt to be complimented for such a thing. I felt proud, that I made him proud, but what a horrible thing to even have to feel proud over. I knew, no one could even imagine how I ever got up there to speak. I couldn’t either, to be honest. All I knew was that in my mind, it wasn’t a choice. It wasn’t about being brave or having guts, it was about doing the right thing. If anyone on this earth was going to speak about the man I love and what our life together meant, it was going to be me. He deserved that – and it didn’t matter how scared I was. He would have done the same for me, this I know, and so fear didn’t matter. And that was just it – something in my life became more important than fear in that moment.

I found out what happens when a thing becomes bigger than your fear. This is a big deal in moving forward with anything in our lives… something has to mean enough to you, so much, that the fear doesn’t matter anymore. In fact, it has me looking back at many times in my life when this very idea lead to positive changes that had been waiting in the shadow of fear. It has me thinking back to when Drew and I first started dating… I’d been in a bad relationship before and was terrified to date again. But he was my best friend, and eventually over time, the idea of building more with him became bigger than my fear of a bad relationship, and I let go. That was definitely the best decision I ever made, as it led to a more beautiful relationship than either of us had ever imagined. And today, choosing a new direction in my life, a new career path, the desire for change finally became bigger than the fear. The fear is still there, and I still feel it, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Because now I want something enough that fear is not going to stop me. There will be hard days still, many hard days to come, but I will still stay committed.

I have learned to feel afraid and do it anyway. We learn through loss that today is all we have. We might as well fill it with the experiences and people that we love most. Fill it with our most authentic selves – whether that is joy or sadness or anger or love. Say yes only to the things that feel right with our souls or bring us joy today. Do things that truly matter to us and help others. And do things we are afraid to do, things we’ve never done before, with the perspective that we’d rather fail on a new adventure than succeed on a path we’ve already walked before. And also be honest with ourselves – truly, bluntly honest, about the things that fit into that life. Deep down, we really always do know what works and what doesn’t.. it just gets buried.

I want to feel life, not just live it out. And fear is just a feeling, one of many. It’s not a pit of lava or a thousand bullets or a raging bull charging at me… it is just a feeling. It is a natural feeling to anything new… and it will come. I think I’d rather it come over something important and meaningful than over something mediocre that my heart is not on fire for.

I have learned to sit with my fears. Our fears have the best of intentions. They believe they are protecting us from scary or dangerous things in this world. And sometimes they actually are. But other times, they overreact and hinder us. I’ve learned that it’s important to acknowledge fears, and to take the time to sit with them and see what they are really trying to say to me. Having lost both of my parents and now the person I was going to build a future with, I’m very afraid of losing people – and I probably always will be to some extent, but I know this, and so when it comes I try to listen to make sure I have the support from myself and others that I need. My fears about financial security are a big one too, especially now that I’m working to follow my dreams of being a self employed artist. I’ve had a stable job since I was 17, so of course I’m going to feel fear about trying to change that. That fear must be listened to also, and reminded that I have always landed on my feet in the past, and even though we’re trying things in a totally new and scary way, I will not let anything bad happen. I am in charge, and I can be trusted (or trust myself) to make the right choices. And with that, the fears can relax. They can be like small children that way, fears… sometimes all they need is a little reassurance that it’s all going to be okay.

_________

So now, I have a part time job at an art gallery that barely pays for my gas money. But I love my boss and coworkers – and I get to be surrounded by great art, learn about talented local artists, and meet new people each day. I can feel Drew’s spirit beaming to know that I am here. I’m staying with his folks for now, quite possibly the first time in my life I have ever truly let my guard down and just allowed people to help me, really help me, to get somewhere new in my life… and am grateful each day for their support. And the rest of the time I am feeling life… the joy, the horrible pain of grief, the anger, the love, the beauty. I’m writing and painting and reading and sharing… I’m crying and trying and exploring and falling down and getting back up and figuring out this new path I am on. It’s kind of messy, I will say, but there it is.

As I look back, I think about where I was a few months ago… completely petrified with making the decision to quit my corporate job, leave Dallas and commit to this big idea. Barely even eating I was so freaked out. It was the scariest and saddest and most immense decision I’ve ever made – but it’s also been the most healing thing I probably could have done for myself right now. Every day I am glad I didn’t allow my fears to get in the way of making this change… even if I have no idea where I’m going yet.

***

I’m curious to know… is there something big in your life you have always feared? Are you still fearing it now, and is it holding you back? Or have you found something bigger than your fear that helped you to move through it? I would love to hear about other people’s experiences with fear, particularly relating to your dreams and making them happen!

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Wow- I too, in my own way, am “crying and trying and exploring and falling down and getting back up and figuring out this new path.” This was an incredible post– thanks so much. Your words have helped me see that I need to have more patience and compassion for myself in striving for my dreams. So often I am being mean to myself, admonishing myself for being afraid, as if fear is some kind of proof that I can’t do it. The best thing I took from your post was the reminder that I can be afraid, but do it anyway. Maybe I won’t shatter into a million pieces if I stumble on my path. Maybe I will fall down and then get back up. Yeah, I believe that’s true now.

    Thursday, October 11, 2012
  2. I’m so glad you took something from this that will help you on your path. It certainly gives a little bit of goodness in my day to know that all this crap i’m experiencing can help other people with their own!
    I think being kind to yourself and nurturing yourself as JUST as important when moving forward as pushing yourself ahead. In fact, I find the more i am kind and gentle, the more energy and confidence i have to move ahead when the time is right, and the less i need to force it. If it feels like I’m forcing it (even just in how i’m thinking), I try to notice that and then just stop. i Stop pushing and take a step back and just tell myself “no, we’re going to rest today… take bubbles baths and eat chocolate and drink wine and go shopping or watch some pointless TV… because heart isn’t in this right now.” Breaks are key!

    I’m wishing you lots of kindness and self-nurturing on your creative journey ahead Laura! =D

    Thursday, October 11, 2012
  3. I moved across the country with my family when we had no job. We went to be closer to friends, where there might be possibilities for work. We thought we had enough cash to buy a house, but I didn’t know how we’d keep the lights on if we did so. On a house-hunting trip, we put an offer on a house that would deplete our cash. We had dinner at our friend’s house that night, my wife and I fought in the car on the way over, and I poured out my guts to my friend. That friend’s group at work was hiring contract employees. That was in June. Since August I’ve been working with my friend at his company. My fear only had a day of reality.

    I had to leave a career that I love: teaching. Now I’m a corporate IT guy. I make less money with no benefits. But we have so many friends. I miss doing a job I felt gave my life meaning. I fear every day that I’ll never have a job that gives me meaning and stability. This is hard. Nevertheless, I feel my relationships with my friends and family get me through the fears about the future.

    I also like learning languages. Learning languages is constant little parcels of fear. Every time you open your mouth, you will likely sound dumb, and look even dumber when you don’t understand the response. Yet I love it when I make little successes and connect with people in a way I couldn’t otherwise.

    Without friends and family, all I’d have left would be fear! :)

    Thursday, October 11, 2012
    • Thank you so much for sharing your brave story. I couldn’t agree with you more – friends and family are really what make life worth living. If you’re not connected to others, this world is a lonely place. I can so relate to the fear about learning languages… oof, I’m VERY bad at learning new languages… but i remember spending a month in Germany in my teens and how I HAD to learn some basics. I remember that feeling you describe, of how awesome it is when you do learn to say the right thing and you can suddenly make a connection you never could before. Pretty cool stuff.. kudos to you for embracing your fears! =)

      Tuesday, October 16, 2012
  4. Go Sarah and go Mr Loving Language. I start 6 hours a day of Spanish lessons for two weeks on Monday here in Bolivia and I sound totally stupid when I open my mouth but I love it!

    Sarah, I meant to paint today, but I didn’t do it. Why? I don’t know! I spent several hours replying to emails from my dad, aunt, boyfriend, but most of the time was spent uploading photos to my latest blog post which with Bolivian internet takes FOREVER. And I did YOGA for the first time in years which was GREAT! So I’m not going to beat myself up about not drawing.

    What is your creative group that sparked your painting? This sounds like a great idea for me to make friends when I move to BA next year, or I could start one myself!

    Fighting Fear and doing what we love because we love it and aren’t scared of failing. Go us!

    Thursday, October 11, 2012
    • Heya Caz,

      I love it… “well i didnt get to paint today because i was too busy connecting with important folks, doing yoga, and sharing my awesome photos and experiences with the world” haha sounds like a great trade off to me! ;)

      The group I am in is for an e-course by Kelly Rae Roberts called “Flying Lessons: Tips & Tricks to help your Creative Biz Soar”. I don’t know if she’s doing any more e-courses, but she does have an e-book on her site here:

      http://kellyraeroberts.com/learn

      I suspect she might create a community for folks using the e-book too. I think many similar e-courses for creative business are creating groups like this, you do have to sign up for the courses to be in the group, but well worth the money!

      Tuesday, October 16, 2012
  5. Oh Sarah, what a beautiful post. :)

    I really loved hearing about you speaking at the funeral – I hope that (when you feel ready) you might relate via blog some of the things you said.

    And I adored the things you said about really feeling life. I think this is a writer thing – savoring emotions, both bitter and sweet. When I was younger, before I got really sick, I never used to take medicine. Ever. I never wanted to be drugged into being unable to really feel – this may be a paranoia brought on by reading Brave New World. But I also feared that if I took say, tylenol, I might not be able to feel something really hurt. Or if I took pepto, I might not throw up something that NEEDED to get out of my body. Haha the more I talk, the more I sound like a conspiracy theorist! But anyway…I know what you mean about wanting to feel things.

    As far as fears keeping me from my dreams… I really want to have kids. And my body needs to to get well. But it’s still terrifying. It’s that all consuming fear you talked about – to where you can hardly eat. Am I ready to change my life? To be a mom? Heck, am I really ready to not be sick anymore…? These are my fears…

    Friday, October 12, 2012
    • Hey Rachel!
      I’ve definitely had in mind to share my tribute that I wrote for the funeral, but I think I am waiting for just the right time to do so.. and for some reason it just hasn’t felt quite right yet. But I definitely plan to do so. =)

      I can totally relate about meds, i have always resisted them too! I finally gave in to taking Xanax for a while after Drew passed away – I resisted for a few days but then realized that I was in over my head and needed all the help I could get. Funny how much we can resist letting ourselves have help, as if that somehow makes us weaker people. I think… it makes is SMARTER people! ;)

      I can imagine the fear of kids being especially scary with your health. Heck, it was scary to me even with a very healthy body… in fact, Drew and I often discussed adopting just because the idea of any complications really freaked us both out a lot. Thank you for sharing some very real fears for you. <3

      Tuesday, October 16, 2012
  6. Hi Sarah, well you already know how deeply you touched me with your part 1 post. This line ‘Say yes only to the things that feel right with our souls or bring us joy today’ is now what I use each day because I feel that the only way to move forward in life now is through the pursuit of joy as guided by the soul. What a great line to take away. Once again thank you for sharing with vulnerability andhonesty.

    Friday, October 12, 2012
    • You are SO welcome Janine! I’m smiling big to know that this really resonated with you. You go girl!!

      Tuesday, October 16, 2012
  7. Hi Sarah, this post and part 1 are very powerfully written, thank you for sharing. You communicate your feelings so well, and what you say about finding something that is bigger than your fear, and about learning to feel fear but be ok with it, really resonated with me. Those last two are relatively recent discoveries for me, but the last four or so years of my life have been about walking through that fear and realising that whatever else fear is, it’s only a feeling and what’s more, it’s my feeling. So we all have some control over it. I also agree with Janine that choosing the things that make you happy in the here and now is a good way to lead life, and I have found that a useful way of checking in with myself that I’m in the place I want to be.

    And last but not least, thanks so much for checking out – and following! – my blog. That made me really happy. Have a good day!

    Saturday, October 13, 2012
    • Hey girl, you are very welcome.. i’m so glad this really connected with you and what you’ve been experiencing the past few years. Very awesome!

      PS – definitely loving your hats! Love the process pics that show you making them too… utterly fascinating to someone like me who would have NO CLUE how to make a badass hat! ;)

      Tuesday, October 16, 2012
  8. Your courage and bravery is such an inspiration! I have a huge fear that gets in the way of success. I’m not even sure what the fear is. I stumbled across an absolutely brilliant opportunity to not only share a fantastic product but also a great business opportunity but just can’t get the words out of my mouth to tell people about it. Being an MLM business it does take talking to people to be successful and so far I’m failing big time!! I keep waiting for things to get bad enough that it forces me to do it but how low do I have to get before I do? Obvious very low as no matter how backwards I keep going I still am unable to share this info.

    Sunday, October 14, 2012
    • Hey Debra… I can very much relate to that stuckness you’re feeling. Its so easy to let the fear get in the way – or do self-defeating things, sometimes without even realizing what is going on! From my own experience… looking back, I realized that I kept getting stuck because I wasn’t doing something that really worked for me. I was compromising doing something that I loved with something that I “liked okay” because it made more money and was more secure. It was still a creative job, and a good direction, and a “smart” choice, but that didn’t matter. No matter how hard I tried to love it and how hard I tried to stay motivated to climb the professional ladder and make more money and be more successful… i just kept getting in my own way. The reason was, I was trying to fit myself into a box (or cubicle, literally!) that I just didn’t fit in.

      Regardless of how great the opportunity is… think seriously as to whether its truly a good fit for you. Do you enjoy selling and talking to people? Do you believe in this company’s vision so much that it fills you with a fiery passion to share it with the world? Or conversely, are you more of a introvert who enjoys doing your own thing? Or is there something else in your life that perhaps you believe in even more than this venture, which could be tugging at your heart? These are helpful things to consider!

      I’m sending you a link below to a free e-course called the Creative Pathfinder…

      http://lateralaction.com/pathfinder/

      now, its a LONG course that I didn’t get anywhere CLOSE to done with, haha, but the first few lessons and worksheets to answer were very helpful. They get you thinking about what aspects of your current life and/or job make you most happy and least happy. I definitely learned some things about myself I hadn’t noticed before, and it may help ya out too!

      Wishing you the best of luck my friend!

      Tuesday, October 16, 2012

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