I woke up two nights ago writing in my head. This has always happened throughout my life but I never acted on it and the words left me by the time the morning came around. This time, I asked to please be allowed to remember and recreate this text that I will write now. My middle-of-the-night writing was all about fear, in general and in its most common forms. Fear is a part of all of our lives. But how aware are we of its workings in our lives?
I have in certain ways always recognized that living my life dictated by fear was NOT the choice I wanted to make. I wanted to make decisions based on what was best for myself and not be swayed by fear. I remember shortly after 9-11, we found some really amazing deals on flights to Germany. My extended family all live in Germany and I spent long summers visiting with them as a child, so I get homesick when I haven’t been there, seen them and reconnected with my second homeland in a while. So, what to do? Everyone was afraid of traveling, the federal government was issuing travel warnings and the horror of the fate of those 9-11 flights loomed large over everyone’s travel plans. We chose to fly with our one-year old despite everyone’s warnings and voicing of their fears of traveling. We had a wonderful vacation and no issues traveling such a long distance. I have never regretted it.
This is not to say that I don’t let fear guide my life consciously and unconsciously. I do have phobias – like heights, spiders, seeing my children near water sends my heart to pounding, stairs freak me out. I try my hardest to confront fears when they appear in my life by realizing that its my imagination that is creating these fears. In a way, these kinds of phobias are easiest to handle. Because you are so aware of them. Your body’s reaction and the very prominent and unavoidable obsessive thoughts behind them are hard to ignore.
I guess its the fears, which are those quietly sleeping and whispering in the background of my life, that have so influenced my life and the ones I want to think through in this post. Those fears about judgement, failure, being alone, misunderstood, vulnerable. You see I am coming out of my cocoon. As I told a friend the other day, last year was all about being cocooned and protected so I could heal and grow into the renewed person that I am now. This year is all about coming out of my cocoon, taking the time to let my wings dry and to look around and get a feel for the new world around me and also my new Self in it. So, while being wrapped so warmly in my cozy, safe cocoon, I was able to look at my life, see how far I had come, and realize how I wanted to fly in this world now. I can fly higher the more of these weighty fears I can let go of.
Looking back, before entering my cocoon to heal, I realize that I let those subtle fears dictate my life. In a way they imprisoned me because I didn’t allow myself to even realize that I was meant to be a butterfly. Everyone loves butterflies, admires their beauty and vulnerability, the magic of their very existence and how they come to be. Just looking at this comparison makes me feel uncomfortable because we are taught not to see ourselves as grand, or beautiful, or magical. We are conditioned to believe that it’s conceited and honestly, I believe it makes others feel less if you present yourself to the world as something so precious and special. Yet, I believe that we are ALL butterflies and to speak the truth is never wrong, nor does my self-love take away from the love for anyone else. There is enough love to go around in the world. Does anyone believe that love is limited? That there is only so much love in the world and once that’s used up, the rest of us will have to do without. It’s a ridiculous thought. But how often do I still react negatively, when others talk about themselves with confidence or praise their children, celebrate their successes or their happiness. As if by doing so, they are disregarding my wonderful kids or family, my accomplishments or happinesses. I am still struggling with this but recognize that my reaction is based on my old beliefs and completely irrational. Slowly my new way of looking out at the world is taking over. So now I do sometimes still react this way, but quickly realize that other people’s success cannot take away from mine, other people’s gloriousness does not mean I am less than them. So fear of lack is slowly being replaced by a knowing of my own worth.
Fear of judgement is another fear that governed my previous life. How would the world around me react if I chose to spend my life dedicated to the mystical, to the spiritual, to Love? I still have not fully come out on this score. I haven’t shared this blog with my family, for instance, or on my personal facebook page. I am still protecting myself from that very personal judgement. Glennon Doyle once wrote about coming out as a spiritual person and said your family is often the last you do this with. Because those roles as daughter or sister are so ingrained in us. They are so wrapped around us that we easily fall back into our old selves quickly when placed in our family environment. We and our family have a pattern of expectations, definitions of each other that are difficult to shift and redefine. Maybe, if you are like I am, you have kept the most intimate and softest part of yourself hidden from your family. It was/is easier for myself to just be who they have defined me as, than open myself up to judgement or criticism, by showing them what has been going on beneath the surface all my life. That my love of the mystical, like astrology or supernatural, mysticism or spirits, has always been a large part of who I am. That I honor Jesus as a healer, mystic and son of God, just as much as I do Buddha and Mohammed as religious mystics who came to teach us of and about our shared divinity and connection to God. Ugh, even just writing that last sentence, I am cringing and wanting to erase the references to God, because of how I think others will judge that and possibly criticize it or misrepresent it. But it stays, because these are my beliefs and they shape who I am. They simply are. I cannot control how others will judge them, nor in a way is it even my business. I need to be true to myself. That is our job in life after all and from that all else comes – finding our path and love of Self and other. So fear of judgement is slowly being replaced by self-truth.
Fear of failure lurks everywhere which isn’t surprising for a perfectionist. That’s what drives a perfectionist after all. Because we define failure as not doing something – a project, cleaning our house, being a mom – without error and without omitting anything. Putting perfectionism that way, I think shows me how ridiculous it really is to aim at being perfect, of being everything to everyone. It’s exhausting and so unrealistic. NO ONE CAN ACHIEVE THAT! I never once completed something, as a perfectionist, and felt I had done it well. Because of that, I never was truly able to celebrate any accomplishment, because in my eyes it wasn’t really complete. My role as wife, my motherhood, my home, my thoughts, my dissertation, my reading of books. Nothing in my mind was ever done the way I wanted it to be. Failures in every single endeavor because I could have done all of these things, and more, so much better. It’s perfectly ridiculous, perhaps that’s the only thing I did well – be ridiculous in my expectations as a perfectionist. So, I have “failed” in everything I have done for most of my life and yet I am still standing. Ha! That, my friends, was just an a-ha moment for myself. I have failed in all of these things, yet I am still ok and I have truly accomplished so much. Just as all of you have. I am taking a new approach now. I am moving forward in life and expecting, even anticipating failure, because in my failures I have so many opportunities and by having failures I know I am really living my life by experiencing new things and testing boundaries. So fear of failure is slowly being replaced by my embracing my humanity.
This fear of judgement led to another fear which drove much of my life. The fear of being isolated, alone, unloved. If people judged me as weak or silly or sensitive or emotional, then they wouldn’t respect or love me. So I strove to live my life meeting their expectations, mirroring their beliefs and attitudes. If I mirrored them, then how could they ostracize me or criticize me? But in the end, my true Self couldn’t hide. I knew I didn’t fit in. I was spending way too much energy mirroring instead of exploring and honoring who I was. And, let’s face it, I didn’t do mirroring very well. I just couldn’t be cut throat, or so ego-based that I emphasized my accomplishments as better than anyone else’s, or place my beliefs and opinions as truth and all others’ as wrong. When I look back at my old career, that’s what was the most difficult to do, even though it was expected and required to do this in order to remain in that career. Truthfully, I never succeeded in doing it. It stressed me out so much that I should have realized that it just was so opposed to who I am. I realize now that I am not afraid of being ostracized any longer. I am secure in my family and circle of friends, in my Self and in what I am stepping out into the world to do. I just am choosing to go into the world now and not apologize or rationalize for others my choice and my beliefs. Again, that is not my business. Everyone chooses for themselves how they want to engage with the world and the best thing I can do for myself and for the world, is to just be true to my core beliefs based on Love. Really it’s just my belief that Love is all the world needs and that I need to work on bringing my Self and my actions into the world from this perspective. I have faith now that I will never be alone, that those people who belong in my life will be there or come to me. I have faith now that what I put out in the world is what will be given to me in return. I don’t need much more than that. Faith, trust, and Love. Faith, trust, and Love. Faith, trust, and Love.
In the end, all we need is …