April 18, 2014
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, – not the absence of fear.
Today I am reflecting on a bumper sticker that reads “Remember Who You Wanted To Be.” It reminds me of the excitement I felt over the discovery of freedom and space to be myself when my marriage ended. With the pressure of working on a relationship and analyzing myself intently removed, I could breathe again.
As time moved on, this exhilarating experience lost its luster and I was faced with the task of rediscovering myself in this new life. Without titles and associated responsibilities as my compass, who was I now?
My life had been a process of self-creation starting with college. For 17 years, I had been highly influenced by my family and their traditional roles. In college, I discovered my wilder earthier side. From preacher’s kid to hippy, I ran wild and free intoxicated with the realization that I could discover myself and grow into whoever I wanted to be in this life. Psychedelics were helpful in this pursuit.
So how would I recapture that sense of adventure in order to create any life I chose for myself? How to feel 20-ish rather than cautious mid-40ish? I was determined to rebirth that youthful spark of fearlessness.
In pursuit of living true courage, I am learning so much. One thing is my worries are born of life experiences that my indestructible 20-year-old self knew nothing about. Life experiences had made impressions on my heart and mind. Maybe that is what I am observing when I see people taking less risk as they grow older; quietly moving into their comfort zone.
I am also learning that it is not about being fearless, it is about pushing through the fear. To stop challenging and discovering myself would be to begin a slow, quiet death. That’s just not my style.
When new challenges come my way, such as surfing, kayaking or waterfall repelling, I can feel myself hesitate. My heart feels grabbed with uncertainty. Then I fortify myself with thoughts of how sad I would be if I missed out on the fun and the thousands of people who have done this before me. Once I am on the board or headed down the waterfall, only joy fills my heart. In these courageous moments, I find my core essence that strengthens me.
There are also other day-to-day times that surprisingly require courage. As an example, even though I have pulled my horse in his trailer many times, the potential for danger is always present in my mind. Some days (for reasons I cannot determine) this is scarier than others. And yet, this is something I love to do. Will I really allow trepidation to get in the way of something that fills my heart completely? No…I will not.
My choice is to either allow these experiences to freeze me up and keep me safely home with my predictable routines or use the wisdom of my life to walk into the adventure of living my dreams even if I am afraid. In these moments I choose to focus on my courage rather than my fear and appreciate myself for doing it. This practice opens my heart rather than constrict it with fear.
This applies to so much, not just the physical adventures I’ve described. Many things in life can invite fear. Making a significant career move, investing time in a dream you’re not sure will work out, going out into the world, speaking your truth, being your authentic, going back to school, risking your heart in love…truly anything where we can cannot predict the outcome. This is living.
I encourage you to follow your heart and not be deterred by the possibility of success or failure…pleasure or pain. Do sports players hesitate before a playoff game reflecting on the pain they will feel if they lose? I doubt it. The only way out is through. Face the fear, name it, own it, and push on.
Is fearlessness wasted on youth? Nope. Let them have it and I’ll keep my wisdom spiced with life experiences. Perhaps the fear keeps me awake and aware of all I have learned. These challenges are educations that stretch and deepen my love of life and self. I choose to be undaunted and live with voracious courage.
What will you do next that has scared you?
What challenges have you that you tackled and survived?
What did you learn about yourself?
Go out there and live wild and free!