Right now, because of some less than attractive truths about myself that might escape in these next few paragraphs.
A few minutes ago, because I heard a pop that was probably a car backfiring, but I spent the last year living in a community dear to my heart and wondering if those kinds of sounds were gun shots.
Earlier today, because I was nervous about getting everything perfect on my second day of work at a new job in a new city. (Full disclosure: I made some mistakes).
To be quite honest, I grew up scared. Not in any profound sense, or for particularly heartbreaking reasons, but afraid nevertheless. Fear was simply the basic human emotion that prevailed within my disposition, and my timid spirit frequently got in my way. What’s more, I’ve had a difficult time rectifying my fears and anxieties to the brokenness and chaos of the world.
This world is a lot, you know. This life is a lot. There is suffering and missed opportunities and broken dreams and children that die before their time, and there is greed and hatred and poverty and all kinds of crazy injustice. And yet somehow there is also joy and beauty and new life and celebration and remarkable nature, and there are second chances and bunnies and so many adventures to be had. There is joy and there is sorrow, and there is everything in between. We knew this and experienced it fully as children – every disappointment was heart-wrenching, every fear was experienced in authentic terror, and every success celebrated with pure abandon. Somewhere between grade school and adulthood, we were taught that all of these emotions needed to be kept in check.
I feel silly that even now in my young adult years my petty and inconsequential fears sometimes cripple me, while there is so much legitimate suffering floating around everywhere. There was a length of time that I resented myself for this and tried to bury my unsettled spirit beneath a mask of composure.
It’s okay. I’m fine. It’s all going to work out. Everything will be alright.
(Sound familiar to anyone?)
We spend so much time striving to be okay, when ‘okay’ is actually a complacent, comfortable space that can prevent us from becoming our truest, most impactful selves. Outside of ‘okay’ is a universe filled with sadness, anger, surprise, joy, disgust, and fear. It’s in this space of emotional extremes that we have the opportunity for growth.
So here’s the thing about fear – it has a purpose. Being afraid is a primal opportunity to step back and evaluate a situation. Fear can be a healthy emotion that warns our brains that something is not quite right. Fear speaks to us about the state of our hearts, of our hopes and dreams and desires for ourselves and the world around us. Our fears have the potential to become a catalyst for change when we respond in action to right the wrongs that are causing our unsteadiness.
Here are just a few things on my current list of fears:
- What that guy on the other side of the room is thinking about me
- What’s going to happen in a world where good people turn a blind eye to injustice
- Being thought of as inadequate and incompetent
- Not being in control
- Not doing a good enough job of combating hatred in the world
There was a moment several years ago when I realized I’d rather be profoundly afraid and end up doing something incredible than always be okay and never do anything at all.
Sweet sisters, bravery is not the absence of fear. Bravery is the refusal to let fear get in the way.
Allow your fears to point you in the direction of courage. The spaces in which we are afraid are the very spaces in which we have the greatest opportunities to display bravery. Our fears should not be ignored; they should be capitalized upon.
I don’t yet know what I’m going to do about all of my fears, but I’m on the same page as the incredible painter Georgia O’Keeffe in saying (or at least aspiring to say), “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
So here’s what I want to do – I want to show love to the world. I want to love with abandon. I want to love for freedom. Love for life. Love for peace and goodness and self-growth and joy. I want to love when it’s hard and impractical. But for heaven’s sake, I’m not going to fake it, because love’s too important to be chained to something that’s just okay.
Remember: Fear is not the enemy. When we see fear as a tool, instead of something to be afraid of or avoid, we are able to charge forward and take hold of who we are as women that are both lovely and free.
– image credit: Lindyn Williams