This has been an ongoing theme in my life and kinda came out in my last post, so I’d like to go into more detail about it now. Ready? Okay!
I have this insidious Fear Creature dwelling in my brain that’s been speaking a series of bizarre, hateful messages to me for the past year or so. And maybe It has roots deep in my past, but It’s also playing a particular role in my present. The messages have to do with me deciding who I am, what I believe, what I like or dislike, and what I’m here for. Since I’m doing all of that in a profound and thorough way outside of the sphere of Christianity for the first time in my life, I often feel some combination of lost/curious/overwhelmed/amazed. And scared. Paralyzed to the core. On a regular basis.
Note- if that last bit came out of left field for you, then please read this. Call me or message me if you would like to have a respectful, loving conversation about it. But let’s continue.
So there are times when The Creature comes to me and says, “This is wrong. That’s wrong. You’re wrong. You shouldn’t like this or them or subscribe to that idea. Wrong, wrong, WRONG.” Etc., etc. And it can apply to absolutely anything and anyone, from authors and speakers I admire, books and music and movies I’m into, where I choose to live and work, right down to the food I eat, how I dress, the people I’m friends with or interested in romantically, and what I think is funny. What I write about and choose to share online is one of the biggest things. The Creature likes to shoot me down, undermine me, and make me second guess pretty much everything all the time. It likes to tell me I’m a fraud and a sellout and a total weirdo loser.
Get the picture? The Creature is a real jerk. A big, fat bully. It reminds me of that mean kid in grade school who found the dumbest reasons to pick on you and make the other kids laugh, when really all they wanted was attention. Bullying and teasing made sure people heard whatever it was they had to say. The meaner and louder, the better.
So I’m here with a message for my personal Fear Creature:
How do I put this lightly? Stay in your fucking lane. Thank you.
I hope you know I say those words in a kind, yet firm way with a bit of Southern twang and a placid, professional smile on my face. This is the manner in which I practice tough love with myself. Maybe it would be “nicer” and “more ladylike” to coddle The Creature and give it googly eyes and speak to it in a voice barely above a whisper, and politely ask it to please go away please instead of declaring it out loud with the use of expletives, but that’s not my mood as of late. (It might also be considered more sane to not talk to an anthropomorphized part of my psyche, in general, but I crossed that bridge a loooong time ago, folks.) Anyway, I’m over the whole
being a doormat for my fear mode of living. I’m over being a doormat, in general.
I’m not sure why I felt like typing all of this up and putting it here on my blog, to be honset. But here’s what I can tell you based on my experiences up until this moment:
The Creature has as much power as I’m willing to give to it. And I’ve given it a lot of power for a long, long time. I allowed fear in its various manifestations to rule so many parts of me: my faith, my personality, my relationships, my sexuality, my creativity, my views on humanity and the world at large. Fear of failure and rejection were paramount (still are, to a degree), and I thought that if I made myself small enough, quieter, meeker, more likable and palatable, then I’d be okay. I’d fit in. I’d be safe.
FYI- That strategy didn’t work. It actually backfired on me so hard.
And I have to add that there are plenty of times and places for fear (see: navigating rush hour traffic on I-93), because it’s hardwired into us as a protective measure for a reason, but when it continually takes the wheel? When it becomes the place that we live from and make all of our decisions from? Nope. No bueno. No mas.
Y’all, I know the world can be a mean, frightening, and unfriendly place. I’d like to hold on to the hope that there’s an arc of cosmic justice and redemption operating in our universe, but…what if there isn’t? I falter. It’s hard for me to read the news or want to stay informed because I usually end up horrified and disgusted by what is happening on a national and global level. It’s hard to find the bits of light amidst too much darkness, but I know they exist. I know, because those bits are what keep me going day to day.
There are about a thousand and one reasons to stay cemented in any given mindset and/or community, one where the outcomes are relatively predictable and all the people around you think similar thoughts and talk the same way and love and hate the same things that you love and hate. I get it. I was there once. I’m not even bashing it. There’s a level of solidarity that can act as a shelter in the midst of a continual stream of perfect storms. Maybe that’s what truly works for you and brings you comfort and meaning. Maybe that’s where you want to raise your family. Maybe you don’t even have the luxury and privilege of choice. But I also wonder if oftentimes we stay because we’re so frightened of the unknown, because we worry if we try to branch out, we’ll get knocked around, beaten up, and scorned. It’s possible we’d be worse off for trying. I counter: does remaining static and tribal allow our hearts and minds to expand and help us to live in all the fullness that life has to offer? Even, and especially when, that fullness is sure to include the vast spectrum of human emotion and experience in all of its agony and ecstasy?
What am I trying to get at here? I guess, that in all of this, it’s not about becoming fearless. It seems so admirable, right? The total eradication of fear. But if fear is absent, then there is no need for bravery. Courage wouldn’t exist as an option, because it wouldn’t exist without fear. What do we do then, if The Creature stays with us, whether it looms large or lurks there in the background? The best thing I know to do is speak, and speak, and speak again. This voice was not made to remain silent.
I don’t know, y’all. I don’t have answers. And this has turned into more of a ramble, a string of thoughts that frayed at its ends. Ultimately, it’s an open-ended discussion that I welcome participants to join in so we can work through this and be here together.
“We are very afraid of being powerless. But we have the power to look deeply at our fears, and then fear cannot control us.” -Thich Nhat Hanh