What you are you afraid of in life?
Pain? Being alone? Losing possessions? Failure? Relationships going bad? Job loss?
There are many answers to the question. We all have one. And if we claim we’re not afraid of something in our lives then we’re probably lying to ourselves…and others.
I’ve been afraid of a lot of shit in my life, including every option listed above.
Fear of pain? Yep.
Fear of being alone? Yep.
Fear of losing possessions? Yep.
Fear of failure? Yep.
Fear of relationships going bad? Yep.
Fear of job loss? Yep.
Guess what? Not anymore.
God damn I’ve been in some pain. Most of us have; it’s part of the human experience. I’ve had particular doses of pain in the last year. And I’m not only still standing…I’m smiling.
I’ve feared being alone. And now I have been. Has it been easy? Not always. But, it was been liberating and I’m better off for it.
I feared losing possessions and material wealth. Months of being unexpectedly unemployed in combination with other twists and turns in life have left me tapping into retirement savings. Not ideal. But, the world hasn’t ended, and I believe in my ability to earn way more in the future.
I’ve feared failure. Over the last several years that has begun to fade, which is no surprise to some people that have been around me over that time. Fear of failure can be a good thing. It can motivate us to achieve something greater and better. But, it becomes no good if that fear overtakes the drive as a dominant voice. Either way, I’ve made some big bets in the last couple years. They didn’t play out like I hoped or wanted. By some definitions I failed.
That’s nice. I’ll come back even stronger.
I’ve feared relationships going bad, and I have the failed relationships to prove it. There’s zero pride in that, and in dark moments, a lot of shame in that hard reality. There are lessons to learn, regrets to process, and learning to absorb as I take another step forward each day.
I’ve feared job loss, propelled by years of being the family bread-winner combined with unproductive thinking. Then, in the middle of a lot of shit going haywire – at least according to the norms of society – I got laid off. Good times.
Yet, being laid off forced me to explore the lost art of truly defining oneself by who you are, not by what you do. Having the space to do that has helped. But, it has also been a necessary and deeply meaningful exercise. Spending time with myself. Digging deeper on personal development. Writing. Working out like a beast. Traveling. Exploring a wonderful new city in New Orleans. And best of all, spending a lot of time with old friends and new.
Despite the challenges of unemployment and financial curveballs, I’m more at peace than I’ve been…maybe ever.
Here’s what else I’ve learned through all of that:
- It’s going to be ok. The world will not end when big things in life don’t turn out as expected. It doesn’t even end when your world gets turned upside down. It might be unpleasant, perhaps very. But, you will survive, learn, and move forward.
- Truly letting go of the past is glorious. Really. Let it fucking go. I used to dwell a lot on the past. It got me…nothing. Acknowledge the past. It happened. Figure out what you can learn from it and what choices you might make differently in the future. Then move forward.
- Sometimes you have to just slow down and breathe. Sure, I have a bias there because I practice yoga regularly and have been through teacher training. I have a strong appreciation for what stilling the mind via breath can do. And it has helped me tremendously in more anxious moments than I care to count the last several months. When negative thoughts have begun to take over my mind, I’ll focus on my breath – perhaps with a mantra or prayer thrown in – and tune everything else out. What that’s done, I’m invariably in a better place than when the process started.
All of that, the fear, the tumult, and the learning are heavy stuff. It’s not easy to write about. It requires a lot of vulnerability.
I had someone tell me recently I “live out loud…raw, real, and vulnerable.” There’s some truth to that, though there is always more to be told about and by a person than what they talk about online, including social media. What I accept about that friend’s kind observation is I do put myself out there more than many other people.
Holding back is not uncommon in our society, or humanity in general. We hesitate to share our true selves. There are many reasons for that, some of them the type of fears that I mentioned at the start of this post. Some people are just more private. And getting truly honest about what you really think and believe means other people might disagree or think less of you.
And maybe those people who respond negatively should matter less to us if that’s their take.
I recently read “Finding Ultra,” a memoir-like gem of a look into the journey of Rich Roll; alcoholic, overweight lawyer turned vegan distance athlete, whose stunning transformation has helped propel him to some vividly awe-inspiring athletic feats…after the age of 40 and beyond.
The man is a beast and someone I admire a great deal. For all that, what I appreciate about Finding Ultra and what Rich did in that book is he tore away the protective cover of his soul; that last barrier inside us that stops us from revealing who we are to the rest of the world.
I’m a regularly listener of Rich’s podcast, which is splendid in its ability to have interesting conversations with guests that get raw and real. Yet, Finding Ultra throws gasoline on the fire of revealing the personal and emotional aspects of Rich’s painful and difficult journey. It’s a great and inspiring read.
Rich is currently working on a 2nd edition of Finding Ultra, expanding on and updating some aspects of its tale. But, no matter the new text (which I look forward to immensely!), the essential part where Rich tore away the protective cover of his soul to share not just his story, but his true self, with readers is what gives the book magnificent power.
If there is any reason why I’m willing to write this kind of way about my own journey, as some of my friends on Facebook and Instagram have gotten a dose of in months gone by, it’s so what I share might have an impact on others. Maybe to give them the courage to make a leap in life. Maybe to soften with shared solace the dark edges of their own personal experience. Maybe for reasons that I’ll never know.
Someone out there is reading this and just had a shift, because I’ve begun tearing away the protective cover of my soul. That’s why this is worth it. To empower – or even nudge – someone into living the life they’re meant to live.
Start tearing. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s downright painful. But, it’s worth it.