My hands gripped the sides of the seat a little harder than usual, curling around the edge of the arm rests. Then I watched my knuckles turning white and I realised fear was rising. I maybe, possibly, probably let out a swear word but I know I definitely I let out a sob. This was not nice and I was no longer having fun on my own on a plane with my book.
Then I saw this face between the window and the seat in front of me and he smiled and looked with kindness – maybe a little amused and said it’s ok, it really is. It’s just the wind. Thats when I looked him straight in the eye and said ‘but I am scared….’
Fear is a weakness, or so we grow up believing. Something to get a grip on. Fear is something we fight, we overcome it. We are hard wired (so the neuroscientists tell me) to be optimists.
So what if we saw fear for what it was. That fear is a story that we are telling ourselves unintentionally. A story that has a beginning, a middle and an end.
The real fact about fear is that it steals your peace right from underneath you. Fear takes joy without asking and leaves you paralysed.
Looking back at my plane journey. Hasmin showed kindness and began to speak to me, human kindness entered the narrative that I was telling myself. He began to rewrite the story and his looked different than mine – his story of it’s just the wind, it’s going to be bumpy and it really is going to be ok. Beginning, middle and end.
Not even experience helped me here, my experience of travelling for years without even a thought.
Fear can be the ball and chain that has keeps us imprisoned for years or it can be a sucker punch from nowhere that leaves us stunned and blindsided.
For years fear was silent. It lay dormant until my first born entered the world eleven years ago. The first fear I remembered as I held this little ginger haired helpless bundle of flesh was ‘what happens if the house falls down’.
Irrational yes, but it kept me from having any peace or joy that night. Fear entered the story after the profound sense of an intense love and joy. A feeling that was indeed overwhelming.
It was a far cry from my early 20’s when fear was mute. Like when I got on a plane to Holland having no idea where I would be staying and ended up squatting in a primary school with a group of friends. Where was fear then? Was it because I didn’t write the story of what might be. Or maybe I didn’t care.
Joy and fear go hand in hand of course. The joy of loving and being truly vulnerable can bring fear. Fear of loss. Fear of getting too close.
When we are overwhelmed by love we dress-rehearse tragedy. We think if we allow ourselves happiness we are just setting ourselves up for the inevitable fall.
Fear makes you disaster plan. Fear can keep you awake at night looking to the future. Do you know we are the only creatures capable of thinking to the future in this way, of projecting ourselves forward in time? Mental time travel common with fear and storytelling.
Fears have imagery and suspense like every good story.
I have all sorts of fears. Maybe you do too? Fears in which the story I tell myself doesn’t end the way its more than likely going to.
The irrational fear of losing loved ones. What will that phone call look like, feel like and sound like? Fears of my children leaving the safety net of primary years to the unknown that I can’t control.
Fears of who will clean Noah’s glasses when I can’t be there.
Fears of our economy and our political world
Fears of what our society will look like that my children have to navigate.
Do you have fears?
Fears of losing the ones we love?
Fears he’ll leave.
Fears she won’t really love you when it all hits the fan.
Fear of losing that job, your home.
Fear of not finding the perfect one.
Fear that you will lose the baby.
Fear they have stopped breathing.
Fear that what you do is never going to be enough.
Fear of what that appointment may bring.
Do you dress rehearse tragedy so when that sucker punch comes you won’t be blindsided? You’ll know the drill.
So what if we all began to tell our stories. Bringing our fears into the light so that we together can re-write each other stories.
I thought having my fears meant I somehow unhinged. I then I began to tell my stories and realised our stories are all the same.
I’ll leave you this what one my favourite author and speakers, Brene Brown said:
‘to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen … to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And to also believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, that says, “I’m enough” … then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.
(the really cool scenery photos are all taken by the very talented Ruth Kelly – check out her page :http://ruthkellyphotography.tumblr.com)