First of all, I’m not trying to say that I’ve conquered fear or I’m not afraid of anything or that I don’t sometimes absolutely flat out panic (about my life or the future or that I don’t have any clean clothes to pack). That’s crazy. Of course I get afraid. At all kinds of things, just like everyone.
But, I’m less afraid than I used to be, and looking back, I feel like I used to be afraid all the time.
I suppose there are some ways in which I’ve never been afraid when a lot of people are: moving, changing jobs, meeting new people. Not that I don’t always have that moment of what the fuck am I doing, but a life of change has made me mostly immune to hesitation for things like that.
But my lack of fear is different than it used to be. I mostly now think I don’t know what the hell is going to happen, but whatever it is, I will somehow survive it. Maybe that’s a result of surviving every time my life has been turned upside down or maybe it’s just getting older, realizing that I’m living out the one life I have, and so be it. Maybe it’s a survival mechansim — a way to cope when I would otherwise go completely insane from lack of control. I really like the control, and sometimes, I really just don’t have it.
I do know that fearing the unknown, being afraid of what comes next doesn’t help anything. Knowing the unhelpfulness doesn’t make the fear go away, but after being beaten down with it again and again — after panicking for absolutely no useful purpose so many times, just maybe my brain has just decided to go along for the ride.
Or maybe this is a short-lived pocket of insanity and I’ll return to my fearful ways any moment.
I was on a flight the other day, remarkably not freaking out at the turbulence and I realized it was that perhaps just this: that I was afraid of the wrong things. I was spending all my resources: my emotions, my time, my energy, flailing against windmills. If I’m afraid of the turbulence of the flight, I’m spending my energy pretty uselessly. Turbulence isn’t what causes planes to fall from the sky. If I’m going to be afraid, it may as well be of something scary, something worth fearing. Turbulence ain’t it.
Someone asked me last night about changing jobs – but what if the company you’re at now fails? You left such stability, security, long-term career growth. it didn’t take me but a second to answer. So I’ll find something else. The path you’re on now may completely crumble and fall apart. So you find a new path. You won’t stay frozen, standing amidst the crumbling forever.
Several months ago, I was in a cab and the driver was telling me about how he escaped from his home country in Africa. His country was in the midst of a war. He’d been brainwashed to fight for a cause. He said that not being afraid saved his life. He knows now that he was brainwashed — that he’d been fed this idea that his own life was worth nothing, only the cause was worthwhile and if he died, someone would rise up to take his place so it was ok. But even so, feeling that made him not fear the possibility of death and fearlessness caused him to take risks that ultimately saved him.
It’s a different way of looking at things. We think fear saves us, keeps us from danger. But sometimes fearlessness lets us change, move from where we are, from a place that may be killing us and we don’t even know it.
A friend recently told me that we always know the right choice. That the hard part of choices is doing what it is we already know is what we want to do. I argued that it’s not always that easy. Sometimes we have no idea what the right choice is. He stood firm. I’d had a few martinis so I caved. but I don’t know. Do we always know the right choice and the hard part is in making it? How can we know when fear is protecting us or holding us back?
That I don’t know. I only know that I’m plowing ahead, making the choices I can, trying not to worry about the rest. I’m not saying I don’t worry, but I don’t want my entire life to be ruled by fear. There’s only so much of it left.
However. I’m still afraid of spiders.