Round Two: The Things That Scare You

While I'm in Orlando, at the Suzanne Evans 10K business intensive, I'm posting old posts.  This is one of my all time favorites.

Jan. 22, 2010

I'm afraid of everything.Silhouette_woman_body_229243_l

At least that is how it seems some days.  Most days. 

Most people, looking at me, assume that I'm brimming with self confidence.  I travel alone, I speak and present workshops, I talk to strangers wherever I go. And maybe, if self confidence means constantly pushing at barriers, I am overflowing with it.  Because, the fact is, most of the time I'm either terrified or feel like an idiot because I don't know what I'm doing.  The only difference between me and others is that I'm out there doing it.  

Because to not to do it is to let fear win.

Recently, I did something I've always especially feared.  This is going to sound really silly to most people, but I've always been afraid to eat out alone, especially at a nice restaurant.  On Monday, my dinner plans got canceled.  No problem, I thought, I'll have a quiet evening home alone.  Except while I was out doing errands the thought hit me like a brilliant epiphany that I should go eat at the bar at J. Alexander's.  It is a nice big bar, with attentive bartenders and singletons eat dinner there all the time.  I know, because I've been there with a friend.

I argued.  The thought persisted.  I texted one friend, called another.  Perhaps they wanted to join me?  One was unavailable, one was sick.

I argued more.  Wouldn't it be best just to stay home and eat leftovers?

The thought grew louder: do the things that scare you.

And so I did.

I loaded up my armor of  journal and book and screwed up my courage and off I went.  And I had a fabulous time.  Struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me and never even had to pull out my armor.  Drank one glass of wine too many and ate a delicious burger and fries.

The next day, even though I was just the wee-est bit hungover, I felt fabulous.  Why?  Because I had felt a deep thrill of exhilaration while I was at the bar–I was successfully facing one of my deepest fears!–and afterward, an even deeper sense of satisfaction for having done it.

But here's the deal.  Fear is a sneaky demon and it shifts and shakes and siphons off our energy in unexpected ways.  Facing down one fear doesn't mean all the rest of your fears are now dealt with.  Not by a long shot.   You have to keep facing them, one by one, and then when you think you've gotten through the whole entire list some new ones will appear.  And fear can masquerade as boredom, or laziness, or telling yourself it just wasn't meant to be.  What I fear is not the same thing that you fear.  What you fear today may morph into something else tomorrow.

And so, my challenge to you is the same as my challenge to myself: do the things that scare you.  The only way out is through.  The only way to conquer fear is to walk through it, one step at a time.

What does this have to do with writing?  You know exactly why talking about fear relates to writing.  You know exactly.

But I Can’t Be Happy

Does this ever happen to you? Flower_flowers_stuffed_250188_l

Suddenly and wonderfully, for no known reason, you feel a flash of happiness, or a rush of sudden joy.  Ah, glory.  You stop to revel in it.  And then…

Up pops that voice.

The one that whispers:

 Yes, but…

Yes, but, remember?  I can't be happy!

Why? I can't be happy because:

  • I still haven't lost the extra weight I'm carrying
  • I'm still not published
  • I'm not making enough money
  • I don't have a perfect love relationship
  • I don't have children and I really, really want some
  • I don't have my ideal job

All of which translates to:

  • I'm not thin enough
  • I'm not rich enough
  • I'm not published enough
  • I don't have enough
  • I'm not enough

To which I say: Enough, already!  You are enough, you have enough, you do enough.  I know, I know.  That's scant comfort when your buoyant joy is brought down to earth by that insistent voice.  So what's the antidote?

So glad you asked.  Here are my best strategies:

Recognize that its your ego talking.  Joy and happiness come from connection, from the divine, from being at one with the wonderful world.  The ego comes from a lifetime of misperceptions, imagined and real hurts, and crazy ideas that get lodged in our brain.  Just remembering this and recognizing that it is the ego squelching your joy is the first step.

Tell it to shut the f*%# up.   Geneen Roth talks about screaming back at the ego in her work.  Tell it to shut up, tell it that its not welcome, tell it that it is interrupting.   You may be a kinder, gentler soul than I, and want to ask it nicely to be quiet.  Do whatever works.

Know that all you really need (and have) is the present moment.  In every moment, you can choose love or you can choose fear.  It is pretty obvious that choosing to listen to the ego is choosing fear whereas choosing love is letting joy overtake you.  This takes practice, but gets easier.

That's all I've got for you at the moment.  Silencing the ego is a lifelong practice.  But it is a worthwhile one, becasue in the end we are here to love and experience joy. Anybody else have any suggestions?

Photo by hagit.


I hate earthquakes.

Like hate hate them.

They terrify me.  And yes, I've been in a few.  Not big ones, because we generally don't get big earthquakes here, even though the experts say that the Northwest is due for a whopper like the one that hit Japan. Land-earthquake-earth-58633-l

And so I, like so many others, have been on edge since the events of last week. 

It didn't help that there were tsunami warnings on my beloved Oregon coast.  Or that the nuclear power plants in Japan were in danger of meltdown.  Or that some yeehaw "scientist" predicted that a huge earthquake might hit the West Coast.  Or that we started bombing the hell out of Libya.

All of these things, and earthquakes in the lives of so many friends, have lodged themselves inside of me and wrapped themselves into a ridiculously big ball of fear.

It culminated the other night.  We went out to Happy Hour with friends and, while I only consumed two glasses of wine, it didn't occur to me until later that the pours that night were huge.  Like nearly double size.  I think.  Don't really remember. But what I do remember is that an excess of wine is not good for my sleeping habits.

And that night I awoke in the middle of the night and I could not get back to sleep.  This is unusual for me.  While I often wake in the middle of the night, I generally go back to sleep easily and quickly.  Not Friday night.  Of course, the moon was nearly full and the sky bright.  And that didn't help either.  Because it just made me think more about the Super Moon which was supposedly going to trigger the above-mentioned earthquake.

And then, in the way that fear has, thinking about the earthquake made me think about other problems in my personal life.  (Which, let me just note, pale in comparison to what the people of Japan face.  In the light of day, I know that.  In the dark of night, fear makes me forget it.)  I tossed and turned, unable to switch my brain off and get back to sleep.

Finally, in desperation, I started counting my blessings.  You know, like that old song, the lyrics of which go something along the lines of "Just count your blessings instead of sheep, and you'll fall asleep counting your blessings."  Nowadays we call our blessings gratitude, and the word is overused and the act often made fun of, probably because Oprah promotes it and people make fun of everything she does.

But I have to admit that it helped.  I lay there and thought of all the things that I feel grateful for, from the fat cats that were hogging the bottom of the bed to my writing career.  And pretty soon I fell asleep. 

So why do I mention all this on a blog devoted to writing?  Because I imagine quite a few of us are feeling fearful these days.  Or if not fearful, then on edge.  Anxious.  Nervous for no reason.  And none of these feelings, not a single one, are compatible with writing.  I think that counting your blessings, or making a gratitude list, works because it helps us to remember.  When we're fearful, anxious and on edge, we don't remember how lucky we are.  We don't remember our true selves.  And most of all, we don't remember that we can write ourselves back to ourselves.  All we have to do is pick up the pen.  Which is what I did the next morning, as I do every morning. 

And then I felt better.

What do you do when you get anxious or fearful?  Please feel free to share in the comments.  Because what works for you might well be useful for someone else.  Thanks.

And remember, if things get too out of whack for you, contact me.  I can help with a Get Your Writing in Gear session, or good old fashioned coaching. 

***And please, remember to come back to this site on Friday because I have an amazing interview that will inspire the hell out of you lined up.  


Photo by runrunrun from Everystockphoto.