Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Colliding with Fear...on Purpose!

Fear.  Yeah, I know it well.  I've known it for a very long time, actually.  Some describe me as having been quite the fearful child.  And I would describe myself as having been a fear-driven adult....until cancer.  Sounds paradoxical.  It is.  

After a lifetime of what-ifs, worst case scenarios, avoidance, etc...most of which always turned out to be fine (what is "fine" anyway?  that word is just...so annoying).  Then, at age 38, I was diagnosed with cancer.  Melanoma.  Finally!  I had something real to fear.  No more mind-generated fears, no more groundless anxiety.  Cancer.  Real.  Real fear.  

After falling far down the fear rabbit hole....and hanging out there a little bit too long, I decided I had to come out.  Not unscathed, however, but with a new attitude.  Before I go on to describe what having a real fear has done for me, to better me, I need to admit that I still have many days of relating to Alice in Wonderland, and probably always will.  Here is something that visits my brain now and again: "If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.  Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't.  And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would.  You see?"  Oh yes, Alice, I do see!  The thing that I realized down in the fear hole was that there is nothing good happening down there.  

Good stuff happens in LIFE.  Life is extremely hard to live and enjoy while encapsulated in a fear cocoon.  So, knowing that I could not stay with Alice, and knowing that I did not want to miss life as a prisoner of fear, I had to do something.  This led me to the idea of colliding with fear...ON PURPOSE!  Taking advice from Eleanor Roosevelt about "doing one thing everyday that scares you," I set out to face a multitude of fears, the biggest one being LIFE!

This practice of colliding with fear on purpose has been interesting (another bothersome word).  Interesting in that, that which I feared the most- death, or the threat of it, was the thing that flung me into living.  I now look fear in the face, feel it, proceed to tell it to fuck off (in a whisper), and then move forward...doing that which I fear.  It's here where I actually thank cancer, the evil beast that it is, for waking me up.  This awakening has taken me to some magical places and amazing experiences, big and small: zip lining with my husband, attempting to surf some gnarly waves in far away seas, snorkeling with my sons, getting up close and personal with wild animals, as well as getting over my fear of old people, the sick and dying, and being able to be of service to those I used to fear...trying things even if I fear failing or looking stupid, and so much more.  I know today is a gift....that tomorrow is not guaranteed.  And because of that, it's so critical to savor theses moments.

Tomorrow, I will have surgery.  Something that, in the past, would have caused me weeks of anticipatory anxiety to the tune of being curled up in the fetal position in my bed, unable to eat, while ruminating on the worst possible outcome. Now, I know better what to do: show up, face the fear, feel it, and do it anyway.  I'm ready to do this.  I am scared.  I do have fear.  I do want to puke at the thought of stitches in my eye ball.  I don't like not knowing what the recovery will be like.  But, with the practice of colliding with fear on purpose, I have gained strength and a new faith in LIFE and LIVING.  

So, here I go.

"Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm."


Photo by #Yogitimes

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