Fear and Decisions

Fear“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” –Pema Chodron

“Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Fear is a liar. It whispers in our ear that if we control that person, circumstance or situation, we’ll feel better. But fear lives inside not outside of us. So when your attempts to control outside events fail, it grows into a monster threatening to eat us alive. It cripples all aspects of our life, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, unless its faced. I know this from personal experience.

There have been times in my life when I made a choice based on fear’s advice. One instance was when, as a new college graduate, I took a job I knew in the pit of my stomach was not the right situation for me. Fear said, “Take the job. You might not get another offer. You need the money.” Foolishly I listened and for two years I worked for a toxic company. It was only when I nearly had a nervous breakdown, as we used to call them, that I woke up and faced my fear. Leaving that supposedly secure position was one of the best decisions of my life.

Elections are a prime time for politicians and commentators to spew fear. Natural disasters, war, or health threats are other times when fear whispers to those vulnerable to its call. Right now we’re in a vortex of events where, in my mind, Fear is rejoicing that there are so many people to feed upon. That’s a metaphor I chose on purpose. Fear feeds upon us.

I want to make it clear, we ALL feel fear from time-to-time. We can’t escape that fact. However, we can reduce or eliminate it with practice.

This is what I’ve learned in my process of facing fear. Its not strong. We think of fear as all powerful. Maybe because of the powerful emotions it evokes. But fear can’t stand up to scrutiny. When I’ve allowed myself to face my fear fully, then look beyond it to the myriad possibilities that fear is trying to hide from me, it dissolves. Not all at once, but the more I turn away from my fear, the more it shrinks.

There have been a number of times in my life when I know my family, and even some of my friends did not understand the choices I made. They thought I was crazy. Quitting my teaching job to become a writer, selling my house to fund a trip around the world, quitting that first job that was so toxic to get my Master’s in theatre. Oh, I’m sure many of my family members still shake their heads at the choices I’ve made.

But the thing is, it’s the people who look fear in the face that we admire. I admire Gabby Giffords, who was my Congresswoman, and now advocates for stricter gun regulations. Malala Yousafzai who promotes education for girls all over the world. The fearful tried to silence them by shooting them, but when they didn’t die, those two women became more powerful than ever before.

There are so many other people who’s names we don’t know, who are facing fear every day and winning. They are becoming powerful and doing great and creative things that contribute to all of humanity. We need them all if we’re going to create a new way to live that is more loving, more sustainable, more joyful.

We can’t control events outside ourselves. All we can control is our response to what happens to us. We can control our response to fear. Remember that when you go into the voting booth in a few weeks, or choose what to watch on TV or which pundits to listen too. Are they spreading fear, or hope?

It’s my prediction that the tide will turn away from fear. That we’ll take responsibility for embracing hope and love instead. That we’ll accept that life is unpredictable which makes living exciting. There can be a bright future ahead of us, if we choose it.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Trust and Fear

Welcome to my new followers. I’m grateful to all of you who’ve taken the time to read my blog. I hope you’ll get something out of each post and will give me feedback.

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” Albert Einstein
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”
Dalai Lama

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust and fear lately. Until recently, I was living in fear mode. That’s such a horrible place to live. There was a time when I trusted that I would be taken care of no matter what and that God and I were partners in creating my life. Then I was forced out of a most beloved job and for five years I lived in fear that other disasters were going to befall me.

I won’t go into all the little steps, and ahas that got me to wake up and begin my active spiritual practice again. It’s way too complicated. The point is, that I realized that I’d been so closed off, living in fear, that I couldn’t let anything good come into my life. I blamed God for my misfortunes when I was the architect of them all. When I remembered to look for the meaning of my misfortune, I saw that I’d called it to myself. I would have happily continued to teach drama, but that wasn’t my highest best purpose and my soul knew it. I began to practice trusting God again. And that brings me to what happened July 3rd.

My husband, Barry, had two flat tires on the way home from work. Normally, I would have gone directly into fear and worried myself sick. I’ve written before that we don’t have lots of extra money at the moment. So, naturally, I had a fearful moment feeling that we wouldn’t have enough money to pay for the tires. Then I took a breath. I’ve been practicing trusting that all is well in any given moment. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and said, Okay God, I’m trusting that everything’s going to work out. The little snigglet of fear was replaced with calm. We got the tires on the 5th of July. They were cheaper than the two we’d purchased for Barry’s car last fall. There was money left over in our account. Not only that, we have a book reading and signing scheduled for this week, with the potential of money coming in as well as other small amounts all coming at just the right time.

Now, you might think that was the end of that. Oh no. I’m a person who’s always thinking and making connections with what happens to me personally, and the larger world. As I’ve been thinking about fear in my life and how it affects me personally, I’ve also been thinking about how fear has affected us on a national level. The theme of fear has come up in the media again and again in one form or another. Fear on the personal level and fear on a national and global level. And, I’ve been asking myself what can I do to help us heal our fear. What comes to me is that I’ve got to join the conversation about what’s happening in this country.

I’m not someone who’s going to go out and march in the streets. I believe the change begins within me. I also believe what Eckart Tolle says, that “what we resist persists and what we fight grows stronger.” That’s not to say that demonstrations are wrong. They often bring attention to a situation that needs to be changed. It’s just not my calling to be out there protesting, or demonstrating. My calling is the written word. So, I’m going to pose some questions that might help you think about your own fear, if you are experiencing it as your predominant emotion. Do you think we live in a hostile or friendly universe? Do you believe God is loving, or vengeful? Do you believe what’s written on our money, “In God we trust”? Do you like what fear has done to our country? I mean, I think almost everyone will agree we’re in a mess right now. Are you willing to let go of your personal fears? Or, is everything just fine the way it is? If you trusted God to handle your life, how would you feel?

Yesterday I watched the episodes of Super Soul Sunday with Oprah interviewing Inda.Arie. She sang a song that touched me to my core. I want to include just a bit of the chorus. The song is “Break the Shell,” from her new album Songversation. I think the song speaks about how to leave our fear behind. Go check out her album.

“We have a choice to live, or truly be alive. This is your life. Child, it’s time to break the shell. Life’s going to hurt, but it’s meant to be felt. You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself. You cannot fly until you break the shell.”

This is just a snippet of a much larger inner dialogue that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time. Since none of us see the world in exactly the same way, I want to read your thoughts about what I’ve written, so please leave a comment.

Joy of Life

“The most absurd and reckless aspirations have sometimes led to extraordinary success.” 

- Vauvenargues, was a French writer.

I just finished reading Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. A long title for a great book that reminded me what I’d learned from my dad; that life’s an adventure, the good and the bad. Feel it all. If you don’t, the colors fade and life’s a chore, or worse hell. I’d rather embrace life to the fullest. So, I’ll go out on a limb and tell you about a crazy thing I did.

Five years ago, I retired from my secure teaching job to become a writer. I’d only been teaching for ten years, so my annuity isn’t very large. I know some of you will think I was really stupid. However, it’s turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a struggle and sometimes down right frightening.

I may have written in an earlier post about my epiphany on my way to school in the spring of 2007. My soul was telling me I was supposed to be a writer and not a public school teacher. I have to say, I love being in the classroom. I love seeing the light bulbs go off as my students gain new understandings. But, I’d been feeling restless for quite some time. I knew my life wasn’t quite what it could be. Then inspiration, or God, or my soul got through and I knew I was going to be a writer.

On the last day of school I was packing up my room. I’d decided to teach one more year. That would make my teaching career an even ten years. As I packed, I was thinking of my writing life ahead. The thought came to me, I could quit right now. I haven’t signed my contract. The moment I thought that, I was filled with the most profound joy. It permeated my entire being. My skin tingled, my heart pumped for joy. I felt as if I could float out of the room. That feeling stayed with me while I loaded the car and on my hour drive home. I couldn’t wait to tell Barry. I sailed through the door confident that he’d be filled with joy too. Boy was I wrong. When I told him about my experience and the possibility of quitting sooner, a look of fear spread over his face and burst my joy bubble. Mine was the larger income. “How will we make up your income.” Logic set in. The joy was gone. I had no answer.

When I walked up to the School District office with my signed contract, my heart was heavy. I knew that feeling well. When I make a decision that goes against what my soul wants, even if it does look crazy, my heart is heavy and my stomach sinks. It’s so different than the elation I’d felt just a few days earlier.

I worked that last year. It was a good year. I learned a lot about living in the present moment. About taking a breath and getting centered. I was also inspired to apply at the local Community College as adjunct instructor, which has turned out to be a great learning experience.

I can’t say that these five years have been easy. Oh, no. We’ve had financial difficulties. I’ve felt clutching fear about money at times. But, We’ve also faced our fears, and asked for and received Divine help in setting financial goals, which are now putting us on a more secure footing. Barry and I have never starved, we still have our house and we’ve learned to trust again. We’re always taken care of, if we allow it. We’ve worked through our fears and for me at least, I’ve learned that I am not the amount of money in my bank account, nor the clothes I wear, the car I drive, or the house I live in. I’m so much more. I’ve also learned there are so many things to appreciate about life. We’re both finding new creative outlets. And I love writing.

As I was finishing Brené Brown’s book, I remembered a silly little incident when I took Barry home to meet my family that illustrates what it’s like to feel joy in life.

It was our Christmas break. Barry and I had become engaged the winter before, but he’d never met my family. We’d had a great time during our visit. On New Year’s eve, we decided to stay home with my parents. Neither one of us are party people, and we didn’t have friends to go out with. So, we stayed home, watched the celebrations on TV, ate popcorn, and played games. As the ball in Time Square descended and the count down commenced, Barry prepared to give me my New Year’s kiss. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. We were startled when dad yelled “Happy New Year,” jumped out of his recliner and hopped to mom’s recliner to give her a kiss. She had the chair reclined and dad leaned too hard on the chair. Mom, dad and the recliner ended up upside down. We were all laughing so hard we couldn’t get mom right again for several minutes. Barry said, “Now I know I’ll fit into this family.” It’s a moment of joy that we told over and over again at family gatherings. It’s one of the stories we shared at the family reunion just after dad’s death.

My dad had Joy of Life and he taught that to me, even though I forgot it for awhile. It’s back now. I’m grateful for so many things, especially my decision to become a writer. I may never be rich and famous, but I’m doing what I love. I wouldn’t change a thing.