“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt You Learn by Living
I don’t know about you, but with all the things that are happening in our world, culture and lives are riddled with fear, and for the most part takes center stage in our lives, grabbing us by the throat and suffocating us in our decision-making process. The irony of it is that most of the time we don’t even realize it. This is partly true because of the media and the learned behavior from our culture tends to stylize “fear” as a socially acceptable form of “stress.” And stress—stress is considered a trophy of success!
In the 60s “fear is for sissies or chumps”. It is a sign of weakness. It was confused with shame and courage and it was something that we needed to hide from others and deal with it in secret. In literature it was called “The Dark Night of the Soul”. NOT! I have lived long enough to know that FEAR and COURAGE cannot share the same couch. It became a truth especially when I was paralyzed in 1990 and when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Here is how the scenario ran for me, when I was diagnosed both times it was a Game Changer. My life was never going to be the same. The fear of not being able to walk was Huge! The doctors could not find out what was causing it and it was slowly climbing up my legs and Thank God it stopped when it affected my gag reflex. The doctors finally came up with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Angela who became a dear friend who was diagnosed two years before me had to walk with a cane and had to cross the street in NYC at the slide which is where folks in wheelchairs were able to navigate the street and sidewalk curbs. Others in my support group were not so lucky, some died, some were put on a respirator for the rest of their lives. Being an active thirty something year old who played Varsity Tennis. I was devastated. What made matters worse was that my father did not believe it was a real illness. There is nothing wrong with you, it’s all in your head, you need to snap out of it and get a job! Fear became a permanent resident in my heart.
Fear is sneaky, and it shows up in all kinds of disguises, but until you see it for what it is, it’s hard to come into right relationship with fear. So, I decided I had had enough. Fear was now something that I had to stop somatizing! I decided to face it and embrace it as a part of my life. Here are the riff changes I used to get my life back. Who knew that I would once again re-enter my life in 2000 with my diagnosis of Breast Cancer.
- You are unique – Perfection is the conduit to Fear of Failure
If you become afraid of criticism, failure, or rejection, you are setting yourself up to the illusion of being perfect. Growing up with jazz and the musicians who improvise and create their own style of living which is facing fear and adversity; I learned that trusting and accepting that God’s grace allows us to recover and heal us because we weren’t made perfect —facing fear is the portal to real intimacy, to be known, loved, and accepted for our true self.
- Don’t settle.
Taking risks is a major part of living. If you become afraid to take risks, challenge conformity, and go for what you really want you have let fear and your ego convince you that you are not good enough. Then you feel that all of your relationships, your job, and your Life is as good as it gets. You have forgotten how to dream. That childhood curiosity and imagination are lost. Settling is not an option. When you choose to face and get past your fear, hope is reawakened in your heart. That choice speaks to creating the future where you will not stand for anything less than joy, vitality, even miracles. Mindfulness meditation and improvisation helps to focus on what you want and where your values are.
- Say yes to the Stress.
Being afraid that you will disappoint people or get rejected if you don’t say yes, you have given the power to others and what is outside of yourself. When you choose, make that choice because it will benefit everyone. Friends are not really friends if they do not respect your choices. Only you know what is good for you!
- No means No.
You cannot fear something that you know in your heart is the right choice. If you fear you’re your friends or loved ones will not like you or they want to go in a different direction as you and you don’t want to go in that direction and are afraid of losing them, then I have found that they were not really my friends. You have to risk it to get the biscuit! No keeps life honest. It requires thought and consideration and if you decide that No is right for you, go with it now matter what. It’s healthy.
- There is no escaping fear.
Fear can cause a lot of inner pain, a kind of soul sickness that manifests as depression, anxiety, restlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, frustration, sadness, loneliness, and fatigue. We live in a society that there is a Pill for everything. The best medicine is to confront and face the discomfort to triumph over feeling the inner pain and void that all of us face one time or another in life. Drinking or drugging is just another panacea that eludes us into believing that we can control our pain and fear. It does just the opposite. It will affect you in so many negative ways that it could take you down a path that you may not be able to recover from. Fear is transformative because if you use mindfulness mediation and then improvise using your experience and style it is a way better high than any drug or drink can give you. It will also build your repertoire that will last a lifetime. You will develop the chops to do the deep transformative work that leads you to freedom. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best…Discipline of mind and body is one of the most difficult things one has to acquire, but in the long run it is a valuable ingredient of education and a tremendous bulwark in time of trouble. Certainly, it is essential in meeting defeats and recovering from disaster.
- Why put off tomorrow what you can do today.
That speaks to the everyday choices you make that will keep you in your groove. Procrastination is good when you prioritize it in terms of staying in the moment. It is very helpful to me when I look at the situation or the task and decide that I will not worry about that now, I will worry about that at 6 o’clock this evening when I am able to focus and meditate the best plan of action. Scheduling specific times to worry, fear, etc. is the best way of living in the moment.
- Don’t Freeze UP.
It is harmful to practice avoiding to make a decision or take an action that you know you must make. It’s a good thing to trust your gut or intuition will tell you that it’s time to leave a toxic relationship or to go a different way. It is critical to set boundaries with your loved ones, friends and people in general. Be impeccable with your words and speak up when your integrity is breached at work or in your daily life.
8. You are responsible to control You and no one else.
The only thing we can truly control in our lives is breathing, walking, and sustain ourselves. So leave the micromanaging and manipulating control to God or the Universe. When I realized that being right, or manipulating a situation is so WRONG and not in my control I found that life is so joyous and liberating. I know that my parental unit was deemed with that control thing when I was a child. However, the flip side would be to empower me with the skills and swagger to act in the world on the foundation of values and beliefs that benefit everyone and not just myself. Letting go is powerful in that it resonates with harmony and brings about miracles.
- Sometimes we should use the Right to Remain Silent.
There is nothing worse in this world than a person who is full of unsolicited Advice. When folks come up to me, whether they are friends, family or coworkers, the best thing I have learned to do is listen. Not go into some diatribe about how it happened to me and what happened and just taking over the conversation. Yes it is true, I is not about you all the time!
- When Fear has its way.
Fear isn’t just an uncomfortable feeling that holds you back from following your dreams, connecting with your true tribe, and serving out your life’s purpose. It can serve as a trigger for stress responses in the body that can morph into disease and prevent the body’s ability to heal itself. Fear has had its way with me when I was just a little chick. It played a major role in my paralysis and living with breast cancer. Facing fear is what keeps my thrivin’ and most of all alive.
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