What Happens When the Fear Wins?

This is not the post I wanted to be writing at the beginning of the year. I wanted to start the new year filled with hope and the promise of better things to come.  I had started looking forward to possibly writing a book and perhaps performing again.  I was starting to feel the bubbles of creativity, life, possibility.  And then last night happened.

I had heard about an open mic opportunity at the Rapp Saloon in Santa Monica.  I’d been wanting to get out in front of an audience again and here was an easy, sweet opportunity.  Three miles from home, show up at eight to sign up, read a poem.  In retrospect, not such a big deal, and yet…

Somehow this molehill grew into a mountain – not logical, but then fear rarely is.  Over the course of the day, I agonized over the decision.  Worried about it being at night, finding parking, even fussing with the parking machine.  My rational brain said – take an Uber. You know you want to do this.  What are you so afraid of?  It’s not like I hadn’t read my work, or done an open mic.  But obviously that had nothing to do with it….

The difference this time was that I let the fear win.  I conceded.  Gave in to safety and comfort and then berated myself for that choice.  So not only had I given in to my fear, but now I beat myself up for that choice.

I’ve written about fear before, and of overcoming it.  We all want to be heroes, it feels so good to overcome the obstacles, the dragon.  But as I journaled this morning, I realized the lesson this time was about how I move through this process. How do I come to peace with a choice made in panic and fear that this time around – won?

Pen and notebook in hand, I began, a mother speaking gently to her daughter. “Dear one, my dearest little one, you have been so very, very brave.  Time and time again you have leaped into the unknown, taken risks, feared and jumped anyway.  For whatever reason, and it does not matter the reason, you needed something different.  You needed safe.  You needed comfort.  You needed home. There is no shame in that.  There are times we expand and times we need to pull back.  You have been stretched to the edge and on this dark and foggy night, it was time to seek comfort in the shelter of your bed.”

Though I softened at these words, the critical, judgmental, societal self, kept telling myself I’d made the wrong choice, I should have been braver.  I had been a coward.  So what else did I need to let this go?

Perhaps it is was as simple as accepting I was human, perfectly imperfect.   We are the light and the dark.  We do not always succeed.  We are not always kind.  We are not always brave and powerful.  We do not always choose in our best self-interest.  We make mistakes, say hurtful things, make stupid choices.

And in acknowledging that, could I release the emotional attachment to the act?  Could I choose to look at it, not as an act of courage or cowardice, but rather that I chose to go left rather than right?  On this dark and foggy night I went home, not out.

This life is a marathon.  There are twists and turns and switchbacks and detours.  In the big picture, last night is a blip in my journey.  There will be ample opportunities when I will choose ‘yes,’ when I’m afraid, but will leap anyways.  I know I will keep growing and expanding – it is human nature to do so.

Do I still feel that I’ve let myself ‘off the hook,’ with the human argument?  Maybe, a little (I am a human work in progress).  But the edge is easing, the shame melting.  It is a new day with infinite possibility.  I can choose to continue to gnaw away at my choice last night.

Or, I can let it go…. and leap into the potential of the new day.


To your journey.


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