I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately.
My choices, my decisions, my reactions, my expectations. The experiences I’ve had, the things I’ve said yes to, no to, or worried about in between before deciding yes or no, well, fear has had a role. Sometimes a starring role.
Big whoop. So who doesn’t have fear? But even after knowing we all have fear in common, our problems are still here, waiting for us. Knowing may help me feel better for a bit, but after a while I get lost in the what ifs and the should or shouldn’t haves and I’m in my own world again.
Over the years I’ve heard about “letting go” but like a lot of things that sound good and maybe make me feel good for about a nanosecond, I’ve never really understood it. I classified it as one of those higher power things for the truly gifted, like the monks and the enlightened. And to be totally honest, I often don’t want to let it go. I want answers. I want justification. I want victory.
But lately, I’m looking at letting go with a more open mind. I mean, holding on hasn’t exactly laid inner peace at my feet. Holding on, I’m discovering, takes a lot of energy, and has a righteous scent to it. If feels like you’re doing your job, paying your dues, whatever. And after a day, month or years, something I’ve held on to that’s now acceptable is usually because I was too tired or too spent after the struggle. If I look under the surface, it’s because in the end, I let go.
I think it’s the reason why some things don’t hurt anymore, like losing some friendships. I had this storybook idea since I was a kid of what a good friendship looked like. You became friends since day one, you shared things, did everything together. So anytime I made a friend, that’s what I wanted to see happen. Badly. Those friendships fell apart, every time. I started to back off, then got cynical and bitter.
Over time, I dropped the cynical and bitter part, and just backed off. Later still, I wizened up and began to stay open. I let go of expectation and my old ideas of what friendships should be. Since then I’ve met the most wonderful people, they’ve told me things and I’ve told them things, real things, and I’ve been having so much fun. Yes, some things hurt along the way but I’m able to let those go. It’s more liberating than I could’ve ever imagined.
There are some other areas of my life where, for some reason, I’m reluctant to let go. They feel too important for that, too serious. And I’ve been holding on so tight that I’ve found myself holding on to nothing while life passes me by. It scares me. Welcome to the Big Leagues, says fear. I know it’s instinctive to self-protect but at times I’ve done it so much I’ve closed myself off from life. You can’t live life if you’re busy shielding yourself from it.
But how do you let go of the big fears in life? If you can’t control your life, then what do you do? What are you left with?
I’ve been reading, trying to find answers. There are plenty of people smarter and wiser than me, and I bet they’ve figured this stuff out. Here’s a confession, though: a small part of me, way in the back and in the dark, doesn’t want to find out. It means everything could change and I’m not sure I’m ready for that.
The consensus, it seems, is to not wait till the fears go away. Which sounds ridiculously obvious but ask me how often I’ve caught myself wishing or doing just that in real life situations. Plenty.
The other consensus is to move through it. Enter: letting it go. Not avoidance, not figuring it out, not thinking and processing it, because all that only feeds fear and makes it bigger. Letting go, from what I understand, is to see it, acknowledge it, letting it come up inside you and as quickly as possible, releasing it. Release it by relaxing, smiling, breathing, laughing, anything that opens you rather than closes. And quickly, before you gather steam and speed downward on a negative spiral; it’s gets more difficult the longer you wait.
Well, easier said than done. How many of us fear rejection? As an example, let’s take writing. My fear of rejection is pretty strong. Should I bother writing my next book? I’ve stopped and stalled on writing it so many times that I’ve questioned if I have anything worthwhile to say. See, fear is written all over that. And I’ve been holding on to it so tight that some days I’ve not written a single word. The fear prophecy is coming true; if I don’t write it, it’s guaranteed no one will read it.
But we have even bigger fears than that. Loneliness. Feeling good enough. Failure. Success. Being loved, or not.
I want to be the kind of person who’s brave, who can change, who can let the fear rise up and then release it, but I honestly don’t know if I have what it takes. The best thing any one of us can do is to take one step at a time and do our best.
We can be aware each time we feel fear, then try to release it.
We can see it for what it is instead of giving into it.
We can start small. The next potential argument, or an old memory; each trigger is an opportunity.
We can start today.
Will it work? Is letting go worth it?
There’s only one way to find out.