Thursday, July 21, 2016

It Wasn't Courage if You Weren't Scared....

This post from last year has been getting a lot of views so I thought I'd repost it.

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Wasn't it brave of her to say that out loud? Georgia O'Keefe, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, a pioneer for women artists and a woman who lived what appeared to be an adventurous life, was scared the whole time. Wait - not just scared - she was terrified every moment!

Call me crazy, but I find that very comforting.

And recently I read a piece from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things, in which she talked about her own fear. She basically said that she'd been afraid most of her life, and it had bothered her until she realized it was just the way humans are and decided to accept it, and more importantly, not to let it stop her.

Fear is a real thing, and I'm pretty sure anyone who says they haven't been mostly scared is either full of baloney or in denial. I've known people who kind of swagger with cocky declarations that they aren't afraid of anything, but I don't buy it. I think it's just that what we fear is different for everyone. I guarantee those folks are afraid of something - we just can't see what it is and they aren't about to tell us.

One person might not be scared to go bungee-jumping, but they might be scared to be in a relationship or to change jobs or to write a book. Another person might be petrified to go bungee-jumping, but might not be afraid to run for public office or to work for the Peace Corps in an unstable part of the world. And then there is the possibility that both people are afraid to do all those things, but each one chooses those things that they want to do more more than they fear doing them....

I used to be mad at myself for being afraid. And there were definitely times in my younger life when the fear held me back from doing certain things and it led me to make fear-based choices that didn't work out so well. But with time, I started to be able to do things despite the fear - to leave unfulfilling jobs, to travel, to move, to learn new things, to try new things, to write my books. Even now, when I sit down to write, I'm scared - that nothing will come; that what I write will suck. But by now I've developed some faith that if I show up at my desk, inspiration will come. I fear it won't, but I believe it will. And I want it more than I fear it.

It helps when we know we are in the good company of people like O'Keefe and Gilbert. It helps when they have the courage to actually talk about their fear out loud. We think people like that are different from us because they are so boldly out there in the world. But their honesty and openness helps us understand that we are all the same.

I'll let Elizabeth Gilbert have the closing word on Creativity and Fear:

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Be the Baby

Is anyone out there a worrier? I've always been one, though I will give myself credit for being far less of a worrier than I used to be. I mean, I used to worry about everything. My yoga practice and meditation have helped me a lot with "being present" and "accepting change" and not letting worry take away my present day joy. But there are still times and situations when my old worry habits can kick in and take over.

Like, when we travel. There is so much stress in travel today and, if you let it rule the day, that stress can discourage you from ever wanting to go anywhere! I'm speaking really of air travel, which is simply No Fun Anymore. There is the stress of getting to the airport on time, parking, checking in, going through security and getting to the gate. If you're like me, then every step of the way through all that you are constantly checking to make sure you haven't dropped your ID, lost your boarding pass or left your backpack in the restroom.

We recently went on vacation to Arizona, and all of those things were on my mind. Everything went fine - we even landed in Phoenix early. But my worried mind wasn't ready to settle down as we boarded the shuttle bus to take us to car rental, which in Phoenix is about a 10 minute jaunt from the terminal.

So I'm standing there on the shuttle bus, holding on to one of the bars of the luggage rack and running through my list of concerns: Would the car be ready? Would it be a good car? Would I be able to add my husband as a driver for no extra cost? Would the gps crap out or send us the wrong way? Do I have my license and AAA card?

A mother with a baby carrier boarded and stood beside me, resting the carrier on the luggage shelf, which fortunately, wasn't needed for luggage. She clearly had gone through all the same rigamarole as we all had, with the added stress of managing the baby AND her luggage.

The shuttle started up, jostling us over the bumpy airport frontage roads. Of course I found myself looking at the baby, because babies are cute. This one was extremely cute. But this one was more than just cute - this one was happy and content. He smiled and gurgled as we bounced along. His mother spoke to him and he giggled and wiggled his hands. We hit a bump in the road and he laughed at the surprise of it.

I thought about how this baby had no idea whatsoever that this was supposed to be stressful. He was just going for a ride. He was enjoying the ride. This baby was totally in the moment. And I thought about how we lose that ability as we grow up and grow older, because we become aware of all the myriad possibilities of things that can go wrong, and we don't want them to go wrong.

But that's not the problem really - of course sometimes things will go wrong. The problem is that this is where we end up living all the time - in The Place Where Things Might Go Horribly Wrong.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, things go fine. But we tend to live in that other one percent, all wrapped up in fear that bad things will happen. What a waste! I realized how silly it was to worry about whether or not the car would be ready - I've rented cars a hundred times and they've always been ready! And if we had to wait a little...well, so what! And I've never had a problem with a rental car. Yes, my gps has been known to misdirect or crap out, but Phoenix is familiar to me, plus there's the safety net of the cell phone these days. So none of these fears represented anything that was a really big deal, but altogether they were adding up to stress and a headache. I started mentally repeating, "Be the Baby. Be the Baby. Be the Baby." I even closed my eyes and let my body move with the swaying and lurching of the bus, instead of tensing against it. I found myself actually smiling and beginning to relax and enjoy the ride.

Since then I've used my "Be the Baby" mantra a few times when I felt myself starting to worry about something and it instantly boots me back to the present moment, like pressing a re-set button. In the present moment, everything is fine. If things are going to go wrong, they will. But probably they won't. And if they do, I'll deal with it. Babies are like little Buddhas, living each moment as it comes. If something goes wrong, they cry. But until then, they smile and laugh and enjoy the ride.

Be the Baby. Be the Baby. Be the Baby. Give it a try.