This post refers to the fear you face after you initiate a big life change, but you can apply it to fear in general. Reader Jennifer writes that she is inspired by my post, “A Quick And Dirty Guide To Happiness,” and is in the midst of making her own big life change. BUT, she reports,
You forget to mention the in between [choosing what you want and going for it]. The land of scared shitless while you radically change your life.
What a kickass observation. So you’ve taken that new job, moved out, bought the ring, split with your spouse or S. O., dropped your life savings on a business venture. . .you declared what you wanted, you pulled that fucking trigger, and are insta-regretting it. Here come the mind’s flurry of post-apocalyptic, anxiety-provoking, worry-warting, panic-inciting, nerves-make-me-fart, pass-me-the-moonshine, absolute worst case scenarios. That’s where the mind always goes, you know. Worst. Case. Scenario. It also happens to be the scenario with the highest likelihood NOT to happen. And even if it did, you my gladiator friend, could crush it.
Having been through several wicked tough life changes, and having engaged in the life changes of many others, I have observed that this paralytic state of fear is EXACTLY what drives us right back to that poison complacency from which we were running to begin with. We’re like babes again, the holy pissed off newborns screeching,
Ewww!!! Air!!! I changed my mind! Cram me back in there, YOU VICIOUS BASTARDS! For the love of Christ, I’ll suck amniotic fluid for life! I don’t care if it tastes like piss! IT’S WARM IN THERE!
I call this period “The Fallout.” I wrote about it in 2017 using the tough split with my fiancee as an example in the fourth entry of my About A Breakup series. My friends, this is a crucial period of reflection and healing, and it will serve to generate TREMENDOUS self growth and happiness if you will let it. As stated in About A Breakup,
YOU CAN AND MUST ENDURE THE FALLOUT before taking any alternate actions!
Easier said than done as you buy stock in Kleenex, drink your life away and eat your weight in Ben & Jerry’s, right? Well, give me five to ten minutes before you drown yourself in tears and trudge back to your amniotic sac. Immensely exhilarating rewards await those who are brave enough to weather the uncertainty of The Fallout. Here’s a word on dealing with that debilitating fear after you drop the atom bomb and initiate a big life change.
In life, two things are always in play: how you feel, and what you’re committed to. When you truly understand the relationship between these two things, you’ll indeed have a powerful weapon in your arsenal for dealing with fear. You can be committed to a lot of things. Unfortunately for us humans, most of us are committed to our feelings. And herein lies the problem. Here’s an example.
This might come a shock to those who know me. To say I’m not a morning person is an understatement. As my parents can attest, when I was a kid, waking me up was like poking a corpse with a stick. And not much has changed. It still pretty much takes an act of God to get my static cadaver out of bed every morning. But if you can ever get me moving, I’m my typical animated self the rest of the day. So I usually put my phone on the floor across the room so when the alarm goes off, I’m forced to fall out of bed and do an emaciated zombie crawl to hit snooze, which I do around forty times whilst I pass in and out of consciousness in some disfigured position on the floor.
I’m a trauma nurse and I like what I do. And on most mornings, despite FEELING like the walking dead for the first hour after waking, I get to work on time. On these days, I’m committed to relieving my exhausted night shift co-workers, starting the day off on time with my work partner, and oh yeah, not getting a final citation for excessive tardies. But on SOME days, the mesmerizing spell of the illustrious Mr. Sandman takes over. On THESE days, I’m committed to the blissful hypnotic feeling of slumber and a few extra minutes of euphoric Mad Hatterish dreams.
It’s a small scale example for a very large scale concept. At any given point in a day, you’re FEELING a certain way, be it enthused, tired, angry, sad, excited, horny, indifferent, fearful. . .whichever the hell of a million feelings is present. And we humans love some damn feelings. We love them like Big Pharma loves chronic disease. And sometimes our feelings work in our favor. They gel with our goals, and moving forward seems easy and natural. But what happens when you FEEL tired, angry, depressed, fearful? What then? What I want you to get out of this post is simple:
You are NOT your feelings.
Now before all the congealed clowns get bent, no, I’m not saying feelings are bad. Feelings can be sweet and nice and euphoric and just frickin’ dreamy! And when you have THOSE feelings, moving in on your goals is easy. Hell yes to life! But now that you know that you can make a conscious choice between your feelings and your commitments, then when your feelings DON’T jive with your goals in life, well you can respectfully thank them for sharing their opinion; and also they can go to hell. You, my gladiator friend, have life to live.
Do you know what “fearless” actually means? Dictionary.com would say it means “without fear.” I disagree. Just ask any Medal Of Honor recipient if fear was present during an act of valor. Of fucking course it was. The beautiful truth, my friend, is that neither you nor I will ever be completely void of fear. It’s human nature. True fearlessness is to FEEL the sensation of fear (or sadness, or loneliness, or anxiety, or pain, etc.) and take action anyway.
Practice allowing fear, and any other adverse feelings, to be present, and acknowledge them for exactly what they are: feelings. Then keep moving forward, and don’t look back. But on the flip side, allow fear to dictate your choices, and you will reap a far scarier result: regret. I don’t regret much these days. But know this, and I speak from much experience: I’ve only truly regretted the times when I stayed in my comfort zone, or ran back to it, when I knew damn well I was being called to greater things.
Have you ever experienced, or had friends or family who experienced, that longass shitty relationship that you KNEW they were miserable in? They broke up and made up ad nauseum. With every breakup, you thought, Jesus Muhammad Ramirez, let this be the one that sticks. And they’d get sad or lonely or scared and go right back to the comfort of each other’s arms (or other parts). I call this Amniotic Sac Syndrome (ASS). It’s a phenomenon I pulled out of my ass just now. It happens when we make a great big empowering choice toward happiness, we catch a few feelings of fear and anxiety, and we allow said feelings to drive us back to safe and comfortable. And stale. And pissy. Like an amniotic sac. See what I did there?
My friends, take courage and go where you know your heart is calling. Do it daily, despite the fear of the unknown. This universe will rally around you and miracles will happen. You’ll look back and realize you accomplished things you’d previously only dreamed of. Your story will light people up! I know from personal experience. Take it from the guy who went from a lifetime of suicidal ideations to a passion for life. True story. (check it out here).
Photo creds in order of appearance:
“Spirits In The Night” by Thomas Hawk (https://flic.kr/p/4rmweS)
“Mad Santa” by Branden Williams (https://flic.kr/p/5FUvJV)
“zombie-057” by runmonty (https://flic.kr/p/dhjchR)
“MARK TWAIN — A Long Lost Photo?” by Okinawa Soba (Rob) (https://flic.kr/p/8rL3z4)