You’re afraid, I’m afraid, let’s talk about it over the apples
One day a few years back I was driving my daughter to school, when she said, her voice quavering, “Mommy, I’m just so afraid.”
My heart broke a little bit. I reached out and grabbed her hand and said, “Oh honey, me too. I’m afraid every single day.”
I so wanted to assure her that being afraid was so common, so not a big deal, but I didn’t have the words.
Since then I’ve often wondered: why is it we talk so little about being afraid? I’m lucky enough to hang out with people who talk openly about their fears, who welcome them in, witness them, let them dissolve without identifying with them. People who can just plain say, “I’m afraid,” without making it a big deal – but I know that’s mostly not the norm.
Not at the office or in the boardroom. Maybe not with our family or some of our friends. We don’t say, “I’m afraid” or “I feel a sensation of tightening” or “I don’t know what’s going to happen, and not knowing makes me afraid.”
We don’t talk openly about these states. What might happen if we did?
I’d love to go to the grocery store and overhear someone ask a friend, “How are you?” and hear, “Kind of terrified.” Maybe they hug and then one picks up the rosemary bread and the other some apples, and off they go about their day.
Fear seen, fear shared, fear dissipating.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if President Obama gave a press conference, and he talked about how he deals with his fear so he can make the daily enormous decisions he has to make? I so want to know how he copes.
But if he did this, people might say he was weak. That you should not expose your fears, that other leaders will prey on those fears. That it is all about appearing strong.
But I wonder: does that have to be true? I don’t know, but I wonder.
Fear is never going away; it is hardwired into our brains and nervous systems. Surely we are at the point where we can talk about it, share how we deal with it, learn from it?
Surely we can do that, and maybe by doing that, evolve.
This openness – and sharing of how we settle ourselves down – could help us banish our shame of being afraid. Fear feeds on itself when it remains in the dark. Fear and shame collude to keep us disconnected from each other, in believing we are separate. It’s so easy to believe you’re the only adult who avoids going alone to parties or the only woman in the world who’s afraid she’s not smart enough to re-enter the workforce or the only writer whose work sucks rocks. But it’s so not true.
So here is what I’m afraid of in this moment: my mom dying – she looked so old and frail when I visited a few minutes ago. Here’s what I’m also afraid of: not learning to love her, really let go of my hurt and stories, before she goes. Here’s what else: that she won’t die for years and years and she will suffer and so will I.
Hi fears, I see you. Or rather, you are seen by the endless beingness that is always present. Seen and heard utterly.
Let’s normalize fear. Let’s express when we are afraid and let’s share – without giving preachy advice (please!) – what we do to remember our basic goodness, the ground of being, our okayness – no matter what.
Why not change how we do business, how we talk to our kids, how our politicians frame the crises of our time by being honest?
I don’t think this will give fear power but rather help fear assume its natural evolutionary place.
Why let fear run anything any longer?
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So much love,
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