“Love is the true antithesis of fear. It expands where fear constricts. It embraces where fear repels.” -Marion Woodman
I am not sure of the exact moment that I realized I was fearful of just about everything. But, I can pinpoint a year. It was 2001. I can’t decide if that overwhelming fear was associated with 9/11 or having a new baby girl at home. But, I suddenly found myself panicking when a new challenge or obstacle was placed before me. Even things that appeared silly to others would cause my heart to race. Crickets are the first thing that come to mind. Can you take it? Yes, I said crickets. We were living in a rental home with a camelback cricket problem. I would turn to my husband if I heard one at night. Knowing what that sideways glance meant, my beautiful husband would search the house looking for that unpredictable creature so that I could rest easy. When we moved into our new home different fears would overwhelm me. I would walk behind my son and daughter catching their every stumble. When they asked to go outside to roller skate you would have thought I was taking them to a roller derby. Knee pads, elbow pads, helmets, fingerpads (ha!) were all essential to their survival. Even after dressing them for all catastrophic events I would still go outside to supervise. And I know that I was not alone. So many of my mother friends stood guard over their children.
One day things started to change for me. I was visiting my courageous bestie-friend, Colleen, in NYC. There is a wall of rocks in Central Park that the city kids climb and explore. I stood in awe as her children took off for their adventure. I looked at her in disbelief that she wasn’t on their heels. My kids looked up at me tentatively and then ran to climb with their friends. I would like to say I didn’t run like a crazy person while screaming slow down, wait up, mommy is coming, but that would be a big, fat lie. I climbed those slippery rocks scared out of my ever-loving mind. I was dripping with sweat when we were done “playing” and Colleen just looked at me, shook her head and said something like, “I just love you.” Which is a northerners way of saying, “Bless your heart.” Would I have changed what I did that day even though I was embarrassed by my fear? No, those were some big a$$ rocks. But, I noticed a shift in my perspective when I returned to Virginia. I loved the independent nature of her kids so I started to let go little by little with my own children. The kids didn’t require a full on lesson in safety every time they walked out the door and I started to breathe easier when faced with a new challenge at work or home. When my husband decided he wanted to leave his sales job to become a firefighter I shocked myself by going into full support mode. Was I nervous? Absolutely. But my love for him trumped the fear and we walked straight into the fire. Ba-dum-bum.
Our dinner conversations were a lot of exciting, funny stories about life in the firehouse and I was left feeling a bit boring and anxious. Yes, I had started to give my children the freedom they desired and needed, but I hadn’t let go of my own fears. I was chasing the fear at every step. Instead of running through the fear, I found new items to add to my list of scary things. It was thoroughly exhausting. So one day, I made a promise that I would run through the fear straight into the arms of adventure. I knew I couldn’t do it alone so I enlisted the help of 9 messy, beautiful friends and the race toward exciting, worry-free, fearless lives was on! Over the past four years we have checked some pretty scary things off of our “TO LIVE” list. Some of our adventures have been tamer than others, but they always take us out of our comfort zone. We have stood steadfast encouraging one another to step off the ledge and do things that leave us shaking and terrified. At the end of each adventure we survey the damage and decide that every tear, drip of sweat and scream of terror is worth it. Life is full of surprises, both filled with joy and sorrow and I am thankful that I have them, as well as a pretty cool group of friends and family to walk alongside me, especially when old fears and anxiety come a-callin’!
I promised a challenge and I hope all who read this will accept it. I have started a public photo album and I would love all of you to email a picture to me with a caption or short paragraph explaining why that photo shows you running through the fear. (email@example.com). I will upload the photos with captions and links to your blog (if you have one) and in a few weeks will put the link on my social media pages and blog to encourage others to look fear in the face and then run like a cheetah right through it.
I know there are other fear chasing women out there that are hopeful for a life filled with adventure. It is possible and I hope you embrace that calling. My suggestion? Find some other messy, beautiful people to go on the journey with you. You will find that having them next to you will bring more love and laughter than you can imagine. Go get ’em!
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!