Sunday, January 03, 2016

On Facing Your Fears and New Year's Resolutions

"Stepping Out"  mixed media collage by Crystal Neubauer



“Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.” ~ John Wayne

A wise woman once told me that the way to get over a fear was to face the thing you were afraid of and realize you didn't die from it when you get to the other side.

As a sufferer of complex-PTSD I have a lot of practice with this. Wired from a childhood game of “watch the drunk man drive”, I lean hard toward the hyper-vigilant codependency, laced with a side of anxiety frame of mind.

Face the fear and do it anyway. Sage advice and very effective in getting things done. I've tried to live this mantra and have many accomplishments as a result of not letting fear limit me. But in the annual thinking of new goals for the year ritual, I've come to realize that this way of living, while allowing me a certain level of success, isn't really doing me any favors.

Instead of taking an ax to the root of the issue, I've been facing each fear like it's some sort of sumo wrestling match. I get into the ring with my fear, we stomp our feet at each other, noses flaring eyes bulging and start rolling around until one of us comes out on top. During times of high anxiety, it's more like a football game and I'm the only person on my team. I put on my helmet, clutch the ball, put my head down, and barrel my way through the line. Some days I score and others I am squashed under a heap unable to get up.

Always, always, fear has the power and I am the 90 pound weakling looking for a way to trick fear into looking the other way while I slip by unnoticed. Or to hell with it, just throw in the towel and retreat into myself and avoid life altogether.

Now before you get all judgey on me, or start writing me letters to cheer me up, I know I haven't corned the market on harboring fears. Fear is an insipid sneaky little devil that doesn't show up at your door announcing itself as fear, waiting for an invitation to come in. Much of what is wrong in our individual lives, communities and society stem from unacknowledged fear.

Fear is a loner. It travels at night, sneaks into your dreams and convinces you it is real.

Fear doesn't trust you to find your own way. It weaves itself in and out of your thoughts through familiar voices. It can disguise itself as the concerned advice of a friend.

Or convinces you that you are just being a friend when you dole out your own brand of unsolicited advice and try to fix other peoples lives.

Fear is a master of disguise.

Fear is a manipulator. It leaves books laying on the coffee table and articles pinned to its wall hoping you'll read about your problem so you'll come back to your senses.

Fear tells you your boundaries are unreasonable and your decisions are unsound. Fear says you took the easy way out. It cries for you in front of others and makes you question your own sanity.

Fear says you got what you deserved.

Fear makes you doubt which way is up and which way is down. No way does fear want you to know that you know.

Fear is more concerned about warning you than hearing you.

Fear tells you you are different. And it has already taught you different is bad.

Fear thinks you dress funny and pretends to be amused while warning you that leggings aren't pants, and lifting that eyebrow that says “you are going to change, aren't you?!” Because fear doesn't want you to express yourself. Or have any fun.

Fear doesn't want you to look different. Fear wants you to be suspicious of people who look different.

Fear subtly corrects you when you speak. Fear keeps you quiet when you have an idea because you might not say it right. Fear laughs at your grammar.

Fear tells you that you are too sensitive when you call it on its behavior. Because fear does not know how to apologize.

Fear is afraid you can take advantage of Grace. Fear thinks if you're given an inch of grace you will just go crazy and take an entire mile. Fear doesn't understand that Grace knows exactly how much you need and will even go the extra mile for you. Fear doesn't trust Grace.

Fear doesn't want you to eat the chocolate.

Sometimes fear tells you to hurry up and eat all the chocolate.

Fear doesn't think there is enough for everyone. Fear has a scarcity mentality.

Fear uses its own experiences to measure you. And wants you to use your experiences to measure others.

Fear tricks you into believing you don't measure others.

Fear believes absolute truth justifies black and white thinking. There is no gray area with fear, let alone room for all the amazing colors of the rainbow. Fear says if you are right then it has to be wrong.

And fear is never wrong.

Fear disguises itself with the American flag, has an Alma mater, and is fiercely loyal to the team even when someone else has been wronged.

Fear stops you from taking real action that can make a real difference because fear is comfortable and doesn't take risks. Fear numbs out in front of the TV.

Fear won't balance the checkbook. Fear doesn't want to learn.

Fear won't look at itself and doesn't want you to look at it either. Fear is afraid of your emotions. Especially the negative ones.

Fear doesn't want to sit with you through it. Fear only wants to tell you what you should do.

Fear tells you not to talk about it. And for heaven's sake don't write it on your blog! Fear tells you that talking about it is a weakness and a downer and not productive.

Fear says you just want to stay stuck in the past when you should be forgetting it. Fear says that means you harbor unforgiveness and have a victim mentality.

Fear disguises being afraid of others, of the world, and even yourself, as values. Fear convinces you that things cannot change. That they will only get worse. That you cannot make a difference. That you need to protect yourself with weapons, build really big walls and put bullies in charge.

Fear wants you to stay with the bullies. Fear is a bully.

Fear tells you that bullies can't change. Fear says you shouldn't expect them to.

When you really stop to face your fear, you find that it is often nothing more then Donald Trump in a fat suit. A blowhard with really bad acne and greasy hair growing more powerful and full of itself every time you listen to its hateful rhetoric.

Fear wants you to believe it has all the power. Fear will convince you that you have none.

Fear will twist your words about power and say you don't trust God, because you should cherish your weakness and let Him be strong.

2015 was a year that opened my eyes to just how much I fear. It came in large and shame inducing ways, it whispered its subtle lies in the middle of the night, and it pointed its finger from across the street. I've wrestled with it, I've run from it, shrunk from it, numbed out, checked out, and faced it head on and done the things I needed to do anyway.

White knuckles on the wheel all the way baby!

I have viewed fear as the opposition and me as the weaker party. But is that really true?

What if fear is here to teach me? Maybe fear really needs me to listen to it. Maybe fear keeps flaring up because it is afraid.

What if, instead of putting my head down and barreling my way through my fears, I take them all out and hold them in my hands and have a good long look at them? What if I put my arms around my fears and hold them tenderly and tell them it is all going to be okay?

I don't want to live an undivided life anymore. Putting on a brave face for all the world to see, all the while fighting this bloody battle to the death behind the scenes. I don't want to hide myself from fear, or from you, or from myself anymore.

I am not naive enough to think that this revelation will make it all disappear overnight, but I think there is something to this kinder gentler way of dealing with my fear. Of remembering my own power and looking at fear with curious eyes rather then fighting it back with more fear. And so this is my new year's resolution: I will own every part of me. It all matters and is all valuable to the whole of who I am. I will allow myself to face fear with the same love I would offer a friend. I will hear it out and answer it with reassurance and a hug.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect this is what I have been missing in this formula on courage and fear; Facing my fear, yes, but facing it with love. And facing myself in the same way.

16 comments:

  1. Beautiful post! I can definitely relate! We are so often our worst enemy, our harshest judge and critic. We never think it's OK to love ourselves, or give ourselves a break. Here's to a year of being kinder...to us! :-)

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    1. Thank you Jenny - and yes to a year of being kinder to us!

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  2. at a point in my anxiety/fear journey I stopped to thank it - that fear and anxiety helped me get throught my childhood - that hyper vigilance protected me, kept me safe - then I had to stop and thank it for the blessing of protection and tell it I didn't need it so much anymore - fear you can relax now - courage has got this now - tough battle continues but this has me tremendously - best wishes on your journey - nancy

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    1. I am always grateful and humbled to know others understand that journey. It is a tough battle sometimes and good to know I don't walk it alone. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment Nancy.

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  3. Oh Crystal- how you speak to & for the majority of humans who have ever existed! I believe that the F word is the single leading cause of 99.9% of all ills- bithpersonal & planetary. I am moved by your sharing, as I am by what I have read thus far in Eluzabeth Gilbert's latest book "Big Magic- Creatuve Living Beyond Fear". Pages 12-26 broke me open and brought me to tears of both joy and sorrow. You are not alone. You are perfect. You are loved. You are grace. We all are, and fear knows it and yes, is scared of us remembering. Because then, oh then, the magic of you would take back the power we were divinely created with and from. Standing alongside you on this path....~xo~

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Laurie. I have Big Magic on audible and have listened to it many times. You are loved too my friend!
      Crystal

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  4. Crystal, your words are gripping because they are so real. And all the while make me see that I am not crazy! Grace is good! Thank you for always sharing your heart.

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    1. You are not crazy. Grace is good! Lol! Yes. That lie has been spoken to me when my decision making doesn't line up with someone else's expectations. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment Re!

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  5. Those are powerful words that you wrote. I can relate to it. I've been living in fear all of my life. Well, I'm older now, much older, and thought that this year I would try to bury my fear, distract myself, anything to ignore it. After reading your post, I'm thinking this may not be the best way to deal with it. I've read books, etc. but nothing seems to work. I hope that you keep us posted on how you are dealing with this. You are an amazing person to put this out. Thank you. Karen Young

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  6. Crystal! Love this - When you really stop to face your fear, you find that it is often nothing more then Donald Trump in a fat suit. A blowhard with really bad acne and greasy hair growing more powerful and full of itself every time you listen to its hateful rhetoric.

    But - yes as a person who suffers with my fear - i have always just had to take a running jump to the place i want to be just to get in front of my fear, flying by the seat of my pants.

    But really our fear loves us and wants us safe - its just a little crazy and likes to run the show.

    Thanks for this post. I didn't make it up to Racine over the holiday to visit - but would still love to do that!

    Lisa

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    1. I honestly had the most disturbing dream with Donald Trump in it that prompted this blog post - and that description is pretty much how I see him. Talk about being synonymous with fear! lol! I'd love to have you visit the studio sometime. Be sure to contact me if/when you get up to this area!

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  7. Crystal! Love this - When you really stop to face your fear, you find that it is often nothing more then Donald Trump in a fat suit. A blowhard with really bad acne and greasy hair growing more powerful and full of itself every time you listen to its hateful rhetoric.

    But - yes as a person who suffers with my fear - i have always just had to take a running jump to the place i want to be just to get in front of my fear, flying by the seat of my pants.

    But really our fear loves us and wants us safe - its just a little crazy and likes to run the show.

    Thanks for this post. I didn't make it up to Racine over the holiday to visit - but would still love to do that!

    Lisa

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  8. Love this. Thank you for having the courage to write this and post it. PS Fear tried to tell me my sentence construction wasn't right and anyway you wouldn't want to read my comment!

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    1. Lois thank you for being brave enough to face that fear and comment anyway. I am humbled and grateful to wake this morning and find this post has touched one more person in a meaningful way!

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  9. Crystal, this post is the most inspirational piece of writing that I've read in a very long time. I suffer from a severe anxiety disorder and depression, to such a degree that I had to stop working and take early retirement. For over a year, fear has completely ruled my life; I've even stopped making art because I fear it won't be good enough. I so admire your courage in putting this out there - I have been too afraid to share my feelings with people, afraid of making myself vulnerable to judgement. I hope you won't mind if I share a link to this post on my blog, so that others can be inspired as I have been. Again, thank you. xo

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    1. I am humbled and grateful for your sharing here Sharmon. It does not make me glad to hear of your struggles, but it does help to know we are not alone in them. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave your comment, and for desiring to share the post with your audience.

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