on being afraid

Being afraid is a b*!#@! Regardless of what it is exactly you’re afraid of, the experience of fear sucks. Heart pounding in your ears, mind racing crazy thoughts in spite of every attempt to talk yourself out of the crazy, imagination running wild, recalling every episode of CSI, NCIS, and that old show about missing persons and the FBI. Ugh!

The physiological response to fear can be overwhelming. Basically, as soon a person feels fear the amygdala (a small organ in the center of the brain) sends messages to the autonomic nervous system which then kicks in, creating a domino effect of events: increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, rapid breathing and release of adrenalin and cortisol. In return, the cerebral cortex effectively shuts down (well, is impaired at best). Problem is, the cerebral cortex is the part of the brain where reasoning and judgment live. This is a problem when you’re afraid, because often reasoning and clear judgment are the keys to avoiding panic and to making appropriate decisions.

When lying wide awake at 3:00 am, having one’s cerebral cortex take a coffee break is a real pain. Regardless of how many breathing exercises and peace mantras, prayers and self-reprimands one repeats, what inevitably comes to the forefront of the mind is that horrifically disturbing picture of a giant snake that someone just HAD to post on Facebook (and you’re convinced has now taken up residence in your attic) or a commercial for that new tv show, Stalker. Seriously!?!

Even when we are convinced that the fear we feel is largely unfounded or mostly unreasonable, our bodies beg to differ based on the responses we experience. When we feel it, it’s as real as the words on this page. And, when our reasoning is impaired it’s easy to let the fear take over.

For example, I slept with a nightlight on in my room the other night, something I hadn’t done since childhood. Continue reading

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and so it begins

I was talking to a long-time friend on the phone the other day. She was bemoaning the woes of being an adult and I said to her, “I still think I’m 29! I haven’t even decided what I want to be when I grow up!”

We laughed, knowingly, but then I couldn’t help but think: What exactly determines when one becomes an “adult?” Is it a particular age, a life event, a mindset? I’m not sure. And, I’m not sure where the notion was born that there is some magic moment that ushers us into “real” life where it gets legitimately good. What I do know is that I don’t want to be missing it, that I don’t want to be waiting around forever, watching as others’ lives move on and mine stays stagnant and stale.

I’m that person – you know, the one who is always waiting for the next thing, for that big momentous event when life will really start (get married, have a baby, land that dream job, take that big trip, get that terminal degree). The truth is, life for me started 39 1/2 years ago and will pass me right by if I’m not careful. I’m that person who at this point in my life doesn’t want to wake up six months before my 50th birthday and wonder what in the world I’ve been waiting for.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown writes: “But as I look back on my own life and what Daring Greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”

I wept when I first read this sentence. What exactly keeps us (me) from engaging in our own lives? I’m a master at living vicariously through other people – pilfering precious moments and pretending that the memories are mine, wishing that my life had as much meaning.

What I am learning, at least in theory, is that my life is worthy of its own meaning and memory-making even if it doesn’t look like I think it “should” by now. It’s a dangerous practice to judge one’s life by societal or cultural norms, to assign oneself “shoulds” and “ought tos.” We all have choice about our lives, and we can choose to show up and engage, or we can play spectator and miss out.

And, so it begins: my journey towards living with authenticity and courage in my life now – as it is and as it will become. What does that look like? Well, for one it means that I start choosing things for myself that bring me joy and fulfillment. It means that I own this wild and beautiful story of mine and that I find ways to live into my unique gifts and accept my imperfections. It means that I go confidently after my dreams rather than leave them on my pillow to pick up again another night.

To start: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve written articles and reflections in professional settings and for various meetings and events. I’ve written in journals and scribbled in notebooks, but I’ve never really had the courage to put myself out there.

And, so it begins. I want to be a writer. There. I said it. I want to be a writer; so, I will write. I will reflect. I will put myself out there for better or for worse and will write courageously as I discover how to live courageously. And, I’ll do a lot of it here and will invite you along. I know I’m not the only one who is waiting for life to start. I know I’m not the only one who has dreams and aspirations but is really frightened to chase after them. I know I’m not the only one who wants to live without regret, to meet each birthday with the assurance that I have not been wasting time or postponing joy but instead have been fully and completely engaged in my own becoming.

And, so it begins. Won’t you join me on this wild and wonder-filled journey?