Whenever we make a big decision, especially those kind that potentially change the entire trajectory of our lives, fear kicks in.
Here’s how I visualize what my fear looks like. She’s a frail, completely unassuming, painfully soft-spoken, middle-aged woman, that wears nothing but beige. Beige turtlenecks, beige pleated trousers, beige knee-high socks, beige granny panties. Her arms are always crossed tightly in front of her and she’s constantly looking over her shoulder, expecting someone or something to grab her from behind. Nothing terrible has ever happened to her before, because she’s been entirely safety-focused her whole life. But for that same reason, nothing spectacular has ever happened to her either.
With every move I was ever about to make, I could feel her hot breath on my ear, with a cold whisper, telling me of all the things that could go wrong. The money I could lose, the limb that could get yanked off, and the ways in which my heart could be steam-rolled or crucified. I usually tried one of two things to pacify her; either I told her to f*** off, or I tried to reason with her. If I told her to beat it, she only spoke louder and with more conviction. If I tried to reason with her, we would get embroiled in a battle of wits that would leave me too exhausted at the end of it to follow-through with the thing that had started the debate in the first place.
Now can you picture the deranged laps she was running in my head when I couldn’t hide my decision to travel the world any longer? Yup, like a chicken with its head cut-off, but the head continued to cluck, louder than ever. I had to find a new way to talk to her, for my sake and for hers.
I invited her to a civilized sit-down dinner, complete with porcelain dish wear and crystal glasses (I had Prosecco, she chose sparkling cider). She arrived at the dinner defensive and heavily armed with counterarguments, and was completely thrown off when I gave her the floor first. I thanked her for showing up and asked her to tell me everything that she wants me to hear. She spoke for a while, a common side-effect to being shushed for so long. It was simple; she was scared that I would get hurt and she didn’t want me to go through that.
I held her hand and she gripped mine tightly. Then I thanked her. I thanked her for always being there to protect me, to make sure that I look both ways of my emotional streets before I cross their roads. I thanked her for working diligently with my intuition to make sure that I stick around, to keep living. And then I told her that while I need her to speak up, I also need her to hear my heart. Although this heart of mine has been through dozens of bloody battles, it has always emerged, with lessons to share and stories to tell. And that if she and my heart work together, that’s how I can really be happy, really live, and ironically, really be safe.
Because you learn how to manage this wild world when you’ve totally lived in it, not from peering out the window at it.
Her and I still have our squabbles here and there, but we get each other now. I guess sometimes that’s just the trick, to invite something in and have a conversation with it, so that it can inform you, rather than control you.