Everything Because of Fear

Everything Because of Fear

It’s easy to think I’m making progress. Ten years ago I would fight with my girlfriend just to feel excitement. 

But the biggest shift is still in front of me. I’ve only just started and it’s already occupying all that I am. 

There are a number of reasons that lead someone to success. I have, by all standard accounts, achieved a great deal of success in my lifetime. I’ve had help and I am privileged, and I’ve also worked tremendously hard. 

I think of my dad. The way he could put his head down and get something done. There was nothing that could stop him. A machine without a doubt that he was the answer to every problem. 

I get like that. In the face of problems or chaos. Or sometimes I get like that just because. There’s a motor running inside me that feels something like coffee and ecstasy, wanting to run straight through things instead of finding a way around.

It’s no secret that the bench is deep for me in the mental health realm. The roster includes many of the greats – OCD, anxiety and depression, and PTSD. I also decided when I was 20 that I wasn’t going to take medication anymore. I would’ve rather felt out of control than nothing at all. 

And I’ve been on my way for some time. 

People roll their eyes when I order a salad at a restaurant on vacation. Or shrug their shoulders when I opt to go to bed at 9:30 so I can wake up and start my day fresh (hopefully). Truthfully, every morning that I wake up is a wild card. I might feel excited and free. But most often it is paranoia and anxiety. This idea that the Earth beneath my feet is slipping away and I will have no one to catch me when I fall. I’ve always felt there is no net beneath me. And everything I do from the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed is to get me to a place that doesn’t feel ill. Something like neutral.

Amy says, “What if everything could be even better than you expected?” 

And I think about that a lot these days. 

Most of what I do, most of what I’ve accomplished, is because of fear. Fear that I’ll go into a dark spiral, fear that people won’t find me impressive, fear that I’ll run out of money and have to live a restricted life. I’m afraid to be less than exceptional. Idle time crushes me in the name of all the other things I could be doing. 

Some of it is mental health. Some of it is the belief that things are inevitably going to fall apart. 

“When have you ever not been successful?” Amy asks me. 

I think about this too. I’ve generally excelled in my pursuits. I’ve gone at them with such an intensity that failure would be quite difficult. I’ve been good at driving forward. Trying to stay ahead of an imaginary collapse.

“What if you didn’t work so hard?” She continues. “What if everything you touch turns to gold?”

I hate to hear this. Because I think the universe is cataloguing the moment when I let my guard down. It will come for me and take everything. 

I am afraid to acknowledge if things come easily to me because I think they will stop. But she’s in my head now, what if things keep happening for me? 

The goal for this year has been to soften, just a little. And to assume that things are going to go well for me. And to spend more time doing things that make me feel good instead of doing things because I’m afraid of my life falling apart. 

For as many companies as I’ve started, I actually hate working. In a traditional sense. I don’t like dealing with the intricacies of projects. Or responding to client emails. Or spending hours on calls sorting out the details of a shoot. But I love watching my team work. And I love stopping by the loft for a few hours each week to simply be around them. 

“So do that,” Amy says. 

Before I would think this wasn’t possible because if I took my hands off something it would break. Now, I’m watching this company thrive and I’m barely even steering. It is the definition of lightness. Of freedom. 

All of these worlds exist simultaneously. The one where I stress and drive and work and grind until I’m down to my own bones. Because I’m afraid of everything collapsing. The one where I sit back and let things happen for me, to me, because of me. Because I am the net. 

Until this point, all I have, all I’ve done, has been motivated by fear. Which means I’ve never actually gotten anywhere. Because I’m always looking behind me. Running. Afraid of being caught by an idea that I’ll never be free. 

And now I’m thinking, what would happen if I was motivated by the belief that things will go well for me? That I’ll be successful in my pursuits and people will show up to support me when I need them? 

I don’t know where it comes from, exactly. Maybe childhood. Probably my personality. But when I set out to do something the first thing my brain catalogues are all the things that could go wrong. Even driving to the barn is met with an internal battle of calculating the miles it takes to get there against what I have left on my lease.

Nothing just happens. 

Everything is a fight. 

I’m always assuming the worst is going to happen as a way of protecting myself instead of playing the probabilities and getting comfortable with the idea that things generally work out. It’s good to be cautious but when I’m adding unnecessary friction to everything I do then it makes life heavier than it needs to be. 

And I’ve exhausted myself. Whittled every single situation down to its opposing forces. And all the while I’ve been moving forward, growing, learning, and experiencing a really beautiful life. Which makes me think – why can’t I just enjoy all of this? 

The exercises at night have been helping. When I get into bed I close my eyes and think of the things that happened that day that made me feel content and free. It could be as simple as a nice breeze or a sunset in the park. It could be that I watched two siblings playing on the grass with their puppy. I don’t exactly know what is going to show up, but things always do. 

As I relive them, those thoughts sink into my body, past my skin, into my soul. And they help everything soften. This is a good life. These are good moments.

Then I list out the things I’m grateful for. I often start with material things because I am a material person but eventually I move onto more intricate moments. 

Finally, if I’m not already asleep, I will say three things I like about myself. Which was hard at first. Because I didn’t want to admit the good things because then I’d have to stop treating myself poorly. But eventually, after a few months, it actually felt really nice to tell myself that I was generous with my friends or that I was very considerate of other people’s feelings. 

All of this puts me in a position to combat all the negative things that exist in me. And it gives me real perspective on my life. It allows me to see all of the things I have instead of just focusing on what I don’t. 

People are stuck here. Wanting to hold onto the negative as a reason for why their life looks the way it does. I’m starting to find this really unattractive.

Fear is a great motivator. It has kept me going for 35 years and given me many things. But what it has never given me is the sense that I am safe and I am okay. I don’t have the energy to run away from it for the rest of my life so the only other move is to sit still and see what happens when I trust that things are going to go well for me. 

As I move forward I imagine protection all around me. Soft clouds and a wind underneath each step carrying me forward towards everything I pursue. 

Leave a Reply