A gazillion years ago, when the Golden Girls was a prime time show and there was no such thing as the Internet( yes, I am that old) I remember buying, and maybe even reading, a book by Susan Jeffers. I can't tell you one thing about the book. Truly, I am not sure if I ever even read it. I bought it when I was in my twenties. It was a dark period involving temp jobs, too much Taco Bell and tequila, horrible hair and horrific man choices as well as unexplainable penchant for Borghese Opalescent Fuchsia lipstick. When I wasn't making self-destructive fashion or food choices and/or making mindless and masochistic moves, including happy hour at the Red Onion, I was also devouring the self-help section of my neighborhood Crown Books. I was turning to the self-help section the way a dying man turns to the church. Each week I would go in search of another book that promised easy and instant and massive change in my life with little or no effort, that was my genre. If a book required me to develop skills such as self-awareness or take any tangible steps to make my life better in anyway other than wishing for it, I was not in ( I could write an entire post on my angry and emotionally immature reaction to M.Scott Peck's, Road Less Traveled. I have since gone on to see he was right about a lot of the things. But that was the pre-therapy me who had a hissy-fit in response to Peck's Calvinist work ethic) . It was books like Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow that were my guidebooks. Now, keep in mind,I didn't actually read that book either, that was too much work. Rather I used the title as an excuse, as well as a coaster for my cocktails, not to do all manner of things. If I didn't like a job or a class or anything that took any effort, the title would come to mind and I'd think, "I don't love this so I shouldn't be doing this. It should be easy. If I follow my bliss it will all be bliss" Yes, I know, it was some pretty immature thinking. But I was, I assure you, pretty immature for my age. And I know if Jospeh Campbell heard my twenty-something take on his profound philosophy he would have likely had to throttle me and he would have been right to throttle me. I deserved some philosophical throttling back then. The Susan Jeffers book I bought, and most-likely didn't read, was Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. When I look back to that time period I am not sure what I was afraid. I don't remember being afraid. I remember being inert and impulsive ( a somewhat dangerous combination, much like a Long Island Iced Tea paired with Kamikaze shooters. Remember, I was in my twenties). Not that there weren't things I should have been afraid of. Trust me, there were. My judgement should have frightened me. I should have been having panic attacks over my lack of a solid CV. But then, quite frankly, I was too dumb to be scared. In retrospect, I think that there were a lot of choices I KNEW that I should be making and yet I was too afraid to make them. I knew I should brake up with my boyfriend. I knew I needed to go back to school, but I was too afraid. So maybe there was a part of me that I knew I needed to get past the fear and act, but that part of me couldn't get the me who would rather watch "Charles in Charge" to actually read the book.
It wasn't until decades later that I actually took Dr. Jeffers advice, even though I STILL haven't read her book. I remember the day that I started to develop a relationship with fear. A friend of mine who taught Psychology at Lake Forest College asked me to come into her class and lecture on my thesis topic, The Genesis of Shame: The Figleaf of Fashion and Its Place in Psychotherapy. I found myself saying yes to what I was sure I couldn't do. Only I did it and I loved it. I loved it so much that I found myself wishing I had gotten a PhD so I could teach at a small liberal arts college. You see? My fear was wrong. My fear was a big old liar face.
A few months after the Lake Forest lecture the Clinical Director at the Jung Center asked me to teach a class on Sandplay. I was sure I couldn't and yet I found myself saying yes to what my fear was telling me I absolutely couldn't do. Again, I loved it. Again, the fear was a liar-liar-pants-on-fire. In the last couple of years I have done countless things that my fear convinced me I couldn't accomplish. There was the big one that I confronted two-years ago, the fear told me that there was absolutely no way could I survive on my own or take care of myself. I had been married for 19 years and I had not done a lot of taking care of myself during our marriage. My fear reminded me of all the things I hadn't done for almost two decades. It, I assure you, made a convincing case. But I left anyway. And you know what? I was fine. I am fine. I'm thriving. My fear obviously was a lousy prognosticator.
So, in the last twelve-months when my fear told me that there was no way I could go on TV and talk about infertility or be a presenter at Fertility Planit or write for Huffington Post, I politely reminded my fear that every time it tells me that I can't that I actually go on and prove it wrong and that it is almost always a good thing and that I am better for having faced the fear. It's gotten to the point that I have almost longed for things to be afraid of as I long for the ability to stick my tongue out at fear. I'm actually sort of upset that I have nothing that am actually afraid of now. Okay, that's not entirely true, there are things I am still afraid of and some of those are rational and logical and worthy of my fear. I remain afraid of death, snakes, big roller coasters and other logical dangers that don't prevent me from doing much except from going to the reptile house at the zoo or to Six Flags--and I am just fine with those fears. That's not the kind of fears I am talking about here, I am talking about the fears that tell me "I can't" or "I'm not good enough". Thanks to the part of me that said yes and felt that fear and did it anyway, I am not longer afraid of teaching or public speaking or appearing on TV or being interviewed by the press. Those things are no longer my fears. I'm not sure what I have left to overcome, but I am sort of excited for fear to step in and tell me that I can't do something as that fear signal now gives me the green light to take action and show it who's the boss.