I Am Not Fearless
I have experienced a lot of new beginnings in my life. New relationships, new jobs, new locations, new attractions, new visions, new life. And because of that, when I tell my story, I encounter folks who assume that I am fearless. Somehow free from fear, immune to the stress and worry that comes part and parcel with change. Invulnerable.
I find this fascinating. When I ask, the folks that are willing to share say, “well, weren’t you scared when you made that change?” or “I’d be too scared to try something like that.”
Of course I’m scared. I was scared when I quit my corporate job, when I sold my house and moved to a city where I knew two people, when I sold my company to go do my own thing, and at so many moments in between. Hell, writing scares me more than anything else I do on a regular basis – but here I am, writing here and at Silence Cupcake and Bliss Habits, and loving it. Fear and all.
I am not fearless. I have a soft underbelly that I expose to the world, and I am constantly faced with (and fascinated by) the marks and scars that I bear as a result.
I am not fearless. I open myself wide to options and possiblities, and let those things pummel my heart, marring the surface with pockmarks and hitting dangeriously close to the core.
I am not fearless. I am vulnerable. I *choose* to be vulnerable. It’s a much harder choice than fearlessness.
Fearlessness says “I don’t care what happens”; vulnerability says “I care so much about this that I want to experience it fully, no matter the outcome”. Fearlessness says “it doesn’t matter”; vulnerability says “it all matters”. Fearlessness is complete detachment; vulnerability is complete engagement.
Being at peace with vulnerability is a lesson I learned from my dirty hippie ways. Equal parts techno pagan city girl and muddy off the grid forest twirler, I learned early on that being barefoot, especially in all environments, makes you vulnerable. I could step on glass! (My mom’s biggest fear as I romped barefoot around the city as a teen.) I could step on a needle! (Yay for Atlantic Ocean medical waste issues in the 80s.) I could step in dog poop, or ketchup, or ice cream, or something else unpleasant! (And I have. Everything except the needles, anyway.)
A less headstrong person than I probably would have given in and put on shoes a long time ago. Instead, I learned to watch my step. To feel the ground, to know the terrain even if my eyes were elsewhere. To walk slower, softer, more mindfully. And so goes life.
Being afraid of what could happen focuses your attention and energy on what may someday be instead of what *is*. Worry about stepping on glass, and miss the caterpillar crawling across your toes, the velvet of the moss, the crisp, cool softness of the creek water. Worry about missing out on something if you take action, and miss out on the here and now.
And while vulnerablity can help you rock change and new beginnings, it’s so much more than that. vulnerability puts you more in touch with your self, with your internal compass – that fantastic combination of instinct and values that you carry inside you. When you’re in tune with that, it’s easy to make decisions, to take action. Not because you’re ignoring your fear, but because it’s easier to take action when you know your motivations, when you know you’re in line with your internal compass. When you know you’re not taking action for someone else, or because you think you “should”, or because of false limitations you’ve put on yourself. Because no matter what the outcome, you’ve acted in accordance with what feels right and good for you.
Opening yourself up to vulnerability makes the little things clearer, the big things more lush, the feelings deeper, the paths easier to see. It is still scary. It’s always scary. But fear isn’t a bad thing. Hang out with your fear, be a little bit more vulnerable, and watch your world change.
Note: this post originally appeared at Silence, Cupcake in March 2012.