Are you following love into fear?

 

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. –Helen Keller

When I was 14 years old I realized that I could either: 1) do something that scared me every day, or 2) live under my bed hoping to catch and eat the occasional mouse, like a snake. I was so frightened of life that I could see my life as an agoraphobe rising over the horizon.

I chose a life of fear. Thank God.

I’ve been guided by fear my whole life, but not the way you’d think. Being afraid of something—as long as the something sounded remotely interesting—became my cue to throw myself into that very thing.

All my life, I’ve addressed crowds because I’m scared of public speaking, traveled because I’m afraid of jetlag, written books because I’m pretty sure that everything I’ve ever written flat-out sucks.

All I wanted was a life that kept me out from under the bed. I didn’t expect that my full-frontal-fear lifestyle would give me a profoundly meaningful career, deep and lasting love, and countless experiences so amazing I’d think I dreamed them if I didn’t still have the receipts.

I’m so grateful for all this bounty.

And I’m still terrified.

Today, I have to pack for a retreat I’m running in Africa, write my column for Oprah Magazine, and begin shaping my ideas for a new book. These activities all scare me spitless, which means I absolutely will do them.

Damn it!

Of course, even though my fear never vanishes, things are easier now. Because these days, I know that other terrified people (maybe you’re one of them) are walking right beside me. People who’ve joined my tribe of hardy life coaches, or ripped open their souls for the Write Into Light group, or started their own books.

I won’t tell you that you can’t get hurt doing this. You can get devastated. It’s happened to me a hundred times. It’s happened to everyone who follows love right into fear. Too bad. Try it anyway. Climb out from under the bed. Spit out your last mouse tail. Grab one of our clammy, shaking hands, find a fear—got it?—and forward march.

 

5 replies
  1. Laura
    Laura says:

    I'm very glad I read this post this morning. Both of my examiners' reports have just come back for my PhD thesis and I'm scared witless. A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into this thing over the last four years and, as a mad woman writing a thesis on madness, I had to 'out' myself in the course of shaping the project. I'm feeling vulnerable as all get out, and I might well be devastated by what my examiners have to say. But still – so very glad I chose to do it, as scary as it was. Thanks very much for this timely post Martha. It feels like a good ally right now.

    Reply
  2. Mary Ann
    Mary Ann says:

    I'm shaking as I write this, my gratitude for your book that I finished last night, Leaving the Saints. Terrifying and edifying I read it for a few nights before I went to sleep. I'm 66 1/2 and have just completed the last time I accept abuse from every original family member. Their church, and the church I was raised in was the Reorganized LDS. My story parallels yours. I woke up this morning feeling petrified of living. I realize that feeling is the one I had since birth due to the relentless horrific scapegoating I dealt with every day. The only thing that works for me is going toward the fear. Feeling the feelings. Challenging them as best I can and embracing my vulnerability. Your book sent healing shock-waves through my body and mind. Thank you for your deep brave contribution to people like me and your contribution for the entire world.

    Reply
  3. Beverly Holzinger
    Beverly Holzinger says:

    My first time on your blog though I have read all your books. This blog resonated with me. Thank you.
    I am 70 and have decided it's now or never to get down to one of my passions – painting. I have 'dabbled' for years but never felt any good at it, so have decided whether anyone likes what I paint or not, I AM DOING IT FOR MYSELF. What a freedom this has given me. I've climbed out from under the bed and am going to express myself in whichever style and medium I choose. Beverly. Johannesburg.

    Reply

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