It has been two and a half years since I bled on the internet, and today I am going to break that streak. Let’s give it a whirl. What the heck. YOLO.
Fear has always controlled me. When I was 17, I went camping with a couple of college friends. I know I’ve already told this story, but there is nobody here to stop me from telling it again. Plus, stories always get better the more times you tell them.
We went horseback riding. This is something I’d never done before. As I was getting into the saddle, the horse got spooked and took off. I hung onto this galloping horse. It seemed like I held on for an entire mile, but since my mind is prone to hyperbole, I will guess it was probably closer to 100 yards. I held on as I got jostled, bumped, and thumped. My brain sloshed a little in my head.
Then I fell off of the horse in a pile of crumpled bones and tears. I can not remember if these were tears of pain or humiliation, but considering how well I know myself now, I am guessing they were for both reasons.
My friends – and I am debating if I should put that word friends in quotes since they caused the whole thing — caught the wayward horse. Then I got back on it. The reason I got back on the horse was not because I was thinking, “What do you do when you fall off a horse? Get back on it,” but rather, I got back on the horse because I couldn’t walk back to camp. I have a lot of fears, but at the end of the day, I think we should be practical.
Which is to say, if I ever do anything brave, it is not because I’ve overcome some fear or personal hangup. Instead, the reason I do brave things is often because there is only one way out– on the back of a cranky horse. There are brave people in this world, but I am not one of them.
I recently read Khaled Hosseini’s novel, And the mountains echoed. In it, one of the characters notices that people think they live by what they want, but what really guides them is what they’re afraid of. There is so much richness in that idea that I can barely stand it.
I am afraid of everything: not being good enough, brave enough, strong enough. I’m afraid that when I die, nobody will come to my funeral even if the World Cup is not on TV. I’m a champion of seeing the truth in other people but terrified of what that looks like in me. I’m afraid of the IRS, which is understandable. I’m afraid when my faith takes a meandering path heavenward and not a straight one. I’m afraid of heights with edges. I’m afraid of the boogieman.
I’m afraid of living a life that is meaningless. If you remember Freud from high school psychology class, you know that he said that man’s greatest desire is for pleasure and that he will behave in a way that seeks his own pleasure. I’ve seen people on YouTube on Black Friday at the local Walmart. Nevertheless, many agree that Viktor Frankl had it more correct. He said that man’s greatest desire is not for pleasure but for a deep sense of meaning. When man can’t find meaning, he distracts himself with pleasure.
I am guilty of distraction.
I’m a huge Dr. Laura fan. I listen to her whenever I’m driving between 2 – 6 p.m., putting the program in the front speakers so the kids can’t hear.
Callers will often ask Dr. Laura how to change their feelings, and she will tell them to change their behavior. I like this.
I like this because it means that we are not animals guided by impulse but by meaning, made in God’s image. I like that we can behave kindly even when we are not feeling kindness in our hearts. I like the idea that maybe we can live fearless lives, not by actually being fearless at first, but by acting fearless. This is good news.
Greg’s work takes him out of town often, sometimes up to three weeks a month. This means I’m the one who has to get up in the middle of the night and check out the scary noises.
Two times the noises were distinct enough that I got my Rugar LCP, put an extra clip in my pocket, chambered a round, and prepared my mind to take care of business. Each step down the stairs, I repeated to myself, “I don’t care about your feelings.”
If someone breaks into my house, I promise the world that the intruder will face me first. Then they will tell the undertaker that maybe I was not just a scared little thing after all, and wow, she’s a light sleeper. One of the benefits of having high anxiety is that the spring is always coiled.
I want to approach the things that make me afraid– how silly I will look if I become more sentimental or the feeling in my stomach before I speak in public – like I approached the stupid horse in my college days or my imaginary intruders. Let’s do this. Not in a way that disregards intuition and caution, but in a way that doesn’t hand the keys to fear and beg to go for a little spin. Most people think they live what they want but what really drives them is what they’re afraid of.
I’m scared of writing in public. But….click….I hit publish. Just like that.