Count to five

“I’d let the fear in, let it take over, let it do its thing, but only for five seconds, that’s all I was going to give it.”

Those are some words that Jack Shephard, a fictional character, says to Kate Austen, another fictional character, in the first episode of the TV show “Lost.” Those are also some words that I think about every day.

First, some context — In the episode, the plane has just crashed and Jack has a big ole gash on his back and needs Kate to sew him up, but as she is no physician, she’s naturally a little scared. So Jack tells her a story about a time he too was pretty scared, but knew he had no choice but to push through the fear. The story works its charm and helps Kate calm her nerves and get the job done. The five-second trick even becomes a theme throughout the series, popping up here and there, setting hearts on fire and inspiring us all.

I think about those words every day because something scares me every day. I’m not just talking about the fear of skydiving, bungie jumping, riding a motorcycle, or the like. I call those survival instincts. But I’m also talking about the fears that don’t involve the prospect of impending doom. The kind that seemingly just get in the way. Fears that keep you from being you. They can be big and they can be small. Like the fear that comes with big life changes, with public speaking, meeting someone new, that gloom you feel when you check your bank account while peaking through your fingers after the weekend, asking someone on a date, or when you’re rehearsing what to say because you have to give the dang cable company a call and tell them the dang receiver is broken again.

The thing I’ve come to realize about fear is that it’s a lot like the other unpleasant emotions and feelings we experience as humans. Pushing it down and pretending it’s not there isn’t always the healthy thing to do, even if the fears may seem stupid (and often are). Just like it’s important to allow yourself to grieve, mourn, or be frustrated (within reason, obvs.), it’s important to let yourself be scared for a moment. For me, pretending I’m not scared or just telling myself it’s dumb to be scared just creates its own set of problems.

This last weekend I finally convinced my wife to watch “Stranger Things.” It’s a show I really freaking loved and wouldn’t shut up about around her. I had already seen all eight episodes twice all the way through, but I took the adventure alone both times because she was worried it would be too scary. Alas, she’s the dopest and eventually gave in. She spent the first few episodes anticipating the spooky moments that may pop up on the screen, wanting me to give her a heads up as they approached so she could have the opportunity to look away. This bothered me for the first few episodes. I was so worried that she wasn’t actually watching the show, too focused on a scariness that I thought didn’t exist. In reality, if anything was distracting her from the show it was her annoying goober of a husband who wouldn’t stop barking at her that there is no reason to be scared. Once I started to let her watch the show how she felt comfortable watching it, we hit the sweet spot. Just man and wife, Netflixing with each other in peace, as the good Lord intended. She even became the one who wanted to run home and watch the show. Now, the five-second rule never came into play here, but the point is that it’s OK to acknowledge the fear. Telling yourself, or being told, that there’s no reason to be scared isn’t always the solution. Maybe try taking the fear head-on? The key is not letting the fear control you.

Let it take over. Let it do it’s thing. But only for five seconds.

And the truth is that sometimes I do let the fear control me. It’s the constant battle. I still catch the L from time to time, even with Jack’s profound words dancing through my head. For example, I’ve had this here Medium account for about six months. I’ve written four blogs but have been too scared to publish them. What if nobody wants to read what I write? What if I’m corny? What if it’s bad? What if I’m babbling? What if I don’t have anything to say?The articles sitting in my drafts are monuments to the times that I’ve put the pen to parchment only to walk away with nothing but my doubt. I’ve let the fear control me and it’s left an annoying mark. But I’m tired of that. I’m done with being scared of you, MEDIUM.

So, thanks Jack Shephard, this one is for you.