Letting Go of Fear is Exhausting

For most of my life I’ve thought that I’m not afraid of anything. It’s only recently that I’ve come to realize, “oh fuck, I’m pretty much afraid of everything”. Not spiders or snakes or anything like that. Mostly just important things like creativity, vulnerability, closeness. You know, the things in life that actually matter.

As I look around, things are good for me. Really good. For the most part I’ve had a pretty cushy life. Everyone has issues, bumps and bruises from various times in their life. I’m no different. For me, those bumps and bruises led me to protect myself. My protection was to deny that I could be affected by the things around me. Either by hiding them from others or ignoring them altogether. Then I got married.

There’s an interesting thing about getting married; it makes it really hard to ignore all those bumps and bruises from my past. Don’t get me wrong, I really tried hard to ignore them, but even I couldn’t make that work. What I did was point my finger at my wife and dumped all my garbage on her. Thankfully she loves me and has stuck with me even though I treated her unfairly. For the first 7+ years of our marriage, I kept on trying to pin it on her. It was really when our son was born that I had to start looking inside myself. While I could rationalize my way through dumping my issues onto an adult, it became impossible to do that with a beautiful newborn baby.

It was me. It had always been me.

Everyone has their own struggles and issues (yes, everyone). But I hadn’t learned that yet. I was still operating like it was always someone else. I was afraid to look inside myself. I didn’t know what I was going to find, and I was sure I didn’t know what to do with it when I found it.

As I reluctantly began the process of opening myself up the doors to myself seemed welded shut. Slowly, methodically, I have pried, pulled, pushed those doors open. Some of them still just a crack. Even with the door open a crack, I can feel the difference.

I’ve learned that my fear cripples me and holds me down. It sounds a little dramatic, but I consistently see, in my mind’s eye, shackles of darkness holding me down. I’m learning that the only way to truly break free is to completely let go of all of the fear. To open myself up to the beauty that is in the world and to embrace the people, activities and ideas that give life, breath and light.

I have had a lot of help over the years and I’m still learning. I know some stuff now. I know that being afraid doesn’t leave any room for anything else. Fear is a fire that sucks the oxygen out of the room.

Not too long ago, we were at a skate park where our son likes to ride his bike. We brought along a big kids bike for my wife and I to mess around with. Then I got to thinking, I’ve never dropped into a half-pipe on a bike or a skateboard. Why the hell not?

I grabbed the BMX bike that we’d bought from our neighbor, strapped on my bike helmet, and perched myself atop the smallest ramp in the place. And there I sat for the next 10 minutes; my wife and son tooling around the other parts of the park while I worked through my fear. I saw my wife glance my way, silently showing her support.

I was completely frozen. I thought a 37 year old man has no business on a BMX bike, ready to drop into a small half pipe; this was terrifying. I literally thought I was going to die. I was able to wrestle free from that irrational fear and remind myself that of course I wasn’t going to die. The thing that pushed me over the edge was remembering that I had insurance. Even if I did totally bail and break my arm, I had insurance. That was enough for me.

Down I went. I made it the first time without falling. I wobbled a bit, but was able to pull it off. Then, of course I wanted to share my new “skill” with my family and show it off. I called them over and rode up to the top again. This time, my wobble turned into an all out blood bath. I hit the deck and skidded down the ramp. And it hurt. A lot. But I didn’t die. I didn’t even need to use my insurance — just a little hydrogen peroxide and some band-aids and I was up and running again.

To be honest, letting go of all of this fear is exhausting. It is a constant battle to eliminate negativity, doubt and fear from my mind. There are days when I close my eyes at night completely discouraged and feeling defeated by fear and negativity. More and more, there are days when I have been able shake the fear and open myself up to something beautiful. I’ve found that a slow, true moment with my wife where I am able to be fully present can be just the thing to buoy my spirits and keep the fear at bay.

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