In the newsletter this past week, I wrote about the three words, a pen, paper, and some quiet time that can solve all problems. If you are not subscribed to my newsletter, you might want to sign up for important pearls of wisdom. If you are reading the newsletter, feel free to give the non-newsletter readers a hint as to what those three magic words are in the comment section below. Now on to the post:
The big news is that I’ve been learning to embrace problems in a way that, for me, anyway, has become an opportunity for creativity rather than yet another hideous problem to solve. And, of course you need the newsletter to find out more about that.
At the same time, I’ve come to a new place with fear. Who knew that I’d one day learn to use it instead of letting it completely flummox me.
My fear: The back story
As a young woman, making her first baby steps into the real world, I began to experience a new type of fear: a fear that if I made certain missteps, I would not survive. Naturally, there are some things that are difficult to survive, this fear related to losing a job, not having enough money to pay bills, and that sort of thing.
I didn’t realize that those fears were actually helping me: I became a better employee, I began to manage my money better, to alleviate my fears, I took positive steps to shore up my life.
By my late twenties, I was cruising along, money in the bank, I owned a home and drove a new car. Life was good. I moved up the ladder professionally, and while I had a few ups and downs, life was pretty good, and fear was more to the background than the foreground as it once was.
The Middle Years: Fear Returns with a Vengeance
It started at the ice skating rink. I became fearful of jumping. I had been jumping for several years, when seemly suddenly I lost my mojo. That year, my free skating skills diminished, I was terrified, and thought of quitting skating. The problem was, I’d just bought new skates and didn’t want to wast the money I’d just spent.
The ice skating rink wasn’t the only place I was experiencing fear. I was also experiencing it in the workplace, and among my friends. I began to feel I’d prefer not to go out, and limited my activities considerably. I felt the fear, and, instead of pressing through it as I once had, I created a smaller and smaller circle around myself.
I was vaguely aware that closing my circle was limiting opportunities, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself from declining invitations, and spending more time alone at home curled up in my flannel pjs.
I also had the sense that I didn’t really have anything to be afraid of; it was irrational and I couldn’t really put my finger on what I was really afraid of, I just was.
There was something about menopause:
In my intensive discomfort, I began to look for ways to mitigate the fear. My doctor prescribed bio identical hormones, I began meditating and practicing yoga, I changed my diet and eliminated non-organic foods. I read everything I could find, but the fear persisted. I woke up in the middle of the night in fear and anxiety, and I drank a few glasses of wine to cover it in the evening.
I had been reading material on menopause for almost three years, when I came across a blurb about peri-menopause and fear. The piece discussed how hormonal shifts could contribute to fear, and then offered some tips to overcome it. While the tips were not particularly helpful, it was the first time that fear had come up in the conversation of peri-menopause for me. And, while the tips were weak, it did suggest that I could find ways to deal with the fear rather than letting it continue to take over my life.
Taking my life back from the grip of fear
As my hormones and thyroid issues began to level out, and my meditation practice grew stronger, I felt it was time to tackle my fear; I wanted my life back. I wanted to enjoy being around people and I wanted to expand my life again.
I remembered the story of the monk who traveled high and low helping others vanquish their demons. After many years he finally returned home, a tired and aged man. One might have thought he would retire in peace; instead, he he confronted his own powerful demons, one at a time until the very largest one imaginable appeared. The monk simply placed his head in the demon’s mouth, and as he did the demon dissolved.
I began a practice of confronting my fears in the same way. One by one, as they arose, I sat with them, felt the discomfort and allowed them to dissipate. My goal was to rid myself of my fears so I could get on with my life. Over time, most of my fears dissolved, and I thought I had the fear thing sorted.
What I did’t realize about fear:
I’ve spent the last many hears working through my fears one at a time with the idea of getting rid of them for once and for all. Fear is uncomfortable. Sometimes we get the feeling of fear but don’t know what’s behind it. In the past, I’d get a nip of it and run for the hills. I numbed myself with alcohol, and distracted myself with activity.
But fear is a hugely important tool; like it’s cousin anger, it is strong and within it’s discomfort is important information. “Don’t go there”. “Trouble ahead” “Keep your wits about you.” “Something is wrong here.”
The difficult thing with both fear and anger is the emotional baggage we often have to work through to get to the heart of the message these emotions are conveying, and sometimes there is a lot of drama muddying the water to distract us from getting to the heart of what our potent emotions are trying to tell us. For me, this is the hardest. Often I will write all the junk that is layered on top until my mind quiets enough that I can start focusing as to the heart of things.
Fear as a tool
Allowing the feelings of fear to wash over me was phase one, having the courage to confront what was behind the fear was part two, but the place of power comes with phase three looking for the message, and the real juice is phase 4, working on constructive methods to resolve the issues and messages fear brings to our attention. Once I started to look for messages in my fear, I was able to discern whether I was experiencing a hormonal issue, an irrational concern, or something I really needed to act on. I learned that it is important to take considered action rather than simply react most times.
As I have begun to use the information I receive as a tool, I have been better able to navigate life’s ups and downs, to seek positive solutions and to improve my mental health.