In order to thoroughly explore the concept of "becoming fearless," you've got to be willing to evaluate the many ways you're a chickenshit.
Fears can run the gamut from the mundane to the profound, each amplified by varying degrees of anxiety. And accessing them requires an intense degree of flexibility and agility, for you must be willing to bend way over, gather your strength, pluck your head out of your ass, and take the time to reflect upon the darkness you saw up there. It's not often pretty!
I wondered how many fearful thoughts I truly had in a day, a week, an hour. Would I score major on the chickenshit scale? Did I have enough fear to be regarded by the general public or anyone official, like a shrink, as a fearful person? Did the average person have the same ratio of fearful thoughts per hour as I? I was becoming afraid of how afraid I was.
To try and wrap my mind around what I was afraid of, I wrote down a list of fear-based thoughts that scrolled across my mind, like a Twitter feed, over the span of an hour and a half:
- Whether or not I'll have enough paid work this summer to justify the arm and leg I've given to my kids' camp.
- Whether or not my kids will have a great day at school.
- Whether or not I look dumpy in baggy jeans that don't quite qualify as baggy around the ass.
- Whether or not the dark chocolate and cherry half-scone I'd devoured would adhere immediately to said ass.
- Whether or not my brother would survive the changes he's going through.
- Whether or not my mother would leave the house today.
- Whether or not I'll hurt my back driving to and from Boston this weekend.
- Whether or not the pain will force me into another corrective spinal surgery.
- Whether or not I'll be able to find the shoes I wanted to wear in Boston.
- Whether or not it will ever stop fucking raining in New York.
- Whether or not people who run states like North Carolina will ever get past their fear of equality.
- Whether or not I'll be able to kiss our president for endorsing equality.
So, there they were. Sure, there were a few in there that were based on actual pain and suffering, but for the most part, I couldn't believe the weird and random assortment of passing thoughts I'd qualified as "fear." It was a menacing title they didn't really deserve. Seriously, who could be afraid of the ramifications of a scone?
Evaluating my fears this way felt like trying to catch crabs with molasses, and I don't mean the fun way. There's no real, clear view of what scares you because fears, like bottom feeders, feed on other fears, leaving many sharp, potentially painful remnants to clean up.
But we learn to coexist with our fears -- fleeting or committed -- as we would a bad roommate. We watch helplessly as the bitch eats all the Girl Scout cookies without replacing them, or leaving a fiver. She prances around butt naked, completely unaware of her innate ugliness, before our significant others. She climbs into bed with us and snores so loudly our heads reverberate right off the pillow. She awaits our deepest slumber and taunts us awake, until we plead for release from her relentless grip.
In reviewing my random assembly of fears, I realized how idiotic some of them were and how much energy they took to deal with -- just like any bad roommate. I realized there's not enough rent they could pay to share the space they take in my head. So, going forward, I think I'm going to give them the attention they crave, but just for a second. If I'm feeling particularly self-indulgent, I might even buy them a drink. Then I'm going to kick them to the curb.
How many fearful thoughts scroll across your mental Twitter feed each day?
For more by Vivian Manning-Schaffel, click here.
For more on becoming fearless, click here.