The Seductive Power of Fear

On May 17, 2010, I posted this status message on Facebook: “Monday, Monday, ahhhh, ahhhh ahhhhh’ Who to be, who to love, where to go, what to do… so many big questions for such a little ol’ day. Know what this calls for? A shower dance party and a smoothie. Yup. And love. Lots and lots of love. Start the week right, my dears. Breathing deep and loving without fear.” Almost two years later, and I could’ve uttered those same words.

I wish I could say that it’s something new, but honestly, I’ve always been a bit of a scardy cat. I was the child who jumped out of her chonies when a cruel cousin jumped around the corner. The one who cried when fights broke out – even if I wasn’t involved in them. The child who usually tried to play things safe.

On the other hand, I managed to overcome the fears which should have stuck. For example, I had a severe drug addiction in my early 20s. I got over the fear of putting things in my nose fairly quickly. In my late 20s, I got my first tattoo, a giant side piece, and decided that playing rugby would help “toughen me up”. I played, yeah, but realistically, I didn’t have much to worry about. Other than learning how to tackle beastly women, I was hardly ever in danger. Except for that time they caught me and landed on my leg. I tore my meniscus and quit rugby shortly thereafter. So much for Operation Toughen Up.

These days, I’ve got tons of things causing me fear. I wake up in the morning with a laundry list of boogie mans in my mind. Generally, step one in overcoming one’s fears is to acknowledge them. What is spoken out loud tends to have less power over your heart.

This week, I was getting dressed for my Monday run, when I realized I’d forgotten my sports bra. This may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but I’m a heavy chested woman. I need my boulder holders. Instead of going home or getting frustrated, I decided to use the time to practice my yoga poses. My first tackle: the handstand.

And this is where I came face to face with my fear. I must’ve done 20 kicks, planting my hands firmly on the ground, and yet kicking only hard enough to lift my legs off the ground. I did manage a couple of times to put some umph behind it. Both of those times I flipped over and landed on my back. And as I stood there in the upper foyer of the gym, kicking my little heart out, I realized, I was scared to do handstands. Me, the women who used to take off running anytime I got in a field of grass and do double backsprings and sometimes even triples. The woman who chased skinheads and shouted down a scary dog. Me who at times was completely bold could also be so completely stumped by fear.

My fear of the handstand is of course a microcosm for my life right now. I’m newly single, a childless mother, unsure of my future, my career and in the middle of some terrible financial and logistical woes. I am horribly, terribly paralyzed with fear these days. And yet, I keep going.

I have to acknowledge that those 20 or so kicks that I did in an effort to get my heavy legs into the air is also a microcosm for my life because no matter if my legs only get up so far, I just kept kicking. As it is in life. Even when my efforts feel futile and I feel overwhelmed by trepidation and loneliness and despair, I know that I will keep on kicking. and one day, my legs will raise gloriously in the air, my thighs zippered together in the most beautiful line. I will smile so big right there in that handstand, and I will be satisfied that I am less afraid than I was before my legs went into the air. I’ll come down, and then get to work on something else.

Hand stands

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