Fear is a Liar

My husband is Chicago born and raised. I’m a suburban girl. We really have no business trotting around in places where nature comes in one size: XXXL, but last week we landed in God’s Country. Big Sky. The Treasure State. Montana.

We were fish out of water. And because I simply cannot help myself, even on vacation, I started analyzing the odd fears which popped up, literally at every turn.

There is a lot to fear in Montana: skidding off twisting gravel roads, careening into elk in the road, cattle in the road, deer in the road, antelope in the road, prairie dogs in the road. There are bear. For real: you have to carry bear spray. There are also unlocked doors at night, bulls in the back yard and the very real possibility of eagles poking your eyes out or scalping you accidentally should they should mistake you for a gopher. Why is it so quiet at night? What’s lurking out there? What if you become trapped on a hike and are forced to cut off your own leg? Or worse, have to poop in woods and a snake cozies up next to you?

On the flip side, I know that some folks are fearful of Chicago: the violence, the traffic, pot holes, corruption, our sports fans, the cold, the heat, the fact that putting ketchup on your hot dog is considered a punishable offense.

Fact: I am enamored with Detroit. It is my spirit city. I love its spunk. I love its determination. I love the street art and the community gardens. I love its gritty resolve. There is unending beauty to discover in its buildings (both the grand and the dilapidated), its people and its hope. Some think ‘Detroit’ and envision crime and decay. I see promise and creativity. People think I am crazy for going to Detroit to clear my head and find inspiration.

One man’s fear is another man’s playground.

I am not suggesting that one shouldn’t use good judgement or prudence when swaggering into Chicago or Detroit or rural Montana. Common sense must always prevail, but fear? Fear is an imaginary friend, whispering lies.

Most of our fears are imagined. Like my fear of snakes. I am petrified of snakes, but, across the hall, my son has two in his room. His passion, my phobia.

Fear is relative. Fear is not fact. Our fears make us comfortable in their own weird way. We get to blame fear, real or imagined, for keeping us small, protected and safe. Unfortunately, fear also blocks the thrill of living.

I decided that fearing what everyone else loves about Montana was ridiculous. I certainly wasn’t going to let fear rob me of precious memories. I went fly fishing and held a fish for the first time in my life. I was desperately uncomfortable. Look at my face! When I posted a photo on Facebook, my childhood friends came out of the woodwork to roast me on my handling techniques, but I did it. I held a fish. It didn’t kill me. It was squirmy and fought me like Jaws (Not exaggerating. At all. Trust me. It was the fight of a lifetime. We definitely needed a bigger boat).

Maybe the snake across the hall is next. Maybe I’ll hold him. I know it won’t kill me, so why don’t I just do it?

What are other fearsome things that 100% won’t kill us? Making eye contact? Smiling first? Speaking a truth? Coming clean? Becoming visible? Ending a relationship that gasped its last breath years ago?

Complete acceptance of ourselves is horrifying. Forgiving is scary. Sobriety is terrifying. Fear o the unknown halts us in our tracks. Fear of failure robs more life than anything else I can think of.

We like fear. It keeps us safe. We don’t have to try if we are afraid. We don’t have to fail. We don’t have to be vulnerable. We get to be in charge. It provides the perfect excuse, all the time, every time. So. Darn. Handy.

What if you put your fears into one of those Container Store clear, plastic shoe boxes and temporarily put it up on a shelf? What if you didn’t have to give up the ‘safety’ of fear forever, just for a few moments, knowing you could grab it back at any time? What would you do? What would you accomplish? What would you start? What would you end? What would you give up? What would you say? Who would you be?

Everyone has the power to shelve their fears. Yep. Everyone.

If you dumped resistance, even for a few minutes, where would it take you? What would you do? Try? How much lighter would you be? Would you talk to yourself? How would you talk to others? How empowered would you feel? What would you be modeling for your friends and family? Would it change your legacy?

Common sense has a place in this world. Preparedness has a place in this world. Knowledge has a place in this world. Caution has a place, too.

Fear, though. Fear is a big liar.

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