Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Fear of "What If?"

It’s not an ancient and mysterious secret that fear keeps us from doing many things. It’s actually a completely well known and “duh” kind of concept, yet for some reason, a lack of willingness to take a leap persists in so many ways in life. “What if” nags at the back of your head… “What if I do X and the result is less than desirable? What if I say ABC and the response is hurtful? What if I crash and burn? What if I end up alone? What if I lose? What if I get hurt?” What if, what if, what if…

Some people seem to have more ambition and drive than others. Some people seem more willing to take chances, to take leaps; some people seem to have a fearlessness that the rest of us can’t comprehend. Some are brave in some areas of life, and not in others. There are so many times when fear can stop you from doing what you need to do, want to do, or dream of doing “someday.” We admire piss and vinegar in people who seem unafraid to do things that, to us, seem to be a high wire act, and, one that we would not be willing to perform.

Intestinal fortitude can be a fine line kind of thing. I look at someone willing to attempt to jump the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle as a completely suicidal moron, but some people may view that kind of thing as daring and gutsy. When I was younger, I remember thinking a friend of mine was crazy for quickly shedding all of his large belongings, packing the rest into an unreliable vehicle and moving across the country without any kind of landing pad, plan, or even a job lined up. Now, I see it as brave as hell and I wish I’d thrown caution to the wind and gone with him. Interestingly, he recalls being frustrated with me back then for my lack of drive and ambition in life. Truly, what that lack really was, was a lack of backbone. I feared the unknown. I feared the “what ifs” and I feared falling on my proverbial face.

But that aspect of bravery in me seems to be limited to things of that nature. Where emotions are concerned, however, I am fearless, though some see me as reckless and emotionally suicidal in that arena. I believe from the depths of my soul that taking chances in this part of life is one that we cannot fear. I believe that where our feelings are concerned, we MUST be fearless and determined. We must be willing to take the chances that could make us the most happy, or leave us the most sad. If we don’t, then we actively cultivate regret.  Perhaps in business ventures or extreme sports you are ballsy, but in spilling your guts you’re chicken.

Think back to the worst emotional hurt from taking a leap that you’ve ever had. Maybe you’re in the midst of it now… or maybe it was years ago. Either way, you lived through it. Painful though it may be, there was life experience in it; there was learning. Most times, where a hurt comes into play, there are good memories as well as bad in whatever the situation was. When the pain is at its zenith, even the happy memories are painful. Everything is painful during that time, but slowly you emerge from it. You learn from it. You honest to God do get stronger as annoying as that cliché is: That which does not kill you truly does make you stronger. (*yeah, you’re not getting out of my blog without a cliché. Sorry.) I think for me, it may be this aspect of getting hurt that keeps me willing to take emotional leaps. I know that if I don’t take the leap, I’ll regret it later. I’ll wonder if it could have been the thing that made a really positive difference in my life, and I know in the back of my head that even if it ends up hurting me… somehow… I’ll still gain in the end.

I get completely irked when I’m watching a movie and a character wants to say something and holds back. It makes me crazy. I scream at the screen, I get so frustrated that I have to remind myself it’s only a movie. In real life when I see someone who has something to say and won’t spit it out, it’s all I can do not to smack them on the back of the head, especially when I know it’s something they need to say to ME. There is only so much guessing you can do in life, and only so much you can coax someone into a comfort zone where they can tell you what’s on their minds. Some people just never find the place inside themselves where they can say “I have to tell you something” take a deep breath, and leap. Even if they open their mouth, sometimes they just can’t get words out. In my eyes, these are the crippled people in the world. I don’t believe you can achieve personal happiness until you’re willing to take emotional risks.

Hurts heal; they’re temporary, believe me. But risks we don’t take can nag and fester for a lifetime at the back of our heads, wondering what might have been. You have one chance at life. This isn’t a video game. If you screw up, you don’t get another guy, and there is no bonus round. If you love someone, TELL THEM. If you tell them and they don’t say it back… yes, you’ll get hurt. But if you love them and you take that leap, and they love you, too, then what wonders you’ve just entered into. There are going to be times you’re going to get hurt. It’s a fact of life. This is not a fairy tale, this is a sometimes incredibly cold cruel world we live in, but it’s the risks you take that pay off that bring you the joys that life is all about. It’s the risks you don’t take that breed regret and unhappiness. So take a leap from time to time. Let go of your fears and say what’s in your heart, even if you fear the outcome. And, if you get hurt, know that this is part of life. We don’t stop having growing pains when we get our diploma. We don’t ever stop having them. Leap, and when you’re hurt, learn. But leap… because some of those leaps will land you in places more glorious than you can imagine. Some of those leaps will land you in the heart of someone amazing and you wouldn’t want to miss out on that, now, would you?

1 comment:

  1. Oh're so funny! We are the me emotional "risks" are the ones that are the scariest. I've had to learn how to deeply feel things and not let it completely ruin me...learn that that's what they are...feelings, and you will recover. To say what I feel takes a LOT OF GUTS and I'm usually sweating up a storm, heart pounding, and spinning inside when I do have the courage to do it. However, selling all my furniture, packing up the RAV4, throwing caution to the wind, and driving cross country to California was a no-brainer! ;) Thanks for the reminder that the more I open up to expressing what I feel, the more life opens up. It's true. And you actually need both kinds of guts to live a full life...the guts to express how you feel AND the guts to take action in the other areas of your life!