HELLO FEAR, I LIVE HERE NOW
By: Lauren Anderson
In my group of friends, I am rather notorious for asking “What if” questions.
Like, “What if every time you walked up the stairs a part of your body turned purple? But only for 24 hours.” Or “What if when you peeled back the skin on my arm, you found out I was made entirely of Rice Crispy treats?” The questions usually make people laugh, or think, or both. Which I guess, is always kinda of what I’m going for in any given conversation.
And there are always some choice follow-up questions from people like, “Why are we peeling back the skin of your arm in the first place?” Which then makes me laugh and think, and re-affirms that I’ve chosen my friends well.
I guess I just like thinking about things in this way. I can’t help it, I have a VERY active imagination.
So it’s no surprise when the other day after the show, I was hanging out with my co-workers and we were making each other laugh. I was giggling at something one of them said, but I stopped myself and asked, “What if every time you said something funny, I made this face instead?”
And then I molded my face into the most terrified and pathetic look I could muster. Think Precious Moments doll meeting the monster from the Upside Down in “Stranger Things”. Wide-eyed and scared. As if shocked that the cruel world could betray me, only moments before I’m eaten alive.
The guys kinda stopped in their tracks, clutched their chests and were like, “Oh Jesus No! Don’t make that face!” And I laughed and of course, did it again. They all reacted more than I thought they would, and begged me to stop. Apparently, the face was kind of breaking their hearts.
Then one of ’em goes, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you make a face like that.”
I quipped back, “Would it surprise you to know that’s how I felt 90 percent of the time?”
We were laughing, and I’m obviously not 90% scared. But I do still get scared. Quite often! So I’d be lying if I said the whole exchange didn’t give me a little pause. Essentially, I was showing fear on my face, and three people that I see at least 3x a week, had never seen it before. How is that possible?
A similar, but more intense version of this scenario happened just a few days before with one of my closest friends. I was talking about what I needed to do to get to a new point in my life, specifically in terms of a relationship I was interested in “Next-Leveling”. (I’ll leave what kind of relationship you think it is up to your imaginations…)
And as I was talking about this, I guess I started pacing and my voice started to shake. My friend was like, “Whoa… what’s going on right now? You’re acting strange. I’ve never seen you like this.”
And I just looked at them and said, “Because I’m scared.” and my eyes welled up.
I felt on a deep level, that this is one of those rare moments in life, that could be potentially AS SCARY if it all works out as if it doesn’t. And boy howdy, is that notion terrifying.
Like, everyone is basically afraid of failing and rejection right? For the most part? But I think there is also a unique terror in getting exactly what you want. Because then what? Or what if you get it only to immediately eff it all up? And then you lost the thing/person/opportunity you most desire?! Just me?
So part of me wants to stay in the “not knowing”. But we know that doesn’t work for very long. Eventually, something’s gotta give. The world moves forward, whether we want it to or not. And as someone who values courage and courageous acts, I think I was tearing up and pacing, because I was shocked at how scared I was to step forward in the direction of something I wanted.
And my dear friend very earnestly responded, “Wow. I guess I’ve never seen you afraid before.”
Again– HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?! How is it that some of the people who know me best, have never seen me scared? I guess it just goes to show that we can be living whole worlds just under our skin, but it doesn’t mean that it’s apparent. Even to those who care.
In my mind, I’m shocked! Because I feel afraid, ALL THE DAMN TIME.
Which got me thinking a lot about fear. And what it means to be afraid. It’s one thing to feel afraid, but it’s quite another to act out on that fear. Or let that fear control me. Cause the truth is, fears will always bubble up. But it doesn’t mean I should let those bubbles float me away from what I want.
In fact, I have the power to turn around and POP POP POP those fear bubbles down.
So what do I do? I practice popping.
* * *
Cut to the Gym.
We’re doing Overhead Squats. That’s when you lift the bar over your head, do a full squat, then come all the way back up. Full disclosure: I love Overhead Squats. I think it’s because it’s just such a power move, I can’t help but feel very powerful doing them. Like I’m Treebeard, the giant, fighting tree guy in Lord of the Rings. (Yes, I know they’re called Ents. I have Google too.)
But another reason I like Overhead Squats is I think I just might be good at them. Or I will be someday. And knowing that is pretty fun, because so many people don’t like this lift at all.
One of the first times I ever did an OS, I had multiple coaches compliment my “excellent shoulder rotation” and I remember feeling pretty good about it. Because my shoulders can stay back, that means I can stay stacked and straight, which makes for good form in that lift!
And I know I didn’t do anything to get this magic shoulder rotation. Just like you don’t do anything to get beautiful eyes. But when it’s consensual, it can still be pretty fun to hear. Genetics be damned! I’m taking the credit!
So that day at the gym, we’re working towards a Heavy 5. Meaning, how heavy can we get the bar, and still do 5 squats without re-racking? As I moved up in weight, I noticed myself getting more and more hesitant when it came time to lift that bar over my head. Like my survival instinct kicked in and wouldn’t let me do it. It wasn’t a matter of lifting a heavy weight. It was lifting a heavy weight over my head.
I tried again, and my face contorted. I knew immediately. I was afraid.
Coach Garrett came over and started talking me through it. He said, “You’re coming off the rack strong, and your squat has a lot of speed on it, which tells me that it’s not too heavy. Which might mean…”
“That I’m afraid.” I finished his sentence. He nodded. We both knew what was happening. He’s been around the bar long enough to know when an athlete is lifting something beyond them physically. And even more so, when they’re lifting something mentally.
I re-rack the bar, and pace around a little bit. I grab a swig from my water bottle. I’m feeling nervous, but I don’t want to stop. I want to get to my heavy 5 dammit!
I walk back to the bar waiting for me. I decide to take a deep breath, and talk to it.
“Oh hello Fear, old friend. I see you there. C’mon in. Have a seat. But if you’ll excuse me, I have some lifting to do.”
By calling it out, I took it’s power away. POP. And by letting the fear come all the way in, I was surprised how easy it became to then let it all the way back out again. POP POP.
Like, sometimes it’s better to open the door and let the visitor pass through and be on their way, as opposed to barricading the door, and having the visitor stay at your doorstep forever.
It didn’t mean that swinging hard heavy weights over my head got any easier, but I no longer had to lift the weight of unnecessary fear along with it.
POP POP POP.
* * *
When I left the gym that day, I felt so calm. And it dawned on me, I think I might practice facing fears almost every time I go to the gym. I mean, it took facing a BIG FEAR to even get me to the gym in the first place. And now here I am, popping bubbles left and right.
The practice of it all, teaches me that it can be done. And perhaps by facing these small fears every time I walk into the gym, I’m training myself for the big fears that will inevitably pop up later. (Like that biggy I discovered when talking to my friend about the “Level-Up”.)
When I can feel my fear pop like a bubble in front of me, that’s when I feel so brave. And to be honest, I think that’s one of my favorite feelings in the whole world.
I think I like the idea of bravery so much, that most of the time, I’m just trying to do what I think someone who is ACTUALLY brave would do. (The Gryffindor in me definitely wants to be associated with that trait.)
But here’s what’s funny about all the practicing and pretending to be brave. Eventually, I think it’s made me train myself to turn towards my fears and face them. Sometimes before I even admit to myself that I’m frightened.
Perhaps it’s become so second nature at this point, that even those closest to me forgot what I looked like when I am scared. Or being overtly afraid is so uncommon now, that they’ve never seen it at all. Hmmm…
But whether that makes me technically brave, I’ll never know. All I know is how I feel.
And what I feel when I’m staring down my fears is exhilarated. Because I know that most of the things I want in this world are sitting just on the other side of that fear.
* * *
There is a quote by the author Chuck Palahniuk. It simply says,
“Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.”
And I can’t help but agree. In fact, I’ve packed my bags and I moving in.
POP POP POP.