Ever since that horrible day 4 years ago, I have been shoved into every imaginable situation of discomfort. Just like all of you. I’ve been thrust into an oblivion… a war zone of emotions… trying to fight my way through without even knowing which direction I am fighting towards. Fighting in the dark. Wandering. Scared. Trying to survive. Trying to figure out just what it is that I am actually fighting for. Trying to understand what is even worth it in this life, so that I can want to still be here.
The thing about all this, is that it changed me. All this struggle, all this fight to find reasons to be here, to still find the beauty in life, has changed me.
I’ve said it before, but his death taught me that fear is not a good enough reason anymore. He died in order to live his dreams as a helicopter pilot. He knew the risks, we both did… and he chose it anyway. You would think I would be mad about that (and I certainly went through a period of being really pissed that he didn’t have a more boring “safe” job). Instead, it is like his forever reminder to me to not let my fear get in the way.
If he could be willing to risk his life for what he loved doing, than I choose to honor him by trying to always do the same. So while my fears may still be there, I keep choosing to step outside my comfort zones and walk through the uncomfortable spaces. I’ve started to see that beauty and wonder are always just on the other side of fear. A recent experience has reminded me of that...
My online class started this past Monday. I have about a dozen students, and for 5 weeks we are learning how to use creativity to help cope with and express grief. I’ll admit, the 3 months of building this class have been a bitch. It’s been such a long and emotionally draining process. Just getting myself into the right emotional space to write the content is hard. And then there is all the enormous swamp of self doubt to wade through to get to the good words. I’ve wanted to give up many times. I’ve been sick of it many times. I’ve been afraid.
But, I kept on going, because fear is not a good enough reason anymore.
As 8am Monday rolled around, I took a deep breath, and let it begin. All my fears and anxieties went into overdrive. The same fears I have had to learn to quiet for months now, as I worked away the hours on writing content to build this class. “This class will be BORING! No one will care! Even the students who signed up won’t! You will look stupid! You’ve never done this before, there is NO way you can pull it off!” I didn’t let them stop me.
I sent the first day’s class email, because fear isn’t a good enough reason anymore.
Over the past 5 days, a few of my students have shared incredible revelations they are having within their own painful losses. Some of what they have shared has brought me to tears… for how much grief they are carrying, and also, for the miracles of release they are finding within themselves. I am nothing short of astonished by what is beginning to unfold within some of my students, and suddenly all the tireless hours of forcing myself to write and work hard on this class have paid off. All the energy I have expended in trying to fight off my worst fears of rejection and embarrassment… months of exhaustion by putting myself WAY out of my comfort zone. In just days it has all become worth the risk. The beauty was indeed there, just on the other side of fear.
The chaos of sudden death created the perfect, although painful, proving ground to begin to learn so much more about myself and about our overall human potential. Helping, teaching, guiding others… it’s not some superpower only some people have. I used to think that. That’s what this journey helped me change. I’ve never been at some deficit that I imagined in my mind… I’ve never been unable to guide others and help others. It’s not a talent, it’s a fact of being human. We all have so much value to give each other. And you know that saying about what scares you most is the thing you should do? They’re right about that. I’ve been putting off this course for years now, too afraid to try it.
With every step outside of my comfort zone I am discovering that this zone increases. I never really thought of it this way before he died, and before I’d been put through all this crap. But the more times a step out of that safe place and experience risky stuff, the more capable I am beginning to feel.
Right after his death, what felt risky was so small… like going to the store alone, or being in my apartment by myself. Then it was things like making new friends that never knew Drew, or going on a date finally, 3 years after his death. It all started there, with those teeny tiny risks. I think that sometimes we lose sight of just how incredibly brave we are. We like to roll our eyes at the idea of our bravery… but truly, if you look back and remember how risky every single little thing felt at the beginning, and you still moved through the fear, each damn time… that’s fucking brave.
The more times we move through the fear, the more times we choose to take risks for the sake of what we want in our life, the bigger our comfort zones get. The bigger we get. Over time, we become more solid within ourselves than ever before. It takes a lot of time, and a lot of micro-movements to get there. For me, it helped to focus on how, each day, I could make a tiny choice that I could be proud of. I could try one little thing that was out of my comfort zone… like sharing my story with a stranger, or doing something alone I never had, or trying to reach out to help someone else, or going somewhere that reminded me of him. And those micro-movements eventually have led me here, to this week, where I felt strong enough to take the chance on building something bigger than myself… with the reminder always in the back of my mind…
Fear is not a good enough reason anymore.
About the Image: This photograph, titled "The Promise" is from my self-portrait series on grief. View the full series here.