We spent some time at Trinidad Lake State Park yesterday –skipping rocks, finding treasures, fighting wind. Desolate and beautiful, it was just what we needed. The raw land, empty shores, and cloudy skies were a validation and a purge. Standing on a small bluff, amid crumbling shale and petrified wood, all I could think was, “This too shall pass.”
It’s been a little rough lately. My regular business hit a bump and my partners and I have been in reaction mode. It’s my least favorite place to be. I like the creative stuff — getting my juices flowing and staying up late plotting new and different ways to connect with our market and positively impact our little corner of the world. Unfortunately, our community is currently divided over a multitude of seemingly inconsequential issues. Warring neighbors, rigid in their own beliefs, dominate the feel of the very air we breathe.
The biggest debate? Chickens. Some days, it’s comical. Most of the time, it just hurts. As the issue has swelled in local media, the fight has gotten even uglier. In reality, only a few people on each side really care. Locked into a group think mentality, they are like automatons chiming a pre-programmed ideology. There’s no listening, conversation, or solution. As this debate wages, vicious and loud, other issues are popping up all over and our collective, community tension continues to escalate. Fear of losing a particular quality of life has destroyed the quality of life each side is trying so hard to protect. Some days, I want to plant a series of stop signs along the edge of our commercial property. The last seven signs would read Please. Stop. Fighting. This. Is. Our. Home.
While my partners and I work to mitigate the damage, I am simultaneously struggling with how to launch the novel. Terrified of making mistakes, I’m diddling with things instead of moving forward with my plan. My fear is silly. The beauty of self-publishing is that I’m not locked into any one method. If something doesn’t work, it’s not fatal and I can change it. Logically, this makes sense, but emotionally it doesn’t matter.
Today, Seth Godin put up a great post on fear. He says, “Easier to avoid the fear than it is to benefit from living with it. I’ve heard the quote a thousand times but never really thought it through…”
What he’s talking about is pretty profound. Rather than face a fear, we avoid any action that brings us close to it. Instead of putting a work into the world, we keep tweaking it way past the moment when we should have called it done. Tweaking allows us to procrastinate and keep our fear of failure, or success, at bay. Instead of taking that car into a mechanic when the engine light goes on, we wait a few days, or a month, because we don’t want to encounter the fear that something serious might be wrong.
Then, when things come to a head – our business hits that rough patch, a deadline has been missed, or the car breaks down on the freeway, we go into reaction mode. Our blood pressure goes up, we stop sleeping well, and we blame ourselves. That blame does serious damage to the self-confidence we need to be successful.
Last year, my son invited us to go cliff jumping at a lake. Honored that he would include us (he was twenty two at the time) we went. I was content to watch my maniac son and his friends do back flips off a thirty foot cliff into the water. After awhile, watching felt silly. I stepped up to the edge and immediately was overcome by a horrible sense of vertigo. I could not do this. It was insane.
Then I got mad at myself for hesitating. I don’t live my life that way (or at least try to convince myself that I don’t). So, I took a deep breath and went for it, screaming the whole way down.
The water was a perfect temperature and, as it enveloped me, I grinned. Rising to the surface with a thundering heart, my screams of terror became screams of triumph. The cliff had never been my obstacle. Fear was. Facing it, I empowered myself.
Today, after a visit to a different lake, I am remembering what it felt like to conquer fear. In my regular business and in my art business (writing and sculpting) I achieve what I want and need when I jump. Acting, instead of reacting, I plow ahead, brave the cliff, and at least learn something from the experience that will help the next time I’m in the same situation.
The thing is, whether I face my fears or not, this rough patch will pass. So will the launch of the book. The question is, who am I in the process? At the end, as I look back on my life, will the words, “I did that” be a testament to my courage or my cowardice? I know what I want for myself. How about you? Let me know. I love to hear from you.