Kick Out Fear {Day 16 of 31 Days of Filling the Well}

Sometimes, I’d like to watch a live-action shot of my mind making a decision. I think it might look something like a frenzied corporate boardroom (not that I have any idea what this looks like, but trust me… I do watch Mad Men after all). A group of suited professionals all sit around the round conference table – like corporate America, this is a weak effort to give the illusion of equality, but everyone knows who the key players are.

There’s Approval-Seeking over there, hastily pouring coffee for everyone. She splutters and scoffs whenever Self-Care, Balance, or Personal Growth try to speak up, kicking them under the table with her uncomfortable – though trendy – high-heels. She sits next to Conformity and Convention, the two guys wearing  neutral beige suits who keeps flashing trend-tracking bar graphs on the projector. Nearby, Self-Doubt is small and mousy but has a shrill voice that manages to carry over the frenzy. She’s flirting shamelessly with the tallest, most striking man in the room: Fear. The CEO. Though he has a strong, booming voice, he doesn’t use it often. Instead, like a seasoned corporate schmuck, he deftly guides the group to his chosen outcome. And as the meeting adjourns, he smirks watching the rest of the employees leave pleased, convinced that this was what they’d wanted all along.

Watching this fiasco, you’d never notice the quiet folks on the outer edges. Creativity, for instance, has a whole notepad of thoughts she’s written out, but she’s too scared to voice them. Adventure is the one in the funky glasses looking up innovative strategies on his iPad, but he shuts up after Self-Doubt calls him a hippie loser. Periodically, the two interns Dreams and Visions scurry in the room to bring extra copies. Fear gives them a lustful once-over and grabs Dreams’s ass when no one is looking. She rushes out in tears.

Here’s the deal. Fear is a bastard. I don’t know about you, but I am fed up with him running the show.

Lately, I have been bursting with dreams about my next steps. For so long, my dreams were so paralyzed by depression and self-hatred that I couldn’t even imagine what I might want out of life. As I’m healing, the feeling is slowly coming back into my creativity and sense of possibility and years worth of dreams are bubbling to the surface. Which is all well and good until Fear lays down his iron fist and sends me back to the drawing board.

This isn’t working for me anymore.

I am tired of this boardroom. I want to hear what Creativity, Adventure, and especially those wounded souls Dreams and Visions have to say.

Nothing is going to happen to make Fear disappear, though. It’s going to keep ruling that boardroom until I choose otherwise. This is, frankly, terrifying. I am well acquainted with procrastination and helplessness. Empowered choice is a frightening stranger, but a stranger I somehow knew I was always going to meet.

I’ve posted this poem by Mary Oliver on my wall. It makes me want to cry with its utter rightness, like a long-awaited piece of my soul is falling into place:

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Beside that poem, I’ve taped a list. At the top of the list is written


The list is short, but it is growing. I’ve added meditation, hula-hooping, submitting a piece for publication, painting, wearing bright-colored jeans, asking for what I want, getting a real haircut, networking with “real” writers, taking a road trip, disappointing my family. 

All dreams – large or small – that jackass Fear has smothered. All dreams that will fill my well. All dreams that, for reasons I may not understand, seem to be pieces of the life I’m meant to live. I’m not really “no longer afraid” of them yet; I’m not ready to face them. But we’re never going to be ready to face them…until we do.

 Today, I am committing to doing one thing every day that scares me. To crossing one thing off that list until Fear no longer runs that boardroom.

Will you join me?


14 thoughts on “Kick Out Fear {Day 16 of 31 Days of Filling the Well}

  1. Oh, I am so loving your series! Thank you.

    Taped to my mirror, I also have a Mary Oliver quote, from her poem ‘The Summer Day’:
    “Tell me, what is it you plan to do
    With your one wild and precious life?”
    I remember the jolt when I first read that. I think I live life with the wildness of a zoo animal in a very small cage; I don’t even get near “precious.” But something inside me screamed out “YES” when I read that.

    • Love that poem! And for what it’s worth, I think she’s right – your life *is* precious. (Mine, is, too…but I can also identify with that paralyzing feeling.) Embrace that preciousness with me?

    • I have The Summer Day taped to my desk at work. Isn’t Mary Oliver wonderful. I love the part about not knowing how to pray, but how to knee down in the grass and pay attention.

      So the fear, yeah he’s got to go. I read Grace for the Good Girl (6 times) and it helped me rewrite the way I think about fear and my feelings. When I start to feel bogged down by fear now I actually talk to it, out loud. Which is weird, but better than being paralyzed by fear. I say, “Stop! I see you. I know what you are, and you are not welcome here!” Also something I tell my student/clients is that it’s ok to feel the fear or anger or whatever to sit with it, to feel it, but that it is not the boss of them. They are the boss! So fire that bastard! Your dreams are wonderful gifts, and they are worth your time and attention.

      • I love the idea of talking out loud to the fear. I also so appreciate your advice about giving space for the fear and anger. They are valid emotions but they do not get to control you. So wise.

  2. This is a gem…even as I identified and was drawn into the melancholy of realizing this chaos in myself, I giggled. Thank you! Fear is sneaky-powerful for me, too. But I’m not sure that “nothing is going to happen to make [it] disappear”…love *does* cast out fear, after all. I want to encourage you to choose that love, friend.

    And even writing this to you is helpful to me, because I need to learn the same lesson. Your words are falling into my lap with such good timing…remember what I mentioned in your Day 7 post? The first day of counseling was taxing enough that after a week’s worth of reflection (the second appointment is tonight), I wondered this morning: “Is this for me? I’m not sure.” I don’t feel ready to dig any further into myself, and deeply fear this process – where it could go. But there’s no point in living in fear when there’s better out there, right? So I’m committing to go tonight – one foot in front of the other.

    And that’s a beautiful poem, by the way – thanks for sharing it. Have you ever read “The Place I Want to Get Back To”? That’s one of my faves. Here’s a link, if you haven’t:

  3. What a fabulous post – such a new and interesting way to look out fear and how it works in our minds. The idea of parts of ourselves being individual people really gets at the anger that we must all feel underneath, and rightly so, about what a freakin’ bully Fear is!

    And I love your idea of posting up the note of things you’re no longer afraid of. Such a great reminder – necessary because Fear is so sneaky.

    So glad I found your blog!

    • Thanks, I’m so glad you’re here! I am loving the list more and more each day it’s up there. Fear often wins the mental battles so it’s been great to have an external reminder to fight back. I’d definitely recommend it!

  4. I would love to hear more about this statement “For so long, my dreams were so paralyzed by depression and self-hatred that I couldn’t even imagine what I might want out of life.” For the longest time, I’ve been unable to dream any dreams for my life. The best I can come up with is paying off my loans early. Not exactly the motivating, inspiring vision I long to have. I know that depression has been a factor in my life, off and on, for the last decade, but I never thought about it as paralyzing my ability to dream big dreams. How did you start dreaming again?

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