Experiments in Fear

Journal Entry: April 8, 2024

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Last night we spent our first night in our new rental home in Vermont.

This morning I woke up terrified.

If this feeling could speak, it would say, “What have I done?”

My body felt contracted and tight. My breath shallow. My heartbeat fast. 

I wanted Vince to reassure me, to make me feel better — not in an adult interdependent way, but in a desperate “please-make-these-feelings-go-away” way.

Luckily, I’ve learned from 10,000 experiments that trying to get other people to fix my feelings is a disempowering and often unhelpful proposition.

“Please help me.” 

“Please fix this.”

“Please change in some way so I can be more comfortable, more happy.”

The problem is that it does occasionally help. It’s that variable reward thing, the allure of playing the slot machine, that has had me try so. many. times.

Today, this first morning in our new home, I don’t want to play that game.

I’m scared, I’m worried, I’m overwhelmed, I’m panicked. And I’m embarrassed that I feel all these things. But I don’t want to make those feelings anyone else’s problem.

Hell, I don’t even want to make them my own problem.

Because I also know from 10,000 other experiments in observation, that feelings always change, usually on their own or for some seemingly unexpected reason. Any tantruming I do before that happens usually helps not at all. If anything, it often creates little interpersonal messes of disconnection or misunderstanding that I have to clean up later.

So today, instead, I’m sitting by the fire, drinking spiced chai, and writing down my fears.  I’m softening my body (my forehead, my jaws, my tongue, my shoulders, my butt, my legs). I’m consciously deepening and slowing down my breath. I’m making room for the dread that’s already here. I’m repeatedly relaxing around a discomfort that wants to animate me in any way it can.

From the outside, I imagine I look peaceful and calm. On the inside, a storm is raging.

I also know from many fewer experiments, that to sit with this storm is alchemical.

Every time I consciously allow my feelings to be what they are – however threatening, however torrential  – I become a little stronger, a little more resilient, a little more stable, and frankly, a lot nicer to be around.

I suppose one other benefit of learning to sit with my own storms is I have learned to sit with others in their storms. I have learned respect for just how uncomfortable those uncomfortable feelings can be. I have learned how desperately the buttoned-up personality wants to escape them. And I have learned how much kindness, and patience, and understanding is required to hold someone gently through times like these.

This morning, as the sun rises over naked New England treetops, gearing up for the big eclipse, this thought motivates me.

Vince Looking up at the full eclipse on the shores of our new home.

As much as I want to freak out
, and as much as I want to run back to the comfort and community and familiarity of Colorado and undo nearly a year’s worth of work to realize this dream, something very quiet and very deep inside me says “Hold…hold…hold…”

That same voice says “This discomfort is not your enemy; it’s the edge of freedom. If you can keep relaxing, your patience, humility, and trust will grow. You can do this. You can handle this. You can. You can.”

How can I trust this voice? Well, I can’t. But it sounds calmer, wiser, and more reasonable than the voice of panic. And I’ve done the freak-out thing enough times to know how that turns out.

I’m more interested in using this discomfort to practice something new. To attempt this new experiment to see what I learn.

With Love, 

In this particular case, my quiet, deeper voice says “Hold…” but sometimes it says “Act!” I’m not advocating doing nothing over doing something. But often I don’t even feel the freedom to wait, to let myself be surprised by what happens, because the fear and discomfort have been too strong. What I really want, at the end of the day, or really, by the end of my life, is the freedom to act and the freedom to wait, the capacity to meet any moment with maturity, clarity, and trust.

This 10 minute exploration invites you to be with whatever feelings you are experiencing during a big life transition.