I'm less afraid than I was five years ago. Much less afraid than I was 10 years ago.
For much of my life my spirituality was defined by what made me afraid. For nearly 25 years, the deepest part of me was controlled, motivated, manipulated, and crippled by fear. That's how I was raised. I wasn't born that way. As some point after my family began going to the Baptist church, it was like I got hooked up to an I.V., fear began dripping into my life and infecting my core being, molding and reshaping how functioned. It not only influenced integral parts my life in the moment, it also began to fashion how I lived those moments and what I expected to gain or learn or give to those moments. Fear influenced who I believed, how I trusted, where I let my guard down, and when to pretend.
I was in my mid-20s before I realized what ailed me. But years went by before I learned to what degree it ailed me.
Spiritual fear rarely affects the tangible parts of life. Sure, it happens. And it's devastating. But for most of us--for me--fear reprogrammed my soul. I learned to see life through a fear-colored lens.
Fear was mostly a spiritual companion at first, but like most things spiritual, it bled into nearly every area of my life.
As I realized to what degree fear held onto me, my eyes began to open to the areas of my life it controlled. Fear didn't simply affect my relationships, it affected how I pursued relationships, ended relationships, managed relationships, and destroyed relationships. Fear molded me into a person who allowed relationships to control me. Fear gave me the tools to become the person who was codependent and how to enable others to become codependent to me.
Fear affected how I handled my finances. It affected how I loved and how I let people love me. It affected my work and my talents. It affected how I viewed me--my self, my personality, how I viewed sex, how I viewed my body.
Its affects happened in varying degrees. In some areas of my life, it showed up more often than in others. But indeed, it was once all consuming.
A friend, in passing, recently described me as "fearless". I laughed and said, "Nothing could be less true. I'm not nearly as afraid as I once was. But I'm hardly fearless."
Is anybody fearless? It that even possible? I'm not sure.
People ask me all the time how I became less afraid. I tell them that, for me, becoming less afraid was one of the most fearful personal journeys I've encountered.
Because it's easy to be afraid. Trusting again is not easy.
Because it's easy to be afraid. Setting boundaries is not easy.
Because it's easy to be afraid. Sitting down and writing your story is not easy.
Because it's easy to be afraid. Loving others and letting others love you is not easy.
Because it's easy to be afraid. Opening up and being honest with a friend is not easy.
But that's how I became less afraid. And also why I'm not yet fearless.
But choosing to not fear was the only remedy for my journey. I make daily, weekly, monthly choices to not be afraid. And when I make the choice to love instead of fear, to hope instead of fear, to laugh instead of fear, to meditate instead of fear, or to get down on the floor and play with my kids instead of fear… I worry less. I don't wake up at night with panic attacks. Anxiety doesn't control my every move. I stop believing in ideas that hurt me, manipulate me, and affect how I see other people.
I'm not fearless. I'm not sure I'll ever be fearless or whether or not "being fearless" is even a possibility.
But I do fear less. A lot less. I'm stronger when I am not afraid. I can't be controlled, manipulated, guilt-tripped, or scared into believing nonsense when I'm unafraid. Because I fear less, I feel empowered--empowered to believe, to have faith, to make choices, to learn, to love, to engage…
And to live.