After about 10 or 15 minutes, I noticed a young man sitting near me drawing on a napkin. This wasn't just any old doodle. It was a fully developed piece with lots of detail, shading, complex forms and depth. So, being me (I am the girl who talks to you if you sit next to me on the plane for the whole flight, if the conversation is good. #sorrynotsorry), I started a conversation with him about art.
Guys, it turned out to be magical! This kid, or rather, young man (he told me he was 27), has already seen so much more of the hard side of life than I have, but he had this deep quiet passion and desire about him that made me want to explore it a little bit. . So we talked about what it takes to be an artist, in both public and private ways. We talked about places to gain skills online. We talked about how to choose what kind of art life you want and how to get there. We talked about keeping your art as a secret for yourself to relax vs. making it a career and a gift to the world. We talked about how to thicken your skin and change your mindset, so you can actually bear the vulnerability that comes with putting your creations out into the world. And we talked about a hundred other things that would make this post way too long, so you all will just have to wonder and be jealous you weren't there.
But there was one thing that resonated, as I talked with this young man perched on the edge of his life, something I have been meaning to share with you guys for a long time. The idea of "Fear being a marker."
"CM, what are you talking about?" You say. "Fear? How can fear be useful? I hate fear. It makes me feel incapable and inadequate. It makes me avoid things and people and experiences. It makes me not want to do things I really want to do."
Yes. Fear does wreak havoc on inspiration and aspiration. It does creep in and undermine what you are trying to become. It unlaces your sense of well being, so you find yourself tripping all over something you thought you were comfortable with. Oh yes, Fear is the Great Inhibitor. But have you ever wondered where it comes from? This horrifying preoccupation with all the dark outcomes of our ambition?
Oh, and just for clarification's sake, I am not talking about the kind of fear you feel when you are in a dangerous situation. Fear that you are going to be trapped in a landslid is a survival mechanism that needs to be obeyed. If you feel like you are actually unsafe, get the heck out of there!
Now before we get into all the feelings, we need to talk about something else. This is where things get a little tricky. To follow this part, it helps if you believe that there really are good and bad forces playing out somehow in the world. Since we cannot see these powers directly, only their influence, it safe to assume that they are functioning in some other realm or dimension or whatever. It must take a lot of energy to influence us here.
Now I want you to remember the last time you were preparing to do something your soul wanted, like choosing a college or a profession or a spouse. Or even just making the decision to make a positive change or add something you really love to your life. Do you remember being pounded with doubts and fears about that thing? Did you have a massive amount of backlash emotionally about your hoped-for choice?
About 10 years ago, I really wanted to learn to belly dance. I had to fight off so much fear! As I was driving to the first class...the most basic class they offered at the studio...I was crying because I was so afraid that all the other people in the class would be 23 yr old hard bodies. And that they would look at my 38 yr old post pardem body and make me feel horrible about myself. I had to listen to "Are We Humans or Are We Dancers?" by the Killers on repeat the whole way there to ward off a panic attack. It was crazy. I am a super positive, not easily intimidated, self assured person and I was terrified to walk into that class by the time I got there. Those feelings were intense. And not of me. They must have cost an enormous amount of energy from somewhere.
This is the kind of experience I am talking about. You deal with it regularly when you are an artist, which is why I brought it up with my new friend. But it haunts all of us. It is a huge part of the human condition, this intense, debilitating fear and self doubt showing up as we make the choices that will light our souls and determine who we become. And all that energy and influence is coming from somewhere. It costs someone (or something) handsomely.
So, if these feelings or fear and inadequacy are darkness trying to prevent you from achieving all the good things, (growth, peace, service, wonder, delight, freedom, knowledge, love, etc) and if these fearful feelings intensify the closer you get to walking the path you most want to be on, doesn't it make you wonder why darkness is trying so hard?
Darkness is working so hard, because you being happy and fulfilled is the opposite of what it wants! It wants you to fail, to miss opportunities to become more, to always believe that you are not capable or talented or lovable. Darkness cultivates despair. It is truly the opposite of joy and light.
So what do you do when these intense feelings start to pound you? You simply turn the tables and use the power of darkness against itself. Turn the fear on its head by recognizing that something nasty thinks that this would be a great experience for you and is expending enormous amounts of energy to prevent it from happening. Look at your fears, this obscuring of what you want, as a giant arrow pointing in the exact direction you should run in. RUN! Not walk, run! If fear wants you to stop, then you should push with everything you have straight towards whatever all this negative energy is trying to obscure. And then hold on for all you're worth. Both to your positive mindset and your desired objective.
Fear does not stop just because you made one decision. Fear stays there, lingering in the shadows, hoping you'll embrace it again. It waits for the day you are tired or sad. Darkness never gives up. It must become a habit to push through it. You must keep doing the thing you love, creating a meaningful life, fighting against these dark thoughts and feelings. Over and over and over again. If you cave to the fear one day, get some sleep and pound against it the next time. It never takes less effort, but gradually, you get better at seeing through the fear to what you love. The more times you push through the fear, and the more times you use use that "arrow," the less terrifying it becomes. Refuse to let fear make your choices and determine your destiny.
And one day Fear will come at you with it's worst, and you won't be afraid. You will walk straight towards it with no hesitation, brushing it aside like a curtain across a doorway. And as you cross that threshold, you might even discover a strange sense of gratitude that Fear made the best path to follow so much easier to see.
And that, my friend, is a powerful way to live.