Letting Go of Fear (an excerpt from ‘Til Now)

Many of us, most of us move about our daily lives acting and reacting without spending a lot of time thinking about “why” we are doing something a particular way, or “why” we feel a certain way about the situations we find ourselves in. And this is perfectly fine, it is normal and it is functional. It would just take too darn long to do anything if we analyzed every feeling we had before, during and after and experience. But sometimes we limit ourselves and our opportunities inadvertently because we are reacting to feelings that may not be true for us, or may not be useful to our present functioning. This excerpt from my book is taken from an essay that looks at where certain fears come from, and how they can limit our lives once they have outlived their usefulness.

Up until about six months ago every time I heard a chainsaw my chest contracted and my heart started racing. Chainsaws, I remembered from early childhood, were extremely dangerous, and operating one inevitably meant that someone was going to be injured. My dad sliced into his leg with a chainsaw once, before I can remember, possibly before I was born, but every time he went out into the yard to work on something that involved the use of that tool my mom would say something reminding him of his previous accident and encouraging him to not hurt himself again. Usually he was headed out to his yardly task after having ‘taken a break,’ so maybe that didn’t help.

What changed for me recently? Why am I no longer stricken with fear every time I hear the roar of the chainsaw? I was watching a man who I had hired to do some tree work in my yard from the kitchen window. He scrambled up the tree with a chainsaw hanging from his belt. Of course it was not turned on but I was barely breathing, sure that at any moment it would spontaneously power up and dismember him. But up he went in mere seconds, with no problem at all, and thirty minutes later the entire tree was sitting in a neat pile on the walkway with nary a drop of blood in site. He did this two more times with no trouble. Up the tree, cut the tree, on the ground, all limbs intact. I asked myself why I was scared the whole time he was at the house. My shoulders were rock hard from tension and I really had to focus on getting a full breath. I stood at the window thinking about why I was so upset, why I was so scared, and it was because my dad always got hurt when he was working in the yard. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but there was almost always blood. He was also always stoned. “Aha,” I said to myself, “perhaps there is a correlation.”

“Duh,” said my husband when I shared my epiphany. And so it got me thinking in general about many of the things I was deeply afraid of because there was the risk of physical injury, and I realized that there is a lot that is dangerous when you aren’t paying attention, or can’t pay attention to what you are doing.

Here is the short list of things that scared me: physical labor involving tools, large machinery, anything with a blade, cooking (over gas or electric burners, also opening the oven), kitchen prep involving knives, candles, backing up in a car, barbecues, repair of anything around the house (this was because it meant my parents would fight despite the fact that they claimed they never fought), car engines, the food processor, a cheese grater, the toaster, basically anything that could result in bodily injury which, if you are wasted while working at it is everything. I spent a lot of time being anxious and scared, waiting for impending disaster. As a child it almost always arrived. When it didn’t it was a miracle, I breathed a little deeper and was grateful that this time we got away with one, but I knew it meant that next time it would be worse. That was how fate worked. 

I learned how to let go of limiting fear by understanding what that fear was and whether or not it was relevant for my life. You can read the rest of this essay, along with many others in ‘Til Now and explore for yourself how to let go of the stories that are holding you back from fully experiencing the truth and fullness of your own life!

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