Every Day I’m Afraid
Fear has always been a big part of my life. Somehow it plays a role in each day, and some days it plays a role in most passing moments.
Yet it has rarely done anything for me.
I go to bed with the fear that my alarm won’t wake me up in the morning, and I’ll get into trouble. When I wake up I fear that I might miss my train. When I get to the office I fear that I’ll have to face difficult conversations about my work, or my performance, or that I’ll get the sack.
At lunchtime I fear that the food I’m eating will contribute to my ever growing waistband, and I fear that I have only the choice of either enjoying food and being fat, or never enjoying my food again and possibly, perhaps, being slim. I fear that I will never get my work/life balance right and be able to afford a gym membership, or find the time to use it. I fear that I will always have a job that extracts from me more than I get from it, and that I will never pay off my debts, no matter how conscientious I try to be with my spending.
I’m terrified of saying the wrong thing. Of choosing words that aren’t reassuring or supportive or on point. I’m terrified of not being decisive, of making the wrong decision, or making any decision at all.
When I write blog posts like this, or publish a book, or post content anywhere online, I fear what people will think. I fear that I will be judged as inadequate, or as a failure, or as missing the point in life, or as simply not that bright.
But more than anything, I fear that I will reach old age having never achieved the kind of life that I dream of. I have even moved the goalposts to make it more possible, but it still seems unrealistic. I fear I may never get to enjoy a life where I don’t have to sacrifice every minute in service to an employer, leaving myself exhausted just so I can get by. I fear I may never get a chance to be financially solvent, or to have the time to do other things than just work, eat and sleep. I fear that I may never have my own plan, and will therefore always be subject to someone else’s.
I fear destitution. I fear missed opportunities. I fear not realising my potential, on my terms, as defined by me and in my own time. I fear that the world is on fire and there’s nothing that anybody can do about it, and somehow it’s all my fault.
I have always lived a life of fear, but I don’t think I’m alone. In fact, I think society is broken into two groups. Those who, like me, fear what might go wrong, and those who spend their days getting on with what might go right.
Fear, though, is not a good motivator or tool for living. Indeed, when you’re constantly afraid your only goal is to get through this thing unscathed. Keeping your head down and not causing any trouble is no way to build any kind of existence. No statues have been erected in memory of the meek and the mild. So that’s why, after forty-odd years, I got tired of my bullshit, and I’m trying to find the courage and the energy to face my fears every day. I’m sick of the stick, and now I want the carrot.
Some days I win, and some days my anxiety rears up and the fear is victorious. But I keep ploughing on. Some days I’m courageous and I go into meetings with my boss breezily and confidently. Some days just the thought of going into the office leaves me anxious and drained. Some days I feel confident and creative, and I write and post and publish, and I feel the urge to share the beauty of the world with anyone who will listen.
Some days I just want to stay in bed and for everyone to leave me alone.
It’s a practice. Everything is a practice. And I have techniques that I use to keep my energy up and not allow myself or others to undermine me. I meditate. I use breathing techniques. I use mantras and affirmations. I try to get as much sleep and drink as much water as I can. I work hard to do my best, be my best, and let go of all the things that don’t serve me.
I imagine a better, more confident version of myself, and I try to be that person. Because deep down, under all the assorted detritus and accumulated baggage, I know that I am that person.
Some things I can do nothing about, so I let them go. Some things I can do something about, so I do them. Sometimes anxieties threaten to ruin my day, but I send them packing back into the abyss. Sometimes they overwhelm me, so I let them get on with it and I wait it out until they’ve done their thing.
But the thing is, above all else, I’m engaged in the process. I’m not here to be beaten, but each day I am engaged in the the process of living on my terms. Of not letting the bad thoughts get the better of me. Of not letting my energy waver or be diminished.
I try not to call it a fight, because sometimes it’s just about letting go. I try not to think of it as a conflict, but more like the dance of the yin and the yang. It goes around and around, and sometimes the darkness is more prevalent, and sometimes the light. But I choose the light, I always choose the light. And sometimes that means dancing with the dark, refusing to let it hold you too tight, but letting it go when it is ready.
Sometimes I see it as a black dove, clasped in my hands. It doesn’t mean me any real harm, it just wants to be. And all I have to do is relax my grip and set it free.
Why do I do this? Because I’ve seen how beautiful and wonderful life can be.
I’ve seen lightning storms from above the clouds in Miami. I’ve watched fireworks from the top of Manhattan skyscrapers. I’ve danced with crabs on the beaches of Indonesia. I’ve seen a Buddha appear between the clouds above London. I’ve seen hundreds of container ships at anchor outside Singapore. I’ve glimpsed my own glowing soul on the return from meditation. I’ve seen windmills looming through the thickest fog at five in the morning. I’ve seen the place where two oceans meet. I’ve swam alone in the rain off a deserted beach on the Skaggerak. I’ve received a personal puja from a Tibetan monk. I’ve felt my heart fly with the laughter of my baby daughter. I’ve seen meteorites fizz in the sky. I’ve married my love on the spur of the moment and danced as the Rolling Stones performed at our wedding. I’ve seen how I can transform the world by transforming myself.
I’ve experienced liberating, invigorating, refreshing joy.
I refuse to give in to fear, because it is a veil behind which all that is good is hidden. Fear leads to anger and bitterness, to jealousy, to war, greed and hatred. But if you can find the strength and the courage to let it go, life is waiting right there, filled with beauty, and love, and light.
Just let go and choose the light.