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I doubted the pond had anything more to say, I mean, how many times could I stand by murky water and get a message? The urge that day to plant myself on the rock wall amid goat turds and mown grass debris to dangle my feet in the cool water was, I felt, ridiculous, but I did it anyway. Here’s the silly part: I always suspend my feet cautiously below the surface, careful to watch for that elusive snapping turtle. I can see my toes but I can’t see the pond’s bottom. It’s like an unknown abyss. At least that’s my rationalization for having fear, admittedly, of something I cannot see.
Anyway, if I had to sit, I might as well relax so I did. I stared at the surface of the water and wondered when I’d see those muskrats again. And if the ducks would return this winter. Or why geese who fly south after summer consider Pennsylvania a winter paradise. Have they heard of Florida?
Then I saw it. It was right there. I could see clear through to the bottom of the pond, maybe six feet deep, without encumbrance. Then a fish swam up to my toes to investigate. Or maybe as a welcome. When he left, I followed him and watched him join a group of five others lined up nearby looking straight at my feet. Fishes aligned opposite of me like my aquatic armor. Suddenly fear wasn’t a factor. I don’t even know what I did differently except maybe stop fearing.
It’s said that fear is the thing that keeps us from doing everything. If you think fear is too strong a word to describe what’s going on with you, let’s make it interchangeable with something more palatable, like “doubt.” Or let’s look at fear another way and say realistically it’s just “logic.”
It’s not logical to think that the loser from your neighborhood would ever win an Olympic medal.
It’s unrealistic to believe someone who never touched a ball until high school would play professional sports.
It’s moronic to suppose a person with social anxiety would ever win a Tony award for best actor.
But is it impossible?
What is fear anyway? An emotion, right? There are lots of emotions. Just for fun, let’s list some:
I believe we innately assign weight in the emotional realm to many of these, giving some more power than others. For instance hate is a far more destructive emotion than doubt, seemingly; being understood still falls short of being truly loved. We think of some as diamonds and some as sticker bushes. But to simplify things, let’s look at these words differently. Let’s pick a whole new paradigm. Let’s assign a name to the list on the left that generalizes the feeling evoked by each and do the same for the list on the right.
I’ll start. The list on the left makes me warm and fuzzy inside. In my heart, it makes me feel, well, degrees of happiness. To simplify, I’d stuff all these emotions into a bag called “Joy.”
The list on the right is far more interesting to me. When I align myself with each emotion listed, only one feeling actually surfaces. Personally, I’d force this list into a dark hole appropriately called “Pain.”
What if we could only call every emotion we ever had joy or pain?
When I look at my fears as though they’re all ways to cause myself pain, I don’t like the sound of that at all. When I consider hate and resentment; being misunderstood or abandoned as ways to embrace pain, I’m forced into a paradox. We hate others, we resent others, we’re misunderstood by others. We’re abandoned at the hands of others. But pain is what is left long after the initial damage is done.
Is pain inevitable?
I wrote a book. I’m told it’s really a novel. In any case, it’s a work of fiction and my goal was to write books that could be easily converted to screenplays. Then a guy got in touch with me and (dot, dot, dot) low and behold we’re making a movie. Both me and the guy who wants to make this movie inherently know getting this done requires a kick-ass script. It’s also true that the responsibility for writing a kick-ass script rests with me.
When I shared this with a person I consider to be a master visionary, I was shocked at his reply: “Now all you have to worry about is writing a great script.”
Here’s where fear comes in. Re-writes are right in my wheelhouse. It’d never crossed my mind to “worry.” Why had it crossed his?
The belief is that it’s harder to exist in this moment as if the future is pure possibility than it is to embrace the current presumed reality. Both could theoretically be the future. Why not embrace the one that makes you giddy with excitement over one that perpetuates pain?
Where would I be if I decided “worry” was what I should feel about my screenplay?
The future is coming, whether you like it or not. Whether you believe it’s brief or infinite. Whether it leads to misery or celebration. And the one truth about the future is, it will manifest solely on the feeling you have about it at this moment.
In other words, why would I adopt “worry” as my resident emotion instead of “competence?” Because someone said to? Because I gave that person a level of importance higher than my own?
Did you ever wonder why some people are genuinely able to find joy in the most insignificant things? It’s not because they’ve lived in a vacuum. It’s because they choose to. And that joy they find in that little thing is what attracts more joy to them because how they appear to people is what defines who chooses to align with them.
Take their lead. To align with people who are feeling the way you want to feel about yourself – extraordinary, astounding, competent – you have to exist with presence in order to recognize them. You have to have an unencumbered mind to recognize a magnificent opportunity. Otherwise you will be so stuck in your own muck in the present moment that you wouldn’t see the big down arrow God displayed for you if it was accompanied by a trumpet fanfare. That’s why it’s imperative that you master presence of mind. That’s why it’s crucial that you accept joy as your birthright. That’s why to surrender to joy in this moment, you have to believe in the future, not as uncertainty, not as a product of your past, but as possibility. It’s that simple.
Many will try or have attempted to sell you a portrait of your future based on their experiences, observations, beliefs and fears. You don’t have to claim any of these as your own. Matter of fact, there’s no jackpot when buying a ticket. Trust your intuition. And if you’re not good at hearing your inner voice, join the club. Then practice. Practice living in love and aligning with those who love.
When I say love, I’m not talking about that fake high achieved by the dysfunctional caretaking of others: the Florence Nightingale effect or choosing an abusive mate because that person makes you feel “needed.” If you need a project, get a plant. Choose a mate or friend because they make you better when you leave than when you arrived. They push you to achieve more – for you, not for them. They introduce a whole new world of possibility to your current limiting thoughts not because they know you’re a forgiving person and wouldn’t hold their past iniquities against them. Not because if they had someone like you in their life, they’d truly change.
When you don’t feel the best about yourself, someone is more than happy to come in and take you down under the guise that you’ll lift them up. Don’t fall for it. Develop that intuitive thing you were born with that I call awareness. Develop radar. Don’t mistake manipulation for love. More importantly, don’t jump in a pool of fears with a bad swimmer. There’s no staying afloat. They drown in a murky paradigm because ambition isn’t in the equation. That’s why they want you to save them, to “understand” them – understand their fears, their pains, the romantic script they’re playing out and how you should take center stage.
However, if you're truly acting out your passion and someone warns you against it, remember that's only the pain of someone else’s reality. It’s their weapon against you making them feel uncomfortable. The most important fact is, their comfort level is none of your business. It’s not your problem. Why should they make your comfort level their business? Because they think they’re obligated. Sometimes they use very strong language in the debate. Even more annoyingly, they throw the “love” card.
Don't fall for the love card. When you have a bad feeling, don’t reject it for that moment when the ace of hearts is thrown: “I only say this because I love you.” Or the lengthy closing argument of wanting the best for you that ends with, “I love you.”
Love is not manipulation. Love is not fear. Love is not pain. Love is not sex. Love is the way God loves you. Love is how God sends you that warning via that little voice in your head that says, “Good feeling gone.” God doesn’t beat you in the head with his love, God simply closes doors. God sends the message a thousand times. God exists in the beautiful blue sky that asks you to look up. God makes you look back at the cycle of your life that has ended in the same sorry place time after time and asks if you’re ready to find a different way to think. God is that voice that asks if you like how this feels because you’ve been here a million times. God is on your side saying, “Now, are you ready to feel about yourself the way I feel about you? Because the moment you love yourself at the same vibration that I love you, great things will happen.”
Find those people who feel that way about themselves. Align with those individuals who kick you in the ass when you’ve lost hope. Then they take that hope, blow life into it like it’s a deflating raft and say, “Now catch up.”
Why should you want to float and not sink? Because the most popular conclusion to internalizing all the unsupportive stuff that has been said for your benefit is you learn to operate daily under a high amount of pain and you don’t even know it. The negative energy you grew up with creates what can be called a “comfortable” pain level. And invariably you won’t develop an awareness of it until you shake the sugar tree. What comes falling down all around you might not be love. That’s why it’s so important to test yourself, to push yourself, to move through fear into possibility.
When that person said, “Now all you have to worry about…” He wasn’t speaking for me, he was speaking for him. It’s not my reality, it’s his. So I left his fear with him.
Dreaming big will make you a target. The higher you go, the more fear will be fired your way. Align yourself with people who are your armor. You’d be surprised who wants to join your love for life. And don’t forget that God is your biggest fan.
If you think I'm wrong, consider this: What do you have to lose if I’m not?