I talked about emotions in another post. In this one, I would like to focus on the biggest one of them all: fear. It is the big, bad monster that has taken our society by storm, has us all firmly in its grip and is not letting go until we all capitulate and let ourselves be devoured by its big, bad teeth.
For me fear takes the shape of a big white shark.
Since watching Jaws as a kid that imagery has traumatised my nights and left me scared shitless when I am attempting to put a toe in the sea. I thought long and hard about this fear, a phobia really, because by all means, unless you are diving in some specific places in this world, rationality tells you there is close to zero probability of you encountering that ridiculously scary monster. And even in those specific places, probabilities remain quite low… You see I consider myself a fairly intelligent woman and statistics are actually my field of expertise so yeah I understand that… and yet…
I thought long and hard about the big white shark and its potential symbolism. Unlike other sharks who nicely announce themselves by swimming in circles around you, increasingly close circles as they prepare for an attack, that beast does not announce itself. It comes from the depth of the ocean and takes you in its razor sharp teeth… It is as cruel as it is merciless. It can attack even if not hungry, just for fun… Nice beast by all means. It is the ultimate predator and has the ugliest eyes you can imagine, dark, soul-less… I came to the realisation that the white shark symbolises for me the danger that you did not see coming. It can come from anywhere and leaves you hopeless because really there is little you can do against such an attack, apart from maybe not tasting that good… It also symbolises pure evil, senseless cruelty, because really you weren’t attacking it, it attacked you, with no purpose.
That paralysing fear, whether representing a real danger or not, is what makes us crave security, safety.
It is the reason why we build walls and fences. Why we take insurance on anything and everything… The underlying question being: what if…? What if my neighbour attacks me or robs me? What if I can’t provide for my family anymore? What if I get hurt? What if I die?
What if? What if?
Recently I made a big jump, a leap of faith if you will. I received education from a prestigious business school, I got big jobs, made money, had some status, power. But fundamentally something was missing. I did everything that was expected of me and yet was I truly happy? Was I truly complete? Not really… Don’t get me wrong, I liked my job and I was pretty good at it. I had a nice life with lots of stuff. But I didn’t have… me. We live in a world that loves to box things and tends to define people by their function. You ‘are’ a father or a mother. You ‘are’ a gardener, a driver, a director. Language is an interesting thing. In English there is only one verb ‘to be’. In Spanish there are two verbs: ‘ser’, what you are (tall/short, intelligent/not so smart) and ‘estar’, the state you are in (happy/sad, healthy/sick). You either are intrinsiquely or you are in the state of… I like that distinction because I ‘am’ not a director, it is merely a function I fulfilled for some time. I ‘am’ much more that that. There are so many facets of me that co-exist, some very developed, some less, and I wanted to experiment ‘being’ all those things. Not just one or two. All of them.
So I quit my job. Very few people understood my decision. I was successful!!! To the question, what are you going to do, I had very few answers… I had some hints as to what I wanted to do but really I had no plans. And that was mega novelty to me. I ‘am’ a planner you see. I project on potential decisions and evaluate all the possible results. Why? Because security is a nice thing, it’s comfy, it’s known. And most of us like what is known. Unknown is bad… Remember the big white shark… What if? What if? And really I was the queen of what ifs…
But I am also a very spiritual person. I believe fundamentally that there is a powerful energy that connects us all and that sends our way what is ‘good’ for us. The difficulty being in understanding and acknowledging what is ‘good’ for us (‘good’ being a very relative term in fact)… I came to the realisation I was contradicting myself because, you see, fear does not co-exist with faith, or trust if you prefer as the word ‘faith’ has been tainted by so many religious connotations… You cannot trust the ‘universe’ and what it might bring you and at the same time want to build all kind of safety nets because, let’s face it, you are afraid.
Do you know what happened when I jumped with no self constructed net and left all that is known behind me?
Nothing bad. Or more precisely something beautiful. I got caught by a a gentle wave and.. I swam! So far, there are no white sharks. There is a current that I am learning to swim with. Sometimes there are buoys I can rest on. Sometimes I need to swim faster. Sometimes slower. At times I encounter other swimmers or divers or boats. The temperature varies. But there are no white sharks. And it is actually amazing here.
Fear does not help us. It defines us and controls us. It swallows us and leaves us with no air.
A tiny bit of fear is ok. It comes from our beliefs and acquired behaviours. It is here to warn us but fundamentally it is based on the past. Our past emotions, our past experiences, our past wounds. And these will only repeat themselves if we reiterate the same belief or attitude or behaviour. When we learn from what happened, understand it, analyse it but decide to change our belief or attitude or behaviour with full trust the result cannot be the same. It’s simple physics really.
Letting go is a powerful thing. It is the opposite of fear.
It does not mean though jumping with zero visibility. Or doing nothing and waiting for something to happen. It is actually a very active attitude.
I know myself, my strengths and weaknesses. I understand and acknowledge my past experiences. I look at my surroundings, the things I have and the ones I don’t, the people who can help me and those who cannot. But I also acknowledge there is a lot I don’t see or can’t account for from the place I jump. And those things are not necessarily ‘bad’. I believe in the expression ‘you reap what you sow’. And by all means I have always tried to spread love and understanding around me. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn’t, depending on my state of mind. But my intentions were always ‘good’. I never meant any harm intentionally. I could have hurt people but it was never intentional and I made amends when I realised I did. So, when you sow that kind of energy, why would you be caught in terrible things? Of course some difficult things can happen. If life was all fun and games we surely would know about it. No, there are struggles, sickness, loss, pain. They are very real. But if we face them all from a position of trust, trust that I can do it, trust that not every one is here to get me, trust that I deserve something beautiful, then, guess what? You surf on the wave. You understand it and work with it not against it.
Fear has paralysed our society and left us powerless and with no hope…
There seems to be a general consensus on the fact that you cannot change things and you certainly cannot change the planet… Why are we here then? To do what? Eat, drink, sleep, work and have some fun sometimes? Doesn’t it seem to you like a big waste of space, time and energy? And yet nature does not do waste, we, human beings, do… Every thing in nature has a purpose, not necessarily a spiritual one, but a purpose still, but us, supposedly the greatest creation of all time, we do not?
I don’t believe that. I believe we all have a purpose but very few of us take the time to understand what it is because we are so busy trying to function. ‘Being’ a function or two. ‘Being’ scared of what might happen if we leave the mega highway that was defined by others for us. What if we take the scenic little route, on the right, or the one on the left, what do you think would happen? Do you think we would self destruct like a 7 second message in Mission Impossible? What? We will fail? Or fall? And then what? Are we going to die? I think not. Oooooh, hang on, we will be judged by others for not taking the highway. True. We will. I have been. So what? You can always go back to the highway if you think it is better for you. It is quicker. True. Although you are not too sure why you should speed or towards what. It is nicely lit, those other roads are a bit darker. OK. But mind you that highway is not toll free. And the price is you.
So that we are clear. I did not go from Queen of mega planning to Master of letting go the day I jumped. I am still learning the way. I need to unlearn certain things and learn others. Most importantly I need to trust. Me and others. It doesn’t come overnight. But when you do, you can only be surprised by what you can actually ‘be’.