“Always do what you are afraid to do.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
There was a time in my life when I was fearless. I felt almost invincible. I never feared new situations, new people and loved new experiences. The only fear I would readily admit to was my fear of heights. But for the most part, I lived life to the fullest. Fearlessly.
I used to say I don’t know when I became afraid of life but the truth is I can look back and see when it happened. April 6, 1992. I was living my fairytale life. I was young, healthy, married to my best friend and pregnant with our first child. With a picture perfect pregnancy, we eagerly awaited the new addition to our family. On that day we went to what was to be a typical OB check-up. But it became anything but typical. On that day we found out our little boy had died in utero. My idyllic life shattered. I was not invincible. Death could take me by the heart and slam me to the ground. After giving birth to my son, nothing inside me ever felt the same. Life scared me. I knew that everything could change in a heartbeat- or lack of one.
I had changed. My outlook had changed. I was afraid. Not in ways you could always see but in ways that pulled me deeper inside myself. Years later after delivering two very healthy babies, I was living life more fully but never to the fullest.
Maybe that inner fear is one of the reasons I fell so deeply into my addiction. I was a broken, fearful, unhappy woman. The drugs were just an attempt to mask it all. Then somewhere deep inside myself I found the courage to admit I needed help. With a lot of hard work and a lot of help from amazing people who were also beating their addictions, I began to live life more fearlessly. In fact, for a few months, I was fearless again.
I had looked death in the face and kicked it to the curb. With my new found friends, I was living life. I was riding on the back of my friends’ Harleys. I was going to Karoake with them. I was meeting people I would never have met otherwise and seeing a side of life I would never have known. And I embraced it.
A few months into my recovery I became pregnant with my daughter. There was nothing about that pregnancy that was not filled with fear. It went as far as being told that she, too, would probably die before birth.
My daughter was born perfectly healthy. I searched again for the fearlessness. I began to find it again. I tried to find it in big ways. (I should have been looking for it in small ways.)
When my Mom became so sick and I sat by her side watching her die, Fear took over again. It completely grabbed me by the throat and choked out whatever fearlessness I thought I had found. This time, Fear stayed around much longer. The very core of my being was shaken, tossed around and thrown to the ground.
This year I decided to do something about it. A project- if you will- began to take root in my mind.
I decided the only way to conquer living fearfully was to do something about it and begin my path to living fearlessly again. One step at a time. One day at a time. I wanted to see if I could do it for at least a month before I openly blogged about it.
One year. A new challenge every day. Nothing huge or outrageous. Just simple acts that help me move forward in an attempt to challenge myself away from the big and little things that can cause me to withdraw or let fear win. This is not an experiment in trying to find perfect happiness in a year. It is just my way of taking small steps, small challenges towards living fearlessly.
Some things will be bigger than others. Some will be as easy as simple acts of kindness. Acts that I would normally think about doing but never actually put into action. I may find inspiration from books, blogs, friends, suggestions, movies, self-help books etc. But every day I will do something to force me outside of my comfort zone a bit. And I know there will be many times I will need to explain why a certain act is stepping outside of my personal comfort zone.
I have been successfully doing this for one month. I have kept a personally diary that I will copy over to the blog as soon as I can so you can follow along. Nothing huge yet.
Here are some examples:
- I reached out to a friend from my past where our friendship ended badly and we talked things over. It felt good to let that go.
- I went to lunch alone without any props (you know: books, phones for texting etc) and just enjoyed being alone and enjoying myself.
- I called a tech service rep just to tell him how much I know his job must be thankless but how much I appreciate that he is on the other end of the phone when things go haywire. (I didn’t even have a tech problem.)
- Those of you who know me know I am terrified of mascots in full uniform. At a recent hockey game when the mascot jumped RIGHT IN MY FACE, I did not scream, run or cry. I actually reached out and touched him. (I missed the photo op but do have witnesses.)
See? Simply things. Small steps. Hopefully big results when all is said and done. It may seem crazy but if you know me, that is nothing new.
I am open to your challenges. Bring ’em on. Now, nothing that is illegal or involves nudity. No ONE wants that. What do you suggest? Challenge me. One thing a day- some big, some small and some just random acts of kindness that we all think about doing but rarely follow through with. They can even be daily steps towards a bigger goal. (Jogging? Queries? World Domination? Kicking out Leno and bringing back Conan? You get the idea.)
You see, what I hope to find at the end of 2010 as I ring in 2011 is a Jennifer who lives life fearlessly.
Are you with me on this journey? Do you want to join me on this project as I take a jump off the high dive one day at a time? I’m climbing the ladder and am ready to jump!
(I will add the link the the daily challenges as soon as I get them all written up from my journal to my computer. BUT, I will keep you updated here until then. Just so you can help hold me accountable. Are you in?)