There were bodies everywhere. All over my loungeroom. Relieved, happy bodies, draped over every bit of furniture, everyone spent from a kind of post-performance exhaustion. We had opened to a warm, appreciative, sold out audience and everyone remembered their moves. No one was more surprised than cast and crew that we actually pulled it off!
It was 1995, and I was heavily involved in the performing arts – manager of the newly formed Dizzy Dance Theatre, and co-writer of its debut performance, Colours. The cast had gathered for the ‘after-party’ at my home. There was a mellow, quiet kind of buzz in the air, the kind that lends itself to rich conversation and meaningful exchange (or so I thought!).
I decided to start the ball rolling by diving right in… we had all faced down some pretty big fears on opening night, maybe that would be a good place to begin.
“Let’s all share our biggest fear! What’s yours?” I asked, and we went around the room.
Spiders… Heights… Public speaking…we got past the usual stuff. Then my turn came. I wanted my revelation inspire deep and meaningful conversation around…you know, the Big Stuff. And maybe impress these young ‘uns just a little bit!
“I think my biggest fear is leading a life of mediocrity,” I said, with dollop of drama and no small amount of self-importance.
The room went silent. Then one of the young performers responded with surprise,
“REALLY? My biggest fear is vomiting!”
Everyone burst out laughing and the conversation turned to other things. I learned 2 things from that evening. The first was that people really have the strangest fears. The second was that trying to impress other people (with anything, especially your fears!) was a pretty dumb thing to do. It was a humbling experience that I’m sure all the rest promptly forgot, but I never have.
Sometime last year I was preparing material for a weekend art workshop called Take Flight – Find Your Authentic Voice. The first painting I planned was going to be around our fears, which we would later turn around (symbolically) into our joys. I realised, paradoxically, how much I had grown because of my fears.
I’ve feared fear all my life…but were there some sneaky possibilities tied up in my Fears?
I decided then and there that I would turn this on its head and respect…even THANK… my fears!
- Thank it for the boundaries. Like the edges of a canvas, on which life is the painting, my fears have given me margins within which I’ve designed my life.
- Thank it for conspiring with my intuition to enable me to act quickly and perhaps save a life.
- Thank it for the ‘striving to overcome’ it has provided me, the hard surface that I push off to go that extra distance.
- Thank it for the feeling of complete relief when I faced something I’ve feared, overcame it and lived to tell the tale!
- Thank it for EVERY SINGLE THING that I’ve achieved that I’ve been proud of, because it all started with a dose of fear.
My fear, my pain has defined me and shown me where my strength and my courage lie.
I NEED MY FEARS! I LOVE MY FEARS!
Seventeen event-filled, often heartbreaking years have passed since my grandiose pronouncement to that young cast on opening night. In these years, I’ve faced down some Really Scary Things that have helped shape my perspective. I’ve found my calling, I’m more grounded, more grateful, and I take myself MUCH less seriously.
So here I am, saying with a smile on my face, “Thank you, Fears, you’ve served me well! ”
What about you? Have you noticed a sneaky upside to fear?