Fear has been walking alongside of me and inside of me this entire week. It has rationed my meals, fragmented my sleep and stopped my thoughts in their tracks.
From the outside looking in, people around me would call me strong and I would almost always look at them and think: if you only knew … . The effects of fear, anxiety and, at times, panic, were physical at some point and I was grateful to the many years of experience. I remembered that anxiety cannot kill you, that your thoughts in anxiety are scarier than your reality, that any panic wave is limited in time and that it happens on a bell curve. And this is how, while fear still made my stomach turn and my heart beat fast, the demons that have accompanied me for a lifetime seemed friendlier and more tame.
The first time I heard that courage does not mean the absence of fear, I felt so relieved. I thought it was just me… . It seemed logical to me when I thought about it – if you are not afraid to do something, where does courage come in. And yet, I had always thought that you are courageous only if you are going into a situation that is hard and you are not afraid. After all, isn’t that what everyone tells us? Don’t be scared! Suck it up! Be strong! When in fact, what would be real and more helpful would be: I know you’re scared, try it anyway! It’s ok to be scared, there is no courage without fear!
This past week as I stepped into a past I thought I had left for good, meeting people who knew me as a person I no longer am and expected me to be the same (a decade later), going into the arena tired, scared and heartbroken, worried that I might not be able to face it all, took courage. And courage feels like exhaustion at times, like panic at others, like not knowing what to do but put one foot in front of the other most of the time.
One of the lessons that my life seems to be decided to teach me is that fearing an outcome, my heart fluttering in my chest because I don’t know what to do next and I worry it might be the wrong thing, the churning stomach, numb arms, tunnel vision, none of these are signs of weakness or lack of preparation. They are all part of the realm of courage – after all, nobody promised that courage will feel like a walk in the park. On the contrary, it feels like fear walking.
May we all remember this in the times of our toughest trials.