How do I choose bravery over fear?

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately. How the older I get the more things that instill fear in me. In my early 20’s I snorkeled in deep water and LOVED it. Loved being surrounded by water and sea creatures that could only be seen up close because of the swim I’d made. Now, in my heart I know that I still love the magic of the ocean, but the reality of sharks and the unknown grips me with such fear that I have to calm myself with pep talks the entire time I am in the water. The last time I went to Six Flags with my kids was the LAST time. The roller coasters are so fast, and so high, and do not leave you with a feeling of security as your feet dangle and whip through the wind. Thanks, I’ll take Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, folks. Most recently I’ve been asked to participate in the latest party trend of “escape rooms” where you are locked in a room for an hour and must figure out clues that will lead you to the way out. I will be crazy honest with you, it’s hard for me to even write this without my entire chest seizing up. The idea of not being in control, of being told I can’t leave, of being “trapped,” sends me into a tailspin of fear. Let’s stop talking about that now…..

What has happened through the years of carefree youth that have brought me to things, like heights and small spaces that paralyze me with anxiety?

Well, I know for one that the realization of my responsibilities to my kiddos is huge. I fear for my kids even more than I do for myself. When we had first moved into this home I was surprised with a homeless woman at my door at 9:00 at night. I answered the door without thinking and then quickly slammed the door in her face in a panic (my good Christian heart at work, I know). But my fear of the safety of my kids scared me to no end and my first instinct was to flee. While this was a one-off situation, I worry about their well-being in other ways on the daily. I know, welcome to being a mom….

The reality of my own mortality rests in my carefulness too. I’ve seen reckless high school friends die from one poor choice. I witnessed a healthy 30-year old become a quadriplegic with one single dive into shallow water. Our access to information makes it almost impossible not to create scary “what-if” situations for everything we do.  As we age, I guess we see more, hear more, learn more, and maybe that makes us smart to be more cautious?

But, now tell me if you agree… I also think it’s complacency with what’s “safe.” Not everything that instills fear is actually dangerous, but it may require emotional or financial risk. When I took the time to think about this I realized how brave some people really are. Last week I was perusing businesses and land for sale, just for fun, and there was a yogurt shop for sale. I thought, where do you even begin when running a business like this? How do you know where to buy your supplies from, how much, how often? What are the risks of hiring and firing? Whoa- now that’s scary! But people do it all the time. And albeit businesses often fail for not being well thought out, these people are BRAVE.

Brave for trying something unknown, brave to trust that the benefits will outweigh the financial risk. Brave to believe enough people will like their product to keep them in business. We have friends who are German immigrants opening a German Biergarten in Rocklin this weekend. They have no restaurant experience. You can call it a lot of things, but oh my gosh, they are going to run a German Biergarten! Their dream! How cool is that!?

Bravery is taking emotional risk as well. How brave to reach out to new friendships, write a book in hopes that people will like it, start a new relationship in spite of past hurt. I find that so, very brave.

So now I’m in the midst of a realization and possible turning point. If I never go back to the top of the Empire State Building because it makes my stomach flip flop, that’s ok. If I stop snorkeling on tropical vacations, that’s ok too. Worrying about my kids is just part of the parenting job description and I’ll keep at it for all the rest of my days.

But what isn’t negotiable, what I really want, is to be brave where it matters. I want to be willing to take a risk that has the potential to fulfill my hopes and dreams even if it’s scary.

I’m not really sure what that looks like for me, but I know I don’t feel brave right now. I mean, I have participated in a 100+ person flash mob dancing on Capitol Mall. And I do bear my soul to ya’ll. But I need more of that. I’ve seen some people go back to school and change careers completely, I’ve seen some quit their jobs with health benefits and retirement to follow their passion, I’ve seen people end relationships to secure their own emotional well-being. All of that is so brave. I want my kids to see me be brave. I want to inspire others to be brave. And I do not want to look back and be upset that I played it safe. I have NO idea what this really means for me. But I’m sure you’ll hear about it in a blog post when I figure it out.

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