/// F R E E D O M . F R O M . F E A R ///
June 1, 2018
Did you know it’s “Fighting for Your Freedom from Fear Month?!” Now here’s my long explanation about where that came from and what that means to me.
I met a lovely man this winter and in one of our many, intense conversations he asked me what I would change about myself if I could. I responded immediately, “I would love to not constantly feel responsible for the feelings of everyone around me.” I’m not a psychologist, but I’m pretty sure that could be labeled as “co-dependency,” but whatever- who wants to be labeled?! Haha. In another conversation he said to me, “you really seem like you are on a journey to freedom.” That made me smile. Ever since then I’ve been wondering, ‘freedom from what?’ Freedom from co-dependency? No, I don’t like the sound of that. Freedom from anxiety? No, that doesn’t sound right either. I do feel like I’m on an intense journey and I am fighting for something, but I have never been able to put into words what it is that I am fighting for. This evening, I was eating dinner and my dear friend Staci Lee read me my horoscope. I’m a Cancer, and according to the horoscope in the Missoula Independent June is my “Fighting for Your Freedom from Fear Month.” THAT’S IT! That’s what I want freedom from-FEAR. I am on a journey of freedom from fear. (Sidenote-I’m not a die hard astrology person. To be totally honest, sometimes it seems helpful and eye opening and other times I read it, and it’s meaningless. So-who knows. Today it was helpful).
So let’s breakdown the fear that I am referring to here. It just so happens that I’ve been contemplating the role of fear in my life for the past few months, so it was perfect that this came up today. I must point out that it’s May 31, 2018: that means that as of tomorrow- June 1, 2018, I have had my own apartment for one whole year. I was initially terrified about living alone and envisioned myself becoming a sad and depressed shut-in (yes, I am absolutely dramatic sometimes). However, the past year has been one of my very favorites. Yes, I’ve had a lot of sad days, but I have never felt more free than I do in my very own cozy, simple space. During the past year I’ve been trying to focus on doing what brings me joy. Sounds simple, right? (Of course life requires I do a lot of things that don’t constantly bring me joy, but in the areas where I do have more freedom to choose what I want to do and who I want to do those things with, I have been trying to focus on what brings me the most joy). Sometimes that is sitting in my apartment reading some self-help book or listening to a Tracy Crossley (TC) podcast and sometimes it’s being social.
I am happy to say I am skilled at physically doing things that bring me joy. I feel like in any time and space, I can easily find things to do that bring me joy. Where things get a little gray is in my interactions with other humans. I feel a constant need to make other people feel ok. Does this bring me joy? Absolutely, sometimes, and sometimes it does the opposite. Yet I have lived a majority of my adult life focused way more on making sure everyone around me feels ok, regardless of how they have treated me and if they are deserving of my time. There is a constant undercurrent of anxiety involved in this, because I am always processing the words and actions of people I interact with; ready to intervene or change my behavior at any moment if they seem upset or uncomfortable. I’m not sure who told me this way my job, but I don’t want it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a beautiful thing to be this sensitive person and be available for others. I sincerely enjoy that part of myself. I don’t want to be on the other side of this spectrum and be completely unaware of the feelings and needs of other humans. I think the keyword here is balance. Sigh. That damn word always comes up in my life, but sometimes it seems like a mythical creature that I will never catch. I heard this TC quote a while ago, and I had to stop what I was doing and write down these haunting nuggets of truth: “Stop thinking you can feel better by making other people feel better. This gives you a false sense of control and makes you think they can end your own suffering.” And “What are you afraid of losing?” OUCH! These statements paralyzed me. When I heard those words, specific interactions went through my mind. Interactions where I was allowing another person to be comfortable while what they were doing/saying was causing me great discomfort and pain or when their presence in my life just wasn’t bringing me joy. TC’s words left me perplexed about my choices. I resisted emotionally unpacking that for weeks until I could no longer resist.
The interactions I’m referring to here are interactions with people who do not bring me joy. (Interacting with you all-my tribe, brings me immense joy, so I’m not referencing anyone from our safe community). I’m thinking more about how I have always chosen to interact with people that have been disrespectful to me and caused me pain, because I am too scared to ignore them or tell them I am not interested in conversing with them. Granted there aren’t that many people in this category in my life, but there are definitely a few. Again and again, I have chosen their comfort over my joy. I’ve said, “sure, we can be friends,” “oh that wasn’t a big deal-it’s ok,” and had lengthy conversations during which I just wanted to cry, but I kept a happy face on and didn’t make anyone uncomfortable. Thus enabling them to continue treating me and others poorly and reaffirming to the universe that other peoples’ feelings are more important than my own. I have to ask myself why? What am I afraid of losing? I want to be altruistic and say that I just want them to know that I care about them. However, let’s be real-I hate to say this, but the idea of someone not liking me or thinking I am not nice KILLS me. But I come back to this, my joy must be more important than that person’s feelings and opinions of me. I’m also afraid of losing that person. Even if the role they play is a negative one, I have anxiety about cutting people out, because what if I need them someday?! But to that I say, Amanda-you have an entire tribe of people who can provide positive support in a moment’s notice. The negative ones are not worth your joy.
I hesitated to write these thoughts, because now I feel will be immediately expected to be perfect in these difficult interactions. (Wait..that’s me expecting myself to be perfect at something I’ve never really done…ha)! Perhaps it will help me to focus on the value of my joy. I can think of interactions I know will not bring me joy and ask myself, “is this worth my joy?” The other thing that always helps is a TC quote, “if you’re not making choices for personal joy, you are acting out of fear.” My joy shouldn’t be at the mercy of others, it is in my control. I wish I could say that I will make all of my choices for personal joy from now on. However, I think that would be setting me up to fail. So how about this instead: I will not stop fighting for my freedom from fear. Now that is a promise I can keep. Here’s one more TC quote for good measure, “It’s hard to love when you put yourself last.” To love and to be loved seems to be one of life’s grandest adventures. I am long overdue for a reminder that that love starts with me. My joy comes first.
I will leave you with these questions, as I am regularly asking them myself:
What choices are you making out of fear?
What are you afraid of losing?
Surely our fears are just as varied and unique as we are, but recognizing them and putting words to them at least helps us see what we are fighting.
Our freedom and joy is worth every painful part of the fight.
And now it’s June 1, 2018. Let the fighting begin! Sending strength to you all for your own battles.
Love, Amanda