Fear. Even though we hear so much advice about fear, and even though we know that it fear is the thing that underlies almost every character defect, we still feel fear. And I have come, after all these years, to believe that’s not such a bad thing.
Fear, like anxiety, is so dam uncomfortable, but there is a secondary gain. Fear is what drives me back to the steps, fear keeps me doing daily prayer and meditation, and fear keeps me on my toes and mindful about the “Things I can change.”
But, in fact, there are lots of things I can’t change. And sometimes –and often in certain settings—fear is one of the things that I cannot change. Nope, I do not subscribe to that early recovery platitude that “faith and fear can’t exist in the same place.” Of course they can. Of course. If you have been in recovery a while you know that you have had times of good faith and great fear simultaneously.
In truth, we do that “faith and fear can’t exist…” thing with newcomers because it gives them great incentive to grab hold of the steps, prayer and meditation, creation of a Higher Power—all that—with both hands.
Then we keep living our lives, and life keeps happening. And, as we get older in recovery some scary stuff happens. We tune up our recovery and yes, our spiritual connection, but we keep going, fear or not.
Recently I came up with a new mantra for myself. I am reading a wonderful, small book about living a creative life. It is called “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield. (Yes, the guy who wrote “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”) In his book, “The War of Art” Pressfield reframes fear as resistance—as in the part of us that resists our own creativity or our own growth. And he tells the story of actor Henry Fonda and Fonda’s fear/resistance.
It turns out that Fonda, an Academy Award winning actor who had an incredibly successful career on stage and screen had almost debilitating stage freight. Yes, an actor who was afraid to go on stage. You hear something like that and you wait to hear the secret of how he beat the fear. But he didn’t.
No, for his entire career—almost 60 years of year-round professional work-- Fonda was so scared that he would throw up every time (every single time) he stepped on a set or a stage. When he was 75 years old and adored and revered he was still throwing up. His secret? He kept a bucket or basin nearby to throw up in. Uh huh, he stood in the wings absolutely miserable and terrified and then he threw up, wiped his mouth, and went on stage.
That’s professionalism and that’s commitment to art, and that, I believe is also a quality of good, long recovery. Saying to fear, “Get the (fudge) out of my way or come with me.”
So my new mantra, extracted form Henry Fonda’s example is: “Throw up and Go.” Just, throw up and go!
If it is a tough meeting with a boss or a public speaking engagement or I need to have a difficult conversation with someone I remind myself to stop waiting for the day I have no fear, but instead: Throw Up and Go!