October 29, 2015

It’s Okay to be Scared: How I Finally Grew the Balls to Admit I’m Scared Sh*tless.

How to Bounce Back When Life Falls Apart. 7 years ago my own life did and I survived. I make it a rule to never take advice from someone who hasn’t been there, so I’ll share with you what happened, and then I’ll share how I got through my own personal tunnel of hell. In a 30 day period I lost it all. My money, love, health, a baby, beloved pets, security and pride. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me while I held the still dripping, positive pregnancy pee stick; his response to having a baby with me was to end our relationship and share that he hoped to tile his kitchen and travel that summer. I lost the baby at 9 weeks and suffered an extreme crash of hormones. Being in my 40′s, I realized this was probably my last chance to have a child. To make matters worse: 48 hours after losing the baby I learned my bank accounts had been emptied. I had 40 cents in my pocket when I stood at that blinking ATM on an early July morning. Someone had sued me out-of-state and due to a loop-hole in the serving process, I never received notice and didn’t show up to defend myself. When you don’t show up, it’s as though you’re admitting guilt and judgments were issued – every account was emptied. 7 days later, I was faced with putting my 16-year-old pet down, only to be followed by the rapid decline of my other 15-year-old pet 10 days later. If you’re like me pets are family. This was a loss beyond words. My health was shot and continuing to decline, my mind was a mess, my heart-broken and I had 40 cents to my name. My father died years ago and I had been the one helping my mother financially. I was in my own words, lost. Ancient cultures understood the dark night of the soul as a time of transformation. A time when personal strength is tested and the knowledge you’ve gained over the 1st half of your life is drawn up from the depths of your being and utilized. In this culture it’s considered a Mid Life crisis. We get face-lifts and sports cars. Couples run screaming from other couples divorcing, neighbors turn a blind eye as neighbors go into foreclosure, and fair weather friends back away quickly. Instead of community support and wise elders to lean on, we’re left alone isolated by shame. What could be viewed as a phoenix rising is considered contagious drama. For me, only a handful of people knew what was happening while most thought I was suddenly nuts. In the past I’d been the person others leaned on for advice and financial help. Now I was an empty vessel without a financially secure family for support. I looked like hell and felt even worse. When I woke in the morning I wasn’t sure what to mourn: the relationship or the baby? My 2 pets, or my financial security? My health or the fact I could be homeless in a week? (my biggest fear in life–at this time a reality) The grip of your biggest fear in the face of utter despair is a cold sharp knife that cuts deeply. Have you ever experienced your life falling apart all at once? If you’ve been there or find yourself there right now, you’ll know what I mean. Sometimes during our darkest hours, a great light awakens inside and heightens our awareness. I learned many things during that time, most of all I learned what true happiness was and how to actually be happy–happy when there was nothing outwardly to be happy about. What I learned: • If you’ve always been the strong one other people lean on, there’s a lot of growth when you ask for help. I learned who my real friends were and I learned I was lovable even when I wasn’t perfect. Had it gotten to the point of my moving in with family or friends, I know there would have been growth. • The thought of selling everything and starting over was in a tiny way freeing. I realized nothing material mattered. My only fear was losing my remaining 2 pets if I had to couch surf. • Because I tried to hide my pain by going to dinner with friends while pretending I wasn’t hungry since I had no money to spend– I learned who truly cared and who was in tune with my subtle changes. Lucky for me, a friend handed me a small amount of money unsolicited to get by while I got my head on straight. Her generosity helped me truly understand the phrase: While you may only be one person in this world, you may be the world to one person. • In business, I’m required to be clear and strong. You can’t be broken and effective at the same time so I learned how to: fake it until you make it. By faking my strength, even my smile, I slowly felt like myself again. I witnessed the miracles of the universe as suddenly those cereal boxes and toothpaste samples coming free in the Sunday paper were valuable. With the help of my friend, I was able to cover my rent long enough to start billing in my business even though extras weren’t an option. Gone were the monthly hair salon trips, extras like cable, Internet and dog treats. • I realized how wasteful I had been with food, clothing, and coffee shop stops. I rode my bike a lot that summer without gas money and reasoned with my car loan and insurance agents for reduced monthly payments– while witnessing the kindness that comes when we admit defeat. How I did it: • Each morning I forced myself to think of 3 things to be grateful for before letting my feet hit the carpet. If I didn’t do this, I would begin my day in the depressed way I had ended the night before. Soon I began doing this before bed and found that nights got easier. • When the magnitude of my situation would hit mid day, I forced myself to get outside, go for a walk and notice something beautiful. When life is bleak even the smallest gifts like the song of a bird or color of the sky can jar you up a notch. • I listened to or read something inspirational daily. I couldn’t control the world around me but I could control my inner emotions. Yes I cried a lot, but I balanced those moments with what I was grateful for and kept moving towards what I wanted~stability again. • If I felt desperate and scared, I would imagine my worst case scenario: I would loan my dog and cat to people I trusted and couch surf, I would go on antidepressants, I would ask a friend if I could share dinner with them. Once I knew my worst case scenario, I was able to relax a tiny bit and focus on what I was grateful for~often times the worst case scenario back up plan or the fact my dog was laying here next to me loving me no matter what. When life blows up there is a crystal clarity that comes: • All of the issues you’ve been hiding behind with your job or your money or your relationship are out there in the open. • In the middle of the night, I learned to pray for help and finally learned to listen for the answer. And in the end, most of all I learned that when we’re broken, we’re really just broken open. I became the seed that sits in the dark, damp earth waiting for spring, deciding in which direction to send up a sprout. When life unravels, we’re all that seed needing to trust that the darkness we’re residing in temporarily, will in the end move us towards our next fertile direction. ~Photo via photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Two years ago, one of my friends told me that I always seemed afraid.

While he meant it as a helpful observation, I took it as constructive criticism. A comment that I needed not only to take to heart, but also to work towards rectifying.

The universe seemed to conspire with a message.

Shortly after that comment was made to me, I went to India on a travel seminar for my Masters of Divinity. I considered myself to be a seasoned traveler, so I was surprised by the many and varied ways my fear snuck up on me—sometimes for valid reasons, but sometimes just because I was so far out of my comfort zone.

As the rest of our class left to return to Chicago, my friend Liesebet and I stayed behind. Our professor’s parting words were, “be bold,” and those words rang in our ears for the remainder of our trip. Indeed, being bold (which inherently implies a sense of fearlessness) was our only hope of making it in India on our own. But, my fearful nature was not easily overcome, and I hardly lived into the sense of boldness my professor’s words were meant to instill.

Determined not to let fear define how others saw me, I returned to America intent on making that mantra—be bold—my intention for the rest of the year.

For the most part, I began to live it.

Slowly but surely, I took ever-deepening risks. Risks that might not seem like a lot to some people. But for someone who has lived their entire life in fear—in fear of being rejected, of not having enough money, of not being good enough, of getting in trouble (the list of fears could really go on and on)—those risks represented a huge step of living into the intention to be bold, to be fearless.

And somehow, that is how I ended up where I am today, almost three years later and perhaps more scared than I have ever been in my life. In fact, I don’t believe it would be an overstatement to say that I am downright terrified.

But I’m tired of trying to push my fear aside and pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay for us to feel scared sometimes. Perhaps, we should even cut each other a little slack and acknowledge that, if we’re really honest with ourselves, life is scary.

Yes, life is also full of joys and delight, but we can’t ignore that it is filled with uncertainty and hardships.

Maybe, like me, you find yourself in a new place—literally or metaphorically.

Maybe, like me, you find yourself in a place of betwixt and between, trying to start fresh on a completely new and uncharted career path.

Maybe, like me, you don’t know how long your money will keep you afloat or when more will fill your bank account.

In the many stories of fear and uncertainty scattered throughout the Bible, angels proclaim, “Have no fear.” And so, naturally, we believe we must conform to this command. But the angels wouldn’t have made this proclamation if they weren’t meeting people in really scary life circumstances where fear was a natural and primal reaction.

So how about for once we acknowledge that we’re scared, that it is okay for us to be scared and that we can wait in trepidation in the uncertainty that is life until the angels surround us with their chorus of “Have no fear, have no fear” and their message of peace swaddles us into trust and surrender.

As I wait for life to unfold and show me the next step in my journey, I choose to acknowledge my fear, to surrender into my fear. I just don’t have the energy to fight it anymore.

It’s okay to be scared.



When Fear is Present: Quotes to Inspire Courage.


Author: Elise Scott

Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll / Editor: Toby Israel

Photo: Hartwig HKD/Flickr // Charles Harry Mackenzie/Flickr


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