February 20, 2024

A Realization about Moving Forward when we feel Fear.


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“I know I have to, but I can’t wrap my head around it,” my dad says.

I inhale letting my head fall back pressing the phone to my ear. Every time we talk, which is pretty much every day, he says the same thing. It’s like listening to a record with the needle stuck in a groove replaying the same verse of a song.

Each time the predictable sentence falls out of his mouth a burning pain forms in my belly. I can’t help but feel as if there is something he needs to hear to help him push ahead. I can’t for the life of me figure out what it might be. I’ve tried tough love, affirmations, and making lists. Yet there has been no forward momentum.

The unusual circumstances surrounding my parents’ dissolution of their 46-year marriage certainly isn’t helping. Despite being forced into a situation in which he doesn’t have a choice, the move into his own place has shifted from a rational, well-thought-out plan, to a complete stand still.

After hanging up the phone, I look outside to see the sun shining. It’s 50 degrees in February. The snow melted, revealing the grass in the backyard and asphalt sidewalks.

I feel an itch in the muscle fibers of my calves. Slowly, the sensation transforms into a tingle flowing up my hamstrings and quads. It would be a perfect afternoon for a run.

I have a fleeting memory of the two or three failed attempts at a light jog since my spine surgery five years ago. Utter failures. It felt like someone had swapped out my body for a bunch of used parts from a junkyard.

The stride I developed running half and full marathons was nonexistent. My right side had cramped up, barely making it a half mile. Inevitably, tears of frustration streamed down my face as I replayed the car accident which caused this whole mess as I limped back home.

A notification lit up my phone pulling me from my gruesome memories. I glanced at it, noticing it was Moon Omens, an online astrology site. I tap the notification to see a Dragon Affirmation appear on my screen:

“Every obstacle that I face is an opportunity to rise up, to stretch my wings, and to explore a new world of possibilities. Within me lies everything that I need for the journey.” ~ Moon Omens

I smile to myself. With my fingers, I trace the outline of the dragon tattoo on my right side. A tattoo I designed after my own divorce nearly 10 years ago.

A warm feeling of calm washes over me. My mindset is different this time as I lace up my bright orange running shoes. Logically, I recognize I’ve put in a lot of work building my body back up again, but it’s a deeper sense of knowing. I’m ready.

I break into a run without hesitation. I notice my breathing beginning to quicken. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. My footsteps steady on the pavement under my feet. Rhythmic. It feels so natural. I’m not in any pain.

I slip into an almost meditative state after I turn onto a side road. I’m mesmerized by the rows of naked trees without their leaves. Their branches start to blend into one another. I know I’ve hit my groove.

I notice a car up ahead. My awareness shifts back to present. I recognize what’s different this time than the other times I’ve tried to run is that I’m not scared. I’m no longer trying to propel myself forward with fear gripping me by the shoulders holding me back.

Before my focus was on treating my body like it was glass. I was so worried I’d go too fast that I’d get hurt. I understand now that my body would never allow that to happen. Running connected me to my body in a way nothing else could. I couldn’t believe I almost let fear sever that connection.

“So the next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky. This is where the courage comes in. Usually we think that brave people have no fear. The truth is that they are intimate with fear.” ~ Pema Chödrön

Sweat drips down my face instead of tears as I slip off my sneakers onto the gray entryway mat. My mind is so clear I’m able to draw a parallel between how my father is letting fear rule his life right now. He is crippled by it.

“You can’t move forward in fear. If you’re scared, it’s going to make taking the next steps impossible,” I said as soon as my dad answered the phone. I’m not even sure he managed a “hello” before I blurted it out.

“I am scared. I haven’t ever lived by myself,” my dad said.

My eyebrows shoot up at this revelation. I feel so foolish for having missed something so obvious. He needs reassurance he won’t be lonely and he still has a family, even if it looks a little different than before.

He paused for a minute then as if reading my mind, “You know I think that’s what I needed to hear.”

“It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~ Pema Chödrön


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