FEEL THE FEAR AND RIDE THE WAVE ANYWAY
You know that feeling of everything just perfectly falling into place? You find that something that is precisely what you’ve been looking for; an opportunity
arises that was exactly what you’d been needing; you overhear a conversation discussing the thing you’d recently been thinking about; you meet the person that you didn’t even realise was the kind of person you’d been searching for all along.
That amazing, rush of a feeling… followed by a twinge of dread; the butterflies rising up your chest stopping dead in their tracks. An almost mechanical-like flick of a switch where suddenly their wings aren’t flying anymore; they float, falling to the pit of your stomach as realisation soars, taking their place. The realisation that in this precise moment, you are about to be faced with, in the next few seconds (or minutes if you’re lucky,) with a choice - a choice that lies in your palm completely.
You know the choice that you should make. As much as you try to hide behind the mask of indecisiveness, this is one occasion where you actually do know what you need to do. An internal magnet pulls you towards something, towards someone; a little voice in your head wriggles and niggles away, telling you to volunteer, to start that conversation, to send that email; to create or initiate something that excites yet completely terrifies you. In that moment, we find ourselves on the cusp; the rough serrated edge between the silvery smooth of a 10p heads or tails, on the surging wave-edge as it undergoes it’s internal conflict; do I choose to continue bobbing along the ocean’s surface, or do I break into the gentle facade of white frothy madness?
That moment, that split second, has the power to change everything. It’s a game of Russian roulette; will this wave sweep me up, carry me seamlessly to the shore? Will I surf through it’s barrel, treading on frothy eggshells, knowing any wrong move or false judgement could suck me into it’s swirling depths? Or will I instantly be overthrown by it’s power; dragged like a rag-doll through the rinse, lungs exploding as I try to fight to the surface?
It comes down to recognising the risk, but knowing that even the smallest chance of the best-case scenario outweighs the rest. It’s taking the leap, trusting yourself and the world around you that even if you are thrown off, you’ll make it back to the surface. It’s realising that, sometimes, you actually need the worst-case scenario to throw you off-piste; the awareness that you should have never been up there to begin with, the lesson that you would never have if you hadn’t been open to learning. If you hadn’t moved past the fear of making mistakes, of being imperfect.
Life is composed of conflicting contradictions. Everything has light and it’s shadow, it’s yin and it’s yang; nothing, in principle, is inherently good or bad. To be able to live in alignment with our inner truth, with our purpose and our passion in life, we need to move beyond fear. But moving beyond it, doesn’t make fear ‘bad.’ Sometimes, before we move beyond, we have to accept it, and use it to it’s strength. Use it as a tool; something that can grant us the power to tip over the edge, dive deep into the depths. I like to think of fear as the passive form of adrenaline (though don’t get me wrong, they are scientifically the same thing) - it’s the alter-ego, that can instead activate and empower us; the fear becoming the fire that fuels us to live from a place of love. In the words of Oprah Winfrey; ‘the thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power.’
We need to learn to recognise when fear is holding us back from living authentically, when it stops us from following our true dreams and desires. It all comes down to perception, to mindset; do you let fear encroach upon you, or do you embody it to empower you? Does it remain your weakness, or can you mould it into a strength - a way to experience the power of vulnerability, of honesty and truth; to allow the growth and lessons that will inevitably come from those actions?
My experience skydiving, for me, encapsulated this lesson I’ve been learning, and still continue to. There was the initial choice; the signing up and the payment, the current of anxiety as I questioned my intuition nudging me to do it, telling me that life was too short not to take this opportunity. But that initial challenge was probably the easiest of them all, as the consequences were delayed - allowing me to detach from the reality and those feelings that arose with it until the flight day. Although I knew the chances of injury or death were slim, the fact remained that I was putting everything on the line.
And whilst you might mock my decision, the danger or the money spent on a 60 second free-fall - the experience itself held value way beyond that.
For me, it was a test. A test of how I used fear and moved beyond it, but more so, a test of my ability to trust. I placed my life in the hands of the instructor, of another person - I pushed myself to trust again after having had that same trust, although in a different way, broken.
But most poignantly for me, I had to trust myself and the universe. I had to trust my instinct, the feeling, the knowing that I was, and would be okay. I had to trust enough to let go, to let myself feel what it was like to not anticipate or predict the future, to live in the moment and accept that whatever happened in the next few seconds or minutes was out of my control. That it was in some strange way, meant to be.
For those 60 seconds, I was completely, wholly present. The adrenaline surging through my veins and simultaneously evaporating from my skin, a spectrum of emotion blended into transparency, a feeling that can only be described as pure weightlessness. So free that I almost didn’t exist. Suspended in time, in life; for 60 seconds nothing else mattered.
The skydive was a pact; a promise to myself that from this moment onwards, I would do my best to always follow my intuition. To stop letting self-doubt or fear of judgement cloud my natural instinct, my deepest desires, my craziest dreams. A promise to myself that I was embarking on a journey of becoming more conscious, more aware, more mindful of my environment and the people around me - so that when those moments did occur sporadically, I could take the plunge, follow that niggling thought, listen to myself and act. To let myself move forward beyond the boundaries and the blockages I had unconsciously built; to stop giving in to fear and the cotton-wooled safety of stagnancy. But through it all, I also promised that I would not punish myself if I didn’t quite make it, if the wave was so menacing that I chickened out and ducked under. Because what’s for you won’t go by you - history, although we don’t like to admit it, does and will repeat itself, in some way. Life isn’t X factor - you will have more of those moments. All it takes is tuning in slightly more to life’s synchronicities, find clarity about your purpose and aligning your actions with who you really are, underneath it all. Finding the stepping stones that will take you one step closer. Paying attention to the things that really light you up inside.
And even if taking that moment doesn’t have the result that quite lives up to your expectations - remember that even the darkest of times have light within them. That darkness is the world’s funny way of guiding you back onto the right path - a wake-up call to get you there. Sometimes it’s a sign that although you might be on the right road, you might just need to stand a little more to the right to be noticed through the glare of the passing headlights. Sometimes it’s the same lesson that you feel as if you’re faced with over and over again. Trust that this result or reaction is exactly the one you need right now, even when it feels, initially, like you are caught in the rinse-cycle.
Remind yourself that most difficult things in life are always the ones that make us grow the most. It doesn’t mean it’s easy - most of the time it’s painful, it’s messy; you struggle to accept the present and long for the future, or the past, or both. But it’s also exciting, interesting… it’s just what we do.
Next time you’re faced with that moment; the feeling of sickness in your stomach, butterflies rising up your oesophagus - take a moment to become aware of what that really is. Recognise the fear - think of it as your friend, something just trying to help you out. Make it your springboard over the glassy pool, your hand up over the fence, the caffeine in your morning coffee. Make it the fire, not the extinguisher. With your hands shaking, your knees buckling, your blood fizzing; do the thing that scares you the most.
Your life is a series of waves breaking. Don’t lie on your board watching everyone else as they attempt to catch them, too scared yourself to get out there and seize what you’ve been waiting for all along. When that moment comes, take it, and most importantly - try to enjoy the ride, whatever it might be like. The only person that is ever stopping you, is you.