On Fear and Exploring Life

A very personal post this week.

It just kinda came out.

Been thinking about fear a lot lately…

Its presence in my life was a bit much last week causing me to feel a bit off-kilter.

It seems like there is a fine line between having a healthy amount of fear that encourages you to try new things and having so much that you’re completely terrified all the time.

And it is quite the grand mystery in how the brain operates, in how certain fears can become such an overpowering and driving force in one’s life and how others simply take a backseat and chill out, only speaking up to keep us safe from harm.

It certainly makes us each of us a very unique human being.

Like how I can show up in a foreign country by myself with very little fear (but just the right amount to keep myself safe), but when it comes to speaking up for myself in a different situation at home, like last week, I’m paralyzed with fear, so much so that I am physically nauseous and crying my eyes out.

I bet there’s someone out there who has the opposite problem.

Walking around Buenos Aires on my own on my very first night in South America (very little fear):

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Or how I’m not afraid to hike in the woods on my own (in fact, I welcome it!), but I tend to freak out when I’m in the ocean and feel/see/hear any kind of ocean critter nearby!

Took this pic of this sting ray in Belize from the safety of the boat… after I freaked out while snorkeling:

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Or how I’ve recently developed a fear of flying (particularly landings) AFTER years of flying. WTF?!? I think I’ve been slightly traumatized ever since when after a slightly bumpy flight landing last year, the pilot must have forgotten to turn off his mic to the cabin and we all heard a very loud relieved-sounding “WOW” from the pilot!

Now I have to breathe very deeply and slowly when we’re approaching that runway, and push away thoughts of a crash landing.

During the descent into Ushuaia in Argentina, during my happier flying days:

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Or how about this for a mystery, I’ll happily approach a stranger in a hostel while traveling no problem, but I have a very real fear that my social anxiety at home will prevent me from meeting a special someone.

I can’t choose which fears and anxieties will show up and when, but I can choose how to react to them.

Maybe not right away, maybe the emotions require some working through at first, a good cry here or a yell in frustration there, but after the heat of the moment, it’s about realizing that I can’t let fear control my life, control my decisions, or paralyze my forward momentum.

I will fly on a plane, swim in the ocean, and speak up for myself.

Afterall, I am comforted by this sage advice that I’ve read in other blogs: that there are no mistakes, only lessons and experiences collected along the way.

If only I could just remember that in those important moments!

Cause ya see, perhaps my biggest fear is of screwing up so badly, of making such a horrible mistake, of making the absolute wrong decision, at work or at home or with my friends or with my family, that I will NOT be okay. What that looks like exactly, I don’t even know, but the reality is that I WILL be okay.

I have learned a lot, been through a lot, had some amazing and not-so-amazing experiences in my life, and here I am, I am okay.

I’m more than okay. I have a good life. I have a very loving and extremely supportive family, I have a few super close friends. I have a comfy home and healthy food in the fridge. I live in freakin’ San Francisco, surrounded by my favorite ecosystems and landscapes.

Love being so close to the redwoods!

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But yet, I’m prone to having all my big fears and worries show up at once and snowball off each other, overwhelming the crap out of me. I worry about my job and financial security, I worry about not being a fun person to be around and thus worry about what people think of me, I worry about missing out, I worry that I won’t even have a chance to accomplish some of my life goals.

I wish I were less sensitive, less emotional, and less scared. But I am who I am.

So what do I do when all these negative thoughts and fears threaten to control my life and send me into a lonely depression?

How do I react to THAT?

How do I pull myself out of a negative rut?

I can’t just curl up into a ball and repeat “I’ll be okay, I’ll be okay” to myself, all the time. I have to DO SOMETHING.

So I choose to explore life.

Beautiful, amazing, intense, happy moments for me come from both exploring my outer surroundings and exploring my inner self. And then exploring how I interact in the world.

I explore life with all my heart. Emotions, sensitivities, fears and all. I have a few go-to ways of doing this now, and I recognize that as I get older, these ways may evolve.

Traveling is one way that I am literally exploring new places. It’s thrilling and intriguing! It’s all a new adventure out on the road and I soak it all up like a sponge.

I embrace adventure like I embrace my loving mama.

That’s what led me to my epic travel moment on a Mexican beach last month. And to so many others in various other locales around the world.

Another epic travel moment on a glacier in Patagonia:

Another epic travel moment on a glacier in Patagonia

And another moment after climbing to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain (way above the ruins):

Another epic travel moment - climbing to the top of Machu Picchu mountain for an incredible view

And there are other ways a little closer to home (that my bank account can appreciate a bit more!). Such as hiking amongst the redwoods in my Bay Area backyard, or driving east a few hours and admiring the granite cliff faces, lakes, and waterfalls that characterize the Sierra Nevada mountains.

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Backpacking in the Sierras

Meditating in nature away from the commotion of the City peels off that superficial layer that I wrap myself in to protect me from the bombardment of my senses when I’m going about my day-to-day in the City. Then I can ask myself the deeper questions, listen to what my soul really wants to do, and explore what shows up in nature to my heart’s desire. Like wildflowers!

Then there’s my martial arts practice, called Quantum Martial Arts. Which I am in process of writing about in deeper detail for this blog. I have those moments during my training when my mind, body, and spirit come together in a way that I just can’t even begin to describe. It’s an intense, fear-facing exploration of my physical and mental boundaries, and I just freakin’ love to kick and yell! Seriously, try it sometime!

Like right now, breathe in, kick, and yell on the exhale and you’ll feel pretty bad-ass, no, make that kick-ass! Haha!

And finally, there’s this. THIS. RIGHT. HERE. This thing called writing that’s exploding out of me, propelling me almost, on my 34th trip around the sun. I feel like something’s been unleashed from deep within my existence, like the writing has been a part of me all these years, but just now, I’ve given it permission to emerge. It’s like a young butterfly with a lot to learn still that will continue to evolve and grow as it explores its surroundings, its new life.

Through writing, I’m exploring my inner workings and my creative process. It’s as therapeutic as walking around a village in Ecuador or being in nature or kicking things (and all from the comfort of sitting in my pajamas at home!).

And as I explore the blogging world, I continue to be amazed and inspired by other writers out there sharing their own struggles and fears and joys and triumphs. Reading their stories encourages me to share mine as well. And then I feel more connected to the human spirit (albeit virtually).

The fears will come and go, and life will have its ups and downs, but as long as I choose to explore life and not let the fears and worries overwhelm the joys and the beauty, then I’m gonna be Okay!

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Tulum sunset

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4 comments

  1. Wow Sam! I am so impressed with your courage, sensitivity and soul in this post! Bravo! I just know that by becoming aware of your fears, you are on your way to self-acceptance, and I applaud you for your inner strength and resolve to walk that path.
    As a fellow sensitive (and fearful) soul, I can relate to everything you’ve written. I too, am on a journey of self-acceptance, and though it is a long road, I have seen a lot of progress in myself. I try to accept myself, faults and all. I am also realising that being sensitive isn’t a defect – it’s a gift. Without it we are not blown away by the beauty of nature or able to have compassion our fellow man/woman.
    Wishing all the best on your journey my friend, I’m off to kick and shout! Xoxo

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! This journey of becoming self-aware that’s slowly turning into self-acceptance is certainly intense and beautiful and hard. Couldn’t do it without the encouragement I receive from family and friends like you! Couldn’t do it alone. Kick and shout away! I do it three times a week in a room full of good people; it’s cheaper than therapy!

  2. roamingtheworld · · Reply

    I can totally relate to Fears. They sneak up on me all the time and I’m forced to face them and ask the bigger questions!
    I wonder the same too- How I can travel be so easy for me and yet certain “normal” things terrify me???

    So happy you’re writing, reflecting and sharing!
    I say, it’s time to meet up again- maybe for a walk or a little day trip somewhere and soak up nature?

    1. Thanks Lauren! Yes, fears are so tough to understand sometimes, but also provide a path towards growth, I’m learning. While I was terrified of speaking up for myself a few weeks ago, I finally did (for a particular situation), and then some good things have come out of it :)

      Yes, let’s wander around in nature soon. And now we have more daylight to work with! I’ll text you.

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