Fear is the fast food of the emotional neighborhood. It can be found on every corner of life, prompting detours into that unavoidable Fear Franchise drive thru. It’s all about what happens to that six piece of fried Fear. Do the greasy nuggets get devoured? Does it take some time for them to digest? Or does the Fear Meal get tossed in the garbage?
The "F-bomb" is a primal emotion that arises in the most unsuspecting situations, it juxtaposes with happiness and excitement, shadows victories and sabotages success. It’s the antithesis of love and yet a natural and useful element of the human condition. Fear is a challenge from the universe to procure bravery and to instill growth.
My childhood and teen years all the way through my early twenties were filled with Fearlessness. And then, somewhere along the way, I drank a super size Big Gulp of the Fear Kool Aid. It’s fair to say that over the years, I have allowed Fear to unrightfully direct some major decisions that greatly altered the course of my life. Being aware of this is half the battle, but some events of late have made Fear my personal blue plate special. So I decided to dig in.
It’s strange how a phone call can flip your Panini just when it’s turned the perfect, golden brown. My professional life had recently gotten to that ideally crispy point and then the phone rang. I had finally decided I was truly satisfied with the circumstances of my career, but the voice on the other end of the line invited me to step away from my usual corporate grind to go back out on the road with a rock and roll band. There went that golden, grilled cheese sandwich of life circumstance satisfaction. The work would entail a brutal three-week schedule traveling from city to city through Australia and New Zealand. I would have to work mega hard under a demanding agenda and endure my least favorite element of this type of work, sleep deprivation. The big, "Why did this come back into my life?" question arose making the scenario along with its geography scream "walkabout." As a seeker and a spirit junkie, I seized the chance to leap out of my desk chair for a vision quest. The feeling that there was something bigger to be gained from the experience perfumed my enthusiasm.
The undercurrent of Fear confirmed this, both of the known challenges I would face during this gig, but even more from the unknown contained within the completely unsolicited boomerang this job brought back into my reality. If I’d thrown the boomerang to begin with, at least I’d expect it to return to me. I had held this exact position three years before, but I was now a completely different person. The gig was essentially the same – but I wasn’t. A move across the country prompted by an empty nest, a triad of years filled with life lessons and an intense immersion in spiritual and yogic study separated the Me now from Me then. So, Fear got comfortable around the decision to leave the predictability of my home and daily routine.
The experience immediately confirmed that every moment is an opportunity to demonstrate the "work" you've done on your life path thus far. Meaning, daily situations give us the chance to either repeat patterns which keep us in our karmic status quo or we can utilize lessons, acquired life skills and learned tools to move forward on our journey. For me, that's what this lifetime is all about - burning through samskaras (patterns) so as not to have to repeat them on the next go-round. So, roadie life called and I heeded its song, an anthem for personal development and self-realization.
It was clear my walkabout would be a coming of age. It’s purpose: to take out some deeply held Fear. I had let the "F" word overtake my professional life, choosing predictability, safety and routine over a perhaps riskier job path that held no guarantees. I'm not complaining about my current job, in fact I really do love my regular day job. I have an incredible boss, amazing co-workers, it’s convenient, it's steady and I still have time to simultaneously pursue other professional endeavors. It allows me great flexibility in schedule and helps provide for my family. The biggest perk is that I work from home, often in my pajamas. I've been offered opportunities to move away from it before, but those pesky Fears of "I don’t want to rock the boat," "what if it doesn't work out," "I won't like it" and a bevy of other excuses have kept me tethered to the same job for the last four years. So, when I was offered this touring position for three weeks, the Fear kicked in to say no ... but instead of doing the same old "no" routine, I decided to say "yes" and have faith that it would all work out. And it did. My regular job was amazingly receptive and allowed me to take a leave to do the tour! Fear myth about not being able to have it all - totally busted.
Another dish on the Fear menu, Anxiety paid a visit before I even left American soil when an email related to the job arrived one day before departure. The note relayed that my team would be a short a crucial member for our first task. Although, doable, this was hardly an ideal way to begin a tour. I called my mother to tell her about the situation, how I had resolved to do my best under what would be truly challenging circumstances. She asked me what I was most afraid of. I told her how I anticipated being yelled at if things went less than perfectly. She quietly and calmly inquired, "Is that all you are afraid of - that someone will yell at you?"
A gasp of realization preceded relief that had been waiting to arrive for about, oh, 40 years. I had perspective, finally, on a Fear that had taken up residence in my early childhood, a Fear of not being perfect, of disappointing people. My mother had dropped a tablet of red Easter egg dye into warm clear water and I watched it instantly gush a uniform ruby hue of emotional release. Someone yelling at me was all I was afraid of? That would be easy to conquer. I just had to let it go. I had to stop associating perceived failure with a raised voice that pitched Fear into my childhood and lingered until now. My mother had unlocked a key to my growth, to my moving forward in this lifetime, to no longer letting Fear, real or irrational, keep me from being my highest Self, from maybe finally starting to tickle what I have known for years is my potential. She had changed the color of a dull hang up I’d held onto forever into a brilliant jewel tone.
And so I found my psyche covered in a rich garnet hue from that explosion of emotional Easter egg dye in the waters of my Self. Not coincidentally, red is the color of the First Chakra, the Root Chakra that rules the most instinctual and rooted parts of our Self that determine survival. Properly outfitted now, I was able to go into this adventure with a superhero's crimson cape of bravery. I became non-reactive and totally equanimous about the work situation, and guess what – it was remedied before my departure. There was nothing to get worked up over, proving non-reactivity is far more productive than spending energy on predicting outcomes, worrying and generally going bananas.
Other little things had happened along the six weeks before I left for "down under," little things that lit the fuse of that stick of dynamite Fear likes to pack itself into. Instead of allowing the fuse to burn and explode in a firework of Fear, I decided to smother each little spark that rose up. I decided not to believe my own stories, my own crap inner dialog I was spinning. I chose to not listen to the thoughts in my head. Instead I breathed into each ignition and snuffed out the flame before it even had a chance to travel close to the explosion point. This became an automatic reflex that got me through the whole experience.
Alas, a Fear nugget must have been a stowaway on the flight, because it still made an appearance or two on my Aussie walkabout, which is typically a rite of passage that Aboriginal males undertake. But, Jewish girls from the suburbs of Milwaukee can walkabout too. (Is Mil-walk-about going too far here?) My vision quest allowed me to demonstrate my actual walking the walk. How I practice what I preach. I enjoyed an immediate confirmation of this internal transformation in the first few days on the job. I could feel all of the principles I had been studying naturally being applied and automatically being put into practice. Things like how you can’t control other people or situations, but you can control your reaction to them. This self-awareness made life lighter. Beautiful mantras intuitively flooded my being during escalated moments. And although time was a luxury, I made room for and used natural methods I’d been practicing for years like meditation, food as medicine and fitness/yoga to stay healthy and centered. These tools made it so much easier to navigate the ups and downs. The steadiness from their practice made me internalize and own that I can do really hard things.
And then, my luggage got lost on the way from Adelaide to Melbourne. We were going city to city pretty much on a daily basis and as I'm sure you can imagine, I don't travel lightly. I am after all, a mish mash of contradictions; a hippie, health foodie, yogi, clothes horse with a love for herbal remedies, natural beauty products, vintage anything, accessories galore and tendencies toward the avant-garde. A three-pound metal Concho belt has just as much a place in my suitcase as an ample number of clean socks. My large, "dirty red" soft shell, no brand name suitcase was packed to the weight limit with my "necessities" for a three-week trip overseas. Clothing, toiletries, shoes, essential oils, supplements, teas, gluten free foods ... Or rather, what I thought were my necessities. You see, I also travel with a carry-on bag that truly includes my essential must haves, the things that if I were I trapped on a desert island, would be crucial. This leopard, rolling bag that barely makes the cut to fit in the overhead bin was psychically packed to perfection. A set of work "blacks" sealed in a zip lock bag, a printed sarong/shawl, a black sweatshirt, my work essentials, an iPad, all of my power cords, my makeup (don’t judge,) a couple pairs of disposable contacts, my glasses and the one Western medication I must take - my thyroid medication. My inner Girl Scout (and Virgo nature) always has her three fingers raised in a pledge of preparedness as demonstrated here.
Back to that four letter "F" word. One of my biggest Fears while traveling is losing my luggage. Although I pack a fashionistas dream selection of wardrobe pieces, losing my bag has to do more with a Fear of being without my contact lenses and glasses. Sans vision correction, I live in a very blurry world. I travel often and the thought of what would happen if I couldn't see is a pretty relevant Fear. So, when my baggage disappeared without a trace and the airline couldn't locate it, I was grateful I had at least my vision in my possession. I knew I had a choice – Accept or Resist. The Old Me, the one that existed a few years back, I believe I would have resisted, thrown a mini fit, cursed, and yelled at some poor customer service agent. I would have worked myself into a funk and pouted thereby only making a bad situation even more intolerable. Instead, I involuntarily just stayed super cool and surprisingly neutral. There was a part of me that was even relieved to be traveling lighter. Guess that meditation and yoga stuff does help to be non-reactive because that is exactly what I was. I trusted that the system would work and my bag would eventually be returned to me and if not, I would figure it out. It was simply one of many opportunities to display the control I have over my reaction to a situation I had no control over.
I rationed one pair of daily contact lenses to last three days, breaking their namesake rule to stretch my supply. The clothes on my back (all denim accessorized with a rad belt and functional shoes) coupled with the "work blacks" and the contents of my carry-on turned out to be a golden combination of endless wardrobe options. I took advantage of hotel freebies and the universal health and beauty product, a jar of raw, organic coconut oil that happens to be provided at my job. There isn’t anything you can’t do with coconut oil. I practiced yoga, worked out and slept naked. Because why not? The liberation I experienced doing that was worth losing the bag on its own! Ultimately, I realized I really can get by on a lot less. I even enjoyed the freedom of traveling with so little. Less mess in the room, more space on the bathroom counter! A feeling of order and peace resulted. I was emancipated, liberated, released from my material belongings - which is the meaning of the Sanskrit term "Moksha" I had seen and heard around my yoga practice for years. Moksha resounded off the mat, in my real life.
After three days, I got an email from a completely separate airline than I had flown on with photos of my dirty red suitcase attached and asking me if I was the Lindsay Garric on the paper bag tag I had thankfully decided to attach last minute at my initial departure airport. The email informed me this particular bag was in Abu Dhabi and they would like to promptly return it to me – if it was mine. Abu Dhabi? Oh my Dhabi! That was far from Melbourne! I replied in confirmation and it took another day and a half for them to "rush" my bag to my location - which remember - changed every day because I was on tour. Reunited with my "stuff" in Sydney, I was relieved to have my supply of contact lenses and some of my wellness supplements I depend on while traveling, but honestly I had already let go of everything else. I felt overwhelmed by all of my belongings once I had them back and resolved to only travel carry-on in the future.
I time traveled backwards from the last stop in New Zealand to get home. I had a day to recover before returning to my regular gig and "normal life." The trip revealed that there is a danger in accepting that turn through the Fear Drive Thru, to trying new things. You may discover you like dipping into that special sauce and having to conjure up a side of courage. In the process, the world as you know it may get flipped upside down. It’s difficult to return to the same life or patterns when you have new knowledge of your Self. But, it’s also an opportunity to navigate familiar waters in a new way, proof that everything is ever changing and impermanent – both good and bad. So, for now, I'll be living with a lot less fear and traveling with a lot less luggage.
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