I love words. I have a few alternative word definitions for you today.
“barkTHINS Snacking Chocolate,” “There’s a Culver’s nearby,” and “If I eat them all now, at least they’re out of the house!” are all phrases that really mean “none of your clothes fit anymore”
“I’m just going to get dressed and walk for awhile.” really means, “I know how to trick myself into running when I don’t want to”
“I feel worthless” really means “my hormones are messing with my brain again”
And, “kid, you are bringin’ out my crazy” really means, “I love and adore you so very much, but you’re about to lose every stinkin’ privilege you’ve ever known…until you’re 30!”
Here’s one that really hit me this week. It’s a lyric in a Matthew West song, “Turns out safe is just another word for regret.”
We do everything we can to be comfortable and safe. We arrange our days, our circumstances, even what we wear to be comfortable and safe. But, I’m willing to bet that the very best moments in your life, the most exhilarating experiences you’ve had, the times when you felt really alive and the things that opened your life up to new possibilities…I’m willing to bet those didn’t flow from comfortable and safe.
We need comfortable and safe. We need it as a launchpad. We need it as a safety net. We need it as zone to heal, regroup and rest. But, comfortable and safe is a basecamp, not a permanent residence.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned my toolkit for overwhelm. I decided yesterday that I was going to make one for depression. But, not this week. This week, I’m making one for fear.
I’m thinking about it this morning, because of the #metoo trending hashtag. I’ve gotten into several conversations about abusive relationships this week. Whenever this topic comes up, there is always someone who says, “I just do not understand how a woman can stay in an abusive situation.” It’s a legitimate question. Sometimes it’s asked with compassion. Usually, it’s asked with an attitude of “these women are weak, crazy, or stupid. Or, all three.”
Here’s one really, really short and overly simplified answer to that question of why. They’re choosing what they know over what they don’t know. The fear of the unknown, of the choices they’ll face, of the opinions of others, of the hard work of recovering themselves, of the judgement of society on the outside, of how they’re going to care for themselves and their children…these fears of what they don’t know are bigger than the uncomfortable, unhealthy and unsafe situation they already do know. It’s emotionally safer to deal with the abusive situation than to face those fears.
Now, before you get all judgey on me. Let me ask you this. How much does fear drive your own actions? How much does it control what you do and don’t do? How strong is the pull of the safe and the familiar in your own life?
What if I asked you to dress up to the nines…sequins, heels, makeup, hair or a tux, like get all fancy, just for fun…and then go to the grocery store for bread and milk. That’s out of the norm and might feel uncomfortable. What if you’ve always wanted to do something crazy with your hair…but can’t bring yourself to actually do it? What if you want to take your family to the beach this Christmas, but it’s far easier not to deal with the outcry from your relatives. What if there’s someone you’d like to get to know, but you’re afraid they won’t be interested? There are a thousand small ways fear can run your life.
Friends, the pull of the familiar. The comfortable. The known. Is really, really strong. Many of us, if asked, when we listen to the longing of our hearts, yearn for meaning, adventure, and excitement. But, a life like that doesn’t happen in the safe zone. It doesn’t happen without risk. It doesn’t happen if we’re arranging our lives to eliminate fear.
This is not just about the big stuff.
I chose adventure over fear this week when I asked an acquaintance for advice about a subject she knew better than I did. Big adventure? Nope, but randomly reaching out to someone I don’t know well to talk about a touchy subject is not something I do often.
I chose adventure over fear this week when I told a group of women about something in my life that’s typically not shared in public conversations. Big adventure? Nope. But, being vulnerable isn’t easy.
I chose adventure over fear this week when I signed up for a conference where I won’t know a soul, I’m going to feel like an outsider and an imposter. Big adventure? Nope. But, conferences without compatriots isn’t in my comfort zone.
Choosing adventure over fear in small things flexes your courageous muscle. What if that conversation with my acquaintance leads to one of the best friendships of my life? Or, an insight into the topic that changes my life, or someone else’s? What if being vulnerable in that group of women gave someone else permission and courage to share something that if they were then supported, could heal a deep emotional wound? What if I receive information at this conference that could free me or my son from perfectionism? What if I learn something that could change how I approach parenting him for the better? What if I meet someone that could make a big difference in my life? What if? The potential from these what if’s were enough to make me step over that line of uncomfortable into possibility.
While I work on a toolkit this week, what if you pay attention to who usually wins the tug-of-war in your heart between fear and the familiar. Notice those internal conversations…often they’ll be so fast and so one-sided that you might have a hard time even recognizing them. They might sound like, “what if…NO. NO WAY. YOU’RE CRAZY. DO YOU KNOW WHAT PEOPLE WILL THINK? OR, SAY? YOU’LL LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT. YOU ARE AN IDIOT…”
You may never even get to the idea before the voices in your head jump all over you. Noticing is the first step toward breaking that cycle and finding your brave. Don’t let safe be another word for regret in your life.
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