We are all doing our best to carry on, but sometimes fear grips us. We find ourselves paralyzed by a certain event, or tragedy, or simple twist of fate that puts us in a challenging situation. I really believe, too, that the older we get, the more fatigued we become in such challenges. We begin to ponder resignation; we feel too tired to fight again.
It’s okay to feel that way. What’s not okay is to harbor it, offer it a room and free board, and let it take up an indefinite residence within you.
In the past three weeks, I have experienced three deaths: a 20-year-old former student, a 49-year-old former classmate, and a 67-year-old friend. The youngest fought for his life and inspired hundreds of thousands; the middle-aged friend struggled in many ways throughout his adult life to find happiness. The oldest was like a mother to me and a grandmother to my children. These three very different deaths prompted three very different reflections within me.
Individually, the youngest gave me strength, the middle-aged gave me anger, and the elder offered me love.
Collectively, though, their deaths served up a not-so-healthy dose of fear.
I am getting older, too. We all are. The 20 year old lived more fully than most do in a lifetime, even in his battles to defeat cancer. The 49 year old, on the other hand, battled more than most do in a lifetime, but in a pursuit for happiness. The 67 year old lived a life, as I knew her, filled with loving kindness, opening her house and her heart to all.
How well have I lived my life?
The fear is strong within that single thought — nearing the age of 50, clearly not in the best shape, and expending too much energy into areas that are not good investments in my overall health and well-being.
This past weekend, I spent three long days at my daughter’s Finale for her equitation season. In comparison with what she did in those 72 hours, I did very little. I did, however, spend a great deal of time observing her and the work ethic of the other eight riders. They worked well into the night preparing the horses and the trailers, then awoke at 3:30 a.m. for the final prep before the big event began just before 9 a.m.
They did more work and conquered more fears in those 72 hours than I face in a full week — maybe an entire month — and not one of them complained.
I look at the picture of my daughter, featured above, and I see what it looks like when you let go of fear. I see she believes in herself. She has confidence to go from a trot to a canter. She has courage to approach the next jump and soar into the air.
That’s what I need to remember. That’s what we all need to practice. When fear grips us, we need to acknowledge it. Let it in fully. But then we need to do what so few of us are good at doing: we need to let it go. Release it forever. Then get to work.
And what is that work? Living. Fully. It’s all about letting go of the past. Letting go of the fear. Letting go of the what-ifs.
It’s all about realizing the present. Embracing what is. Running full speed into the next moment with belief, confidence, and courage.
We are going to face those challenges every day, and some are going to be tougher than others.
We just need to remember: We can make the choice to let the fear in, then we must make the choice to let the fear go.
What choice will you make?