Sunday, May 2, 2010

gates of self

i recognize that there are experiences in which fear comes to me as i am moving into some new activity or adventure which tries to keep me from doing whatever the new, good thing is. it's like there is a gate of fear that needs to be overcome, walked through, before the good thing can be realized. this has happened to me a number of times in my adult life - enough that i have begun to recognize it as a phenomenon, and i can see it better when it is happening, and get fooled less.

these gates are moments of shedding self, or, selfishness.

when i was 20 years old i set out on a bike trip. it was to begin in boston and end in savannah, georgia. the previous summer i had tried to bike from boston to chicago, but had not been up to the task. i had made it only half way, and this was my return, to finish what i had begun.

in the preceding weeks people would ask me "are you excited?!" i always tried to sound like i was. but really, it seemed like asking christopher columbus "are you excited?!" and i imagine his response to be something like "well, sorta, but we also might sail off the earth."

on the day i left i hadnt made it 5 miles from the family home when i began to hear some part of my bike making bad noises. i got off to check it out and as i did, a great wave of fear descended on me. thoughts like "i am never going to make it. this is totally pointless. nobody cares if i do this or not. i am going to fail" came in for the kill.

these thoughts were terrifying. they all seemed like valid points. what on earth was i thinking? i really was never going to be able to do this thing that i had set out to do. so, petrified, feeling naked and alone i stood on the side of the road, 5 miles from all familiarity and played out the options in my head. i could A) continue on this terrifying trip which was completely unknown, or i could B) bike back home, and be safe within 20 minutes. interestingly, while option A was filled with fear, option B was lifeless, and drenched with heartbreak.

after just a few minutes of deep listening, i realized that all the fear in the world was not as bad as the heartbreak of self admitted defeat without trying. i set off in the direction of savannah with the screaming voices of fear blaring in my ears.

a wonderful thing happened. i had made my decision. the unknown, fear, with the possibility of a good, maybe really good outcome, was infinitely better than the heartbreak of not trying. when those screaming voices saw that i had made my decision and was not turning back, they simply left. after 15 minutes the fear was gone and never came back.

1100 miles and a million adventures later i was in savannah, shining in glory.

this trip changed my life, and set the stage for a thousand more adventures, glories, lessons.

what if the fear had won, 5 miles from home? what if, instead of shedding that fear of change, that desire to not try rather than to encounter the possibility of failure, i had chosen to remain the same?

it certainly wasnt "personal strength" that made me able to overcome it. rather, it was the simple desire to avoid heartbreak and accept whatever was the alternative - the windy unknown.

do you have a story of shedding self that led to new life and victory? let me know about it in a comment below, or on my FB page.

love to you all, and striving beyond self.

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