You know how people say most of the things they’re afraid of never happen? The opposite is true for me — most of the things I’ve feared have happened. Not the fleeting, “I’m scared I’ll miss my flight” things, but the “I’m scared I’ll be broken into” things. The recurring fears, the ones that cause my stomach to roil and my chest to constrict. I want to take a moment here to recognize my fears are of a privileged white woman. I totally understand other people lead tougher lives than I do, with fears greater than mine. I understand I have a relatively easy, cushy life. I’m not here to get into a competition about that. Rather, the point of this post is to talk about fear and resilience.
For much of my life I’ve braced myself for terrible things. I’ve done my best to ward them off but they happened anyway. And because they happened, I feel less afraid now. I no longer have to fear the worst because the worst has happened and I’ve lived to tell the tale. It also means I know how to take care of myself in challenging times. If I have to endure a hardship again, I will because I did before.
Researcher and storyteller Brené Brown writes about this character trait, resilience, in her book Rising Strong. She said, “While vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experiences we long for — love, belonging, joy, creativity, and trust, to name a few — the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are.”
Check and check. I used to think of myself as a scaredy cat. As someone sensitive and fragile. But after everything I’ve been through, I’m moving closer and closer to feeling fearless because what else do I have to be afraid of? I’ve already surmounted many obstacles in my life. At this point I’m confident I have the tools to get through anything. I have evidence to prove my feelings won’t kill me, even if feeling them sometimes is excruciating. And I continue to turn to my spiritual practices.
My spiritual teacher says over and over again if a person takes shelter in the Supreme, they need not be afraid of anything in this world. That the divine is “more courageous than the most courageous and braver than the bravest. Those who take shelter in [the divine] are therefore bound to acquire these qualities: courage, bravery, chivalry, and so on. Once endowed with such qualities, what is there to fear?”
I’m a human being so I still fear many things, but I know the more I lean into the presence of my higher power, the better I feel. The more I surrender, the more I recognize everything is an expression of an infinite loving consciousness; the more relaxed I become and also the more fearless. There’s a quote floating around about how the devil whispered in a warrior’s ear: “You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.” And then the warrior responded, “I am the storm.” That’s what it feels like right now. May we all feel that way.
I dream of a world where we recognize our resilience. A world where we recognize our ability to tackle all the challenges coming our way. A world where we become more and more fearless because we understand not only are we strong enough to withstand the storm, but that we are the storm.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.