My Fear and My Anxiety
My post on fear and anxiety laid the groundwork for how these two forces shape each of us, but it stopped short of how they impact me.
I don’t think of myself as a fearful or anxious person. I feel fear, but I’m also the first person to jump off the cliff into the murky water below. Or rather, I used to be. I was the “professional juggler” with no permanent address. I was the guy that could present anything - give me a subject and I would find a way to become the expert and wow the room.
But something changed over the last ten years of my agency life. I grew comfortable. I started to like the big paycheques and the fancy clothes. I was addicted to the titles that came with each new position or opportunity. And I was slowly deadening myself to what really mattered. My dreams and heart-felt desires could wait until some unspecified date in the future. And if my heart was too pained by this, a purchase would be made to set things right. My cupboards were full of unused cameras, baking appliances and surfing gear.
I became exceptionally good at identifying where I could excel, like so many in the workforce. If I am absolutely honest with myself, I was actually learning the exact opposite – how to avoid every situation where I might fail. I became a true 10,000 hour expert at not failing. And while I wouldn’t say this was top of mind for me, I was definitely aware of a growing aversion to risk. I had a lack of crazy stories to tell. I had become insulated from coincidence and chance.
And then my heart burst and I had a choice to make. I could treat it like my appendix and have it surgically removed or I could walk away from everything I knew and start healing. Not surprisingly, most people told me to opt for surgery. I could fix it properly when there was time and I had enough money to retire. Just like them.
I chose to start the healing and walk away from the corporate world. Only it was much harder to do this time. I had chosen to follow my heart against reason many times in the past, but this was the first time I did so blindly as I couldn’t feel anything. It’s so hard to describe. I was numb. I could not feel the pain. I could not cry. I was immune to anything painful or uplifting in the world.
There was nothing guiding me. Just a sense of loss, deadened pain and loneliness. A malaise of drifting alone in a sea of unstated expectations.
I wanted to launch a business, learn a craft and write down some action steps, but I couldn’t commit to anything. I felt like a failure. I had nothing to show anyone.
I needed to slow down and focus on healing myself. I had to start crying and laughing from my soul again. I needed a silent space every day where I could reconnect with what mattered. At times it was frustrating because there were no answers. I’m used to “go go go” and this was about “hurry up and wait.”
And that’s when I realized I wasn’t afraid. I was anxious. I had anxiety about what I was to become. I was worrying about things that hadn’t happened yet. I was fretting about how others would react or perceive me. “Who am I to be creating art?” “When would I grow up and get a job?” "What impact could I ever make in this messed up world?"
The first step with anxiety is to change our lives so that we aren’t confronting our anxiety every minute of every day. So I began taking meditative walks where I focused on kindness. I also began culling the people from my life who caused my insecurities to flare up. This meant dropping a ton of people off of twitter, my RSS feed, Facebook and in real life.
Step two is to get help. I chose to join a support group of likeminded artists exploring their art, their passions and building a business around their art. This blog is just one of the results.
What makes you feel anxious? Where is your help?