The Prickly Pear of Fear

I really don’t like fear. Mostly I really don’t like the feelings I get in my body from fear. My tongue gets wrinkly and my pits get sweaty. My tailbone gets prickly. I can hear my heart in my ears. And my legs feel a bit like two boneless slabs of meat that I couldn’t stand on let alone use to run. This is hardly an ideal body state and worse it happens in situations that make little sense.

I can totally understand when my body throws up a stink when I see a bear in the woods or when a car cuts me off on the highway. But I am not too fond of it becoming a mass of irrational jello when I need to open an email or meet someone for coffee. These are not life or death situations. They are just me stretching myself outside my comfort zone and they don’t require the full “backed into a corner” fear that arises.

This morning I got my first manuscript edits from my editor for my first book. Prickly pear fear. I can’t open the document. I pace around the house and my heart races. I mean...really, body? WTF is this? Rationally I am excited. I am ready for these edits so my book can move forward. I have been preparing for this day for a long time. I know I am nervous but why such an oxygen-deprived-hand-on-the-throat feeling? I won’t die from her edits. I promise myself. But I might die if I can’t breathe soon!

prickly pear of fear

I get it. I am living on the edge of my comfort zone. I am doing things that I haven’t done before. I am risking failure, humiliation, and criticism. I am baring my soul to the world. But is an email really the enemy to be feared? 

I sip my coffee. It’s decaf because surely I don’t need to add any more nervous energy to this. I clean out my inbox. I make a list of things I need to get done this weekend. I buy some tickets for a concert. The attachment to that email remains unopened and looming in my inbox like a monster under my five year old inner child’s bed.

“Suck it up” I tell myself. I have the same sick feeling you get when someone is going to show you what is under their bandaid. You know it isn’t going to be pretty under there but you need to see. I clean my desk. I put my hair in a ponytail. 

I begin rationalizing with myself. 

“It will be fine.”

“You wanted to do this.”

“You will do great.”

The prickly pear fear begins to subside a bit. 

“I want to live with no regrets.”

“What have I got to lose?”

“We are all going to die anyway.”

That last one is my favorite rationalization. I am going to die whether I write this book or not. And at the final moments of my life I don’t want to think that prickly pear fear got the best of me. I will probably have prickly pear fear on my death bed. Rightfully so. But an email with an attachment should be something I can conquer.

I walk to the edge of the cliff and look down. Woozy. I click the attachment and step off.