I have this acquaintance I’ve known for many years. She comes to visit from time to time. It is never what I would call a pleasant visit, only comforting in its familiarity. No matter where I’m at or what I have happening in my life at the moment, she will drop by unannounced. Most often these visits come at the worst time for me. You know what I mean…life is upside down and you feel completely overwhelmed. Yep. That’s when she stops by.
I have known her for so long, as long as I can remember really. Her visits have become expected. Inevitably when she stops by, she will begin to reminisce. Recounting days past, reaching further back than I ever want to remember. She seems to particularly enjoy memories that were less than pleasant for me. Some of them are downright awful. Like a present from an old auntie that still sees you as a four year old, they don’t fit. They’re uncomfortable. I want to shove these little gifts to the back of the closet of my mind and forget they were ever here.
Mind you, no one would ever know of my angst. Knowing me as long as she has, she knows well my propensity for people-pleasing. She knows she can count on my being the hostess with the mostest, that I will bend over backwards to make her feel at home. So I smile and nod and make her feel welcome. The routine is always the same. And no matter where I am at, it begins to feel like a prison.
Prisons are funny places. I’m not talking about the prison you get thrown into after robbing a bank. I’m talking about the prison in your mind. They come in all shapes and sizes. It can be a room, a building, even a country. I’ve had some nice prisons myself. Decorated with total comfort in mind. I knew I would be there a while. Knick knacks, distractions, diversions…over time I would almost forget that it was a prison. Almost.
Eventually my acquaintance would stop by, smile at me knowingly and begin, “Remember when…”
And I want to escape the country without leaving a forwarding address.
My acquaintance, if you haven’t surmised, is fear. Every time I’ve faced a point of growth, she has shown up and said, “Remember when.” Sometimes her friend doubt has joined her and before I know it, the prison I’m in begins to lose its comfort and charm. I begin to feel stifled. Smothered. Stuck. If I remain with them rehashing old times, those feelings remain. They grow bigger. I get grumpy and irritable. I get distant from those I love most. With concerned glances, they inquire hesitantly, “Are you okay?”
This can go on for some time. Eventually my tolerance grows thin and I tell them to hit the road. At least that was my modus operandi for some time. For so long, fear was an unwelcome houseguest that stayed too long and asked too much. Sometimes I would grow adamant about them leaving, even to anger. But at the root of it all was always fear. I knew she was right.
Over time, I came to the realization that fear didn’t stop by at random times simply to harass me. She would visit exactly when I needed her to. Every time my little prison gets too comfortable, when I start looking for new diversions to occupy me or feel the need to redecorate so that the place will be more cozy, fear shows up. And the itch for change begins.
Fear is no longer an unwelcome houseguest. She is an old friend that comes into my life from time to time, signaling needed change. When she comes around, everything begins to feel too small, too tight. When I quit resisting her charm and hear what she has to say, fear guides me. Fear never meant her reminders to be punishment or harassment, but rather a reminder of everything I have overcome, a reminder that I’ve been here before. She lets me it’s time for growth. This is one of those times.
I have avoided writing publicly for so long. Ignoring the signs. Making lame excuses.
“I have nothing new to say…”
“Who am I to write…?”
“What will he/she/them think…?”
But the discomfort grows as fear reminds me that yes, I have been here before. Reminds me that I have all I need within me to face this challenge, to rise above.
And so this next part of my journey begins. I will undoubtedly grow and learn. I will become more of who I am meant to be. And for that, I am grateful.
Fear often comes unbidden, but if followed, can lead us directly to our purpose.
Until next time, old friend.