fear. fear. FEAR!

24 04 2015

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It is sort of ironic. You know the familiar quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt – “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It’s a great quote but truthfully, I’m not sure it really applies to me as i have a long list of things to fear.

However, it is a quote by his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt that does resonate with me: “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot. Without question, this has been much more true to my experience.

I had a great conversation recently about fear. You all know the deal – it can be debilitating, irrational and lead to missing out. But it is as real as the skin on your face (or for most of us, at least).

When I decided to try stand-up comedy for the first time, it was because I had realized earlier that part of what was depressing me was not living the life that I wanted. I don’t mean  as if I should quit my job and pursue something in an unrealistic fashion. Rather, it was just simply about trying something new. Experiences, like music, really fuel me. The Red Hot Chili Peppers sing “I like pleasure mixed with pain and music is my aeroplane” and I get it. I really, really get it. But more about that at a later, more alcohol-inspired blog post!

I am in the midst of a divorce and, at the same time, what I feel to be great uncertainty with my job. Yet, I am oddly at peace with both – more than I ever would have imagined. It is not that my anxieties don’t get the better of me from time to time but facing different fears, getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and working from a place of “yes”, rather than “no” has been an amazing elixer to remedy those anxiety fueled moments.

As a side effect, as I work through the uncertainties associated with the end of a marriage and what might be a pivotal career moment – both leading me to wonder “what is next”, it is the byproduct of those new experiences that I decided to face while putting fear aside that have helped me as I journey through all of this – friends, connections, and opportunities.

I have learned through mindfulness (as I continue to explore meditation), that it is not just about giving up control, nor about just being “present in the moment”. It is a powerful coping experience because it simply causes me to pay attention and identify what I am feeling rather than just feel it. This is why I gravitate to writing and playing piano so much – particularly when stressed out. It is funnel by which I can “tune it” to what I am writing or playing, think about it – even lose myself momentarily. It is about trust – which, after all, is really the exact opposite of fear.

I will always have my struggles. I will grapple with the evolution of trying to “figure it all out”. I will do all of this knowing, however, that it is not about having the answers but more about listening. I think this is where instinct really comes in.

i had never put it all together in this fashion before. I suck at pretty much everything, yet, I feel i have a fairly good instinct about people (even in the midst of now separating from the one person that mattered most). (Or maybe I just tell myself that). In any event, I think the gut instinct is really a test of whether you can trust yourself over your fears. Can we choose to make those decisions that are hard for us and for others in lieu of the fear of what it may lead to?

I had a conversation with my daughter recently about trying new things and not being afraid of failure – that failure is actually a good thing – a difficult proposition for anyone, let alone an 11 year-old. I do think it’s time that I take my own advice and the more I do it, the more rewarding it is. After all, the things that end up waking us up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night are rarely the things we have been fearing in the first place.

So, in summary – find your aeroplane, face one fear and go for it. With the exception of things like skydiving, if you fail, you’ll still be around to reap the rewards of having tried something new.

Until next time,

Marc

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Fear of Flying

18 01 2015

fly

I’m big on metaphors – to the dismay a lot of times of my kids, colleagues and generally anyone with a pulse. I think it’s because it is one of the ways in which I can process things that are meaningful to me objectively. If the metaphor literally has nothing to do with my topic but the meaning does, (hence the purpose of a metaphor), it’s just more clear cut to me. I don’t know; I’m weird.

I was listening to an NPR Fresh Air Podcast with Terri Gross with author Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, daughter of  self-help author who, herself, is a skeptic of self help. She happened to talk about her own personal fear of flying, which luckily is not something I have. As she was describing her fear and those of others in a “self-help” class she took, I kept thinking: “why am I not more afraid of flying”? It’s simple. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that things, more than likely, will work out. The plane will take off and it will land and everything including and between those two moments are completely out of my control (even if I get to sit in the exit row). Basically, I allowed my rationale thoughts to take on a bit more importance than my irrational thoughts.

It just so happens that I was listening to this podcast this morning on my way home from NYC on the train. Every single moment from last night through getting back to my house was a potential cause of anxiety: trying new material out at the comedy show, figuring out the subway from Brooklyn to Union to Penn to NJ Transit while slipping on Montrose to the subway station and navigating driving on roads from the train station back home that were to be icy.

As I listened to this podcast and thought about flying, it just hit me that if I could learn to apply the same mental state I have to flying to my life, that would probably not be a bad thing. It is really the same. For the most part, there is very little we really have control over.

This concept has served me well every time I have applied it – every single time. I just have not applied it very often. It is not something that comes naturally to me at all.

A friend and well known comedian gave me some great advice late last year as I am always looking to get better. He said what is holding me back is just myself and that if I could trust the process once I am doing stand-up, it will free me up and take me to the next level. It has. I had to (and still have to) give up the fear, relinquish control and trust that things will, one way or the other, work out.  I tried this again last night and it was great and freeing. Some stuff hit, some didn’t. Most of it was awkward and a bit uncomfortable but 100% true and liberating.

And it wasn’t all about the performance either. But more on that in a future blog.

If you’re “afraid to fly”, remember there are a lot more people in place to catch you than you might have thought.

Until next time,

Marc








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