My dear Holly wrote a stunningly beautiful, achingly true piece about grief and love and our friend Céline. I have read it many times since it was published last week, and every line of it resonates. I have been thinking a lot about these lines, in which Holly writes about the new self she is in the process of discovering and becoming:
I hope that she will be like Céline and make friends everywhere she goes, that she will move towards fiery possibility instead of away from fear, that she will view faith and adventure as intertwined.
In all honesty, my natural self can be a fearful person. Even as a child, I was cautious. I liked to test the water before diving into the pool. I would read a book at the base of the tree, instead of climbing its branches. I have never been a wild daredevil, taking risks or acting impulsively or figuring things out on the fly. I am a planner. I like to consider my options. I like to make lists.
Sometimes, I worry too much. Sometimes, I make decisions more as a way of moving away from fear, rather than intentionally moving towards fiery possibility.
But Céline was a fiery possibility type of person. She always seemed fearless. And I so loved and admired that about her. Being her friend made me more fearless, too. The good kind of fearless. Céline taught me that being fearless doesn’t mean you make rash, stupid decisions or refuse to think about consequences. It’s more a mindset of being brave even when you feel scared, of pushing yourself to grow, of not putting limits on yourself. Getting outside your comfort zone, even just a footstep or two. Trying new things. Not labeling yourself or confining your own ideas of who you can be or what you can do.
So, inspired by Holly’s beautiful words, and in homage to Céline, I have been trying to actively move towards fiery possibility, rather than away from fear. Here are just three examples from this past week:
After church yesterday, I led the first meeting of a community circle for young adults in our congregation — a time for people to gather together and have meaningful conversation about their lives. Facilitating this group was intimidating for me. I have never done anything like it before, and worried that my questions would not resonate, that conversation would be awkward or stilted, that people would think I was a fraud, that nobody would come. But it ended up being a wonderful experience. The atmosphere in the room felt safe and authentic, conversation flowed well, and we all go to know each other on a much more genuine level than coffee-hour small talk. It was soul-nourishing for me. I am already looking forward to next week.
I pitched myself for a copywriting assignment in a field I do not know much about, but am interested in and passionate about. I landed the assignment and am interviewing half-a-dozen professionals in the field this week and next week for the article. At first, I felt nervous, thinking, Who am I to write this? These questions are probably silly. What if I don’t come across professionally? But instead of worrying, I made a choice to shift my frame of mind and focus on the exciting possibility of the assignment: a chance to meet fascinating people and learn something new. And I am really enjoying stretching myself in this way!
Last night, Allyn and I went to a 2-hour beginner’s Improv class. Oh my, was I scared to do this! While I generally enjoy public speaking, I have never really thought of myself as an actress and was especially intimidated by the “not-knowing” aspect of Improv. What if I couldn’t think of any good ideas? What if I had a mind-freeze? What if I ruined the scene and let down my partner? Intentionally, I made the decision to push these worries aside and just focus on having fun and soaking up a new adventure. And it ended up being one of the best “date nights” Allyn and I have ever had! I loved seeing him jump into a new endeavor, just as I could tell he was proud of me each time I raised my hand to volunteer and bounded onstage. There was so much energy and creativity in the class, and everyone was very supportive of each other. I was definitely a little nervous/uncomfortable the whole time, but it was exhilarating to get up in front of people and act out a zany scene on the fly. It made me feel proud of myself, and ripped off the label I had always put on myself as “someone who could never do Improv.” Now that label is gone. In fact, Allyn and I are already talking about going back to the class sometime soon!
Here is what I am slowly learning: when you move away from fear, the fear only gets stronger and bigger. You can never move far enough away. It will always cast its shadow over you.
Instead, when you move towards fiery possibility, the joy and sense of adventure soon eclipse the fear entirely. What is left is a bigger and braver and more beautiful sense of yourself.