Fear, let it swallow you whole

June 17, 2015

What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. – Tim Ferris

Today was a complete shit day. The worst of the worst. I have a lot of those, but this one really got to me. Then I slammed my fingers hard, numbingly hard, in the back door. So hard it bounced off them. For a second I stood there, staring at them in disbelief. How did that just happen? When the second was up I started screaming, ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck this hurts!’ followed quickly by soft whispers of, ‘You’re okay, you’re okay, everything’s going to be okay.’

There’s a theme here.

Repeatedly I find myself telling myself, quietly, gently, that everything is going to be okay. Is it? I’m not so sure.

One of my biggest fears has always been running out of money. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life working myself into the ground to make sure it didn’t happen. I’ve worked multiple jobs since I was able to work. Financial freedom was only part of the satisfaction, a large part – yes, but the underlying wind at my back, always there, always pushing, was fear. The fear of not enough. Knowing there was no one to bail me out.

Three summers ago I sat at my desk with one eyebrow. The hair on my head hadn’t started to fall out yet, but was about to. I wasn’t sleeping much, determined to prove myself to a client who was, in turn, determined to get the maximum out of me by purposely questioning my capabilities. She was already happy with my work, but on her own quest to prove to her colleagues that she could get just a lit-tle more out of me than they had. I was just a speck of dust in her tornado of insecurity and one-upping.

The bottom line is, my own pride – I will show this bitch the best work she’s ever seen and shut her pie hole! – and, beneath it, monetary fear kept me from putting a stop to something that ultimately played a hand in destroying my health.

Do I believe it was meant to be in the larger scheme? Yes, I’ve come to believe that. The health issues maybe not, but without them would I have had the nuts to quit my job of my own volition? Hell no. I’m good at what I do. I like being settled and I like having money. More precisely, I like the security it provides. Without that stroke I’d still be sitting at a desk for 12 to 15 hours a day, telling myself I was doing really.important.things (that were actually not all that important), no matter how many times I sometimes questioned myself. Would I have left it all behind to bake pie at six in the morning? Probably not.

But I did. No matter the circumstances, I did.

The crazy thing is, aside from the money, I don’t miss it much. When you’re in it, you convince yourself (and are made to believe) the ship would sink without you. Grab the life jackets she’s looking over the side! But when you get enough distance you realize those were lies you believed to keep yourself going. And then comes a whole different kind of fear because who are you now that you’ve lost your connection to this job? What’s your meaning?

What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.

I’ve read that damn quote over and over so many times since I first saw it. I am at odds with that quote. I want to rip it up into a million pieces and stomp it under my shoe.

Because the truth is, I don’t feel like I got myself here, facing my fear. I feel like life put me here, whether I liked it or not. There, deal with it. Look it in the eye. Live in it. In reality, I feel like it’s swallowing me up.

Last week after I wrote that bit about working for Chris a few times a week I got emails, actual emails from people who told me they were envious of me. Oh good Lord, please don’t be. I’m only doing what I have to do, what I can do, to keep my head above the water and from losing my mind. These pies don’t really need me, I need them.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Jenn June 18, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Yeah, I’m not a fan of fear as a motivator either. Maybe it’s good for people who have never faced hardship before or have stepped out of their comfort zone. I kick myself a lot for not leaving my previous job sooner. I was completely burned out and it was sucking the life out of me. I was using all the best parts of me at work, leaving very little for my husband or kids. I have so much regret. But driving me was the fear of proving my mother right (you’re lazy! a princess! a sponge!) and the fear of losing it all again (I lived in a car for a few weeks at my lowest point). It’s taken a while and I’m still searching but I can’t believe how long I let those voices run my life into the ground.

    I’m so grateful that you’re writing. Being a little nervous about something can be a good sign but fear? Fear can go fuck itself.

    • Reply This Free Bird June 24, 2015 at 3:59 am

      Fear can suck it. Seriously. It is not a healthy motivator for me, at all. Fear of not enough or running out was (and still is) so terrifying to me. Now, I’m wondering if I’ll have to face it. I can’t let myself go there and need to focus on one day at a time or my nerves will be shot. I’m sorry you had to live out of a car. I had a very rough go of it when I first moved to WA. Too bad we didn’t know each other then. I could have encouraged you to quit your job, I was in a much better (less fearful even in dire circumstances) head space then. I would have hired you to work with me at GAP! You are not lazy, a princess or a sponge. You hear? You are not.

  • Reply Miss S June 17, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Life is super strange, isn’t it? And I think the older I get, the more I feel everything weighing on me. I expected adulthood would provide answers about how to handle shit. But it hasn’t. And I don’t expect it will. I’m okay with that I guess.
    At 48, I’ve decided to go back to school. For money. Always about the Benjamin’s, isn’t it??! I’m not an A type, never have been. But reading that quote made me fully understand WHY I’m putting myself in this situation at this stage of my life. Fear is a motivator, when used in a healthy way. Keep that in mind. It’s not about being the best. It’s about choosing a path and committing to it. Not at the risk of health or life in general, but at the risk of being a little afraid of where you’re going.
    I feel like I had a point with this……I hope you get what I’m saying. It will be okay. The day to day shit seems overwhelming, yes. But the big picture is good. Keep on keeping on. YOU got this shit.
    (P.s. Sorry I assumed your age to be older. I thought I read a long time ago in a post that you were near my age.)

    • Reply This Free Bird June 24, 2015 at 3:54 am

      Isn’t it interesting how each of us, in our individual circumstances, took this quote the opposite way. I’m glad you’ve got this thing under control and can use fear to motivate you. I’m a type A and it’s been really hard to bench myself. I have to believe a door will open that makes better sense for me, something that will be better for my health and lifestyle. I don’t love money, but that shit is easy to get used to. It’s enough to make you change paths and get more comfortable, too. And hey, no worries on the age thing. We’re pretty close. I have to be vague because it’s all I have left aside from some cats and a pile of books. Hahaha!

  • Reply Jen June 17, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Once again, thank you for sharing so many vulnerable emotions and experiences with your cyber friends. You are handing so much with fortitude and grace. It may not seem or feel that way to you, but it is true!

    • Reply This Free Bird June 24, 2015 at 3:50 am

      Jen, I lost my shit last week. So thank you, particularly on this one, for showing up and encouraging me. Actually, thank you always.

    Leave a Reply