As the new year begins I settle on a slogan to help me form a positive habit over the next twelve months. For 2014 my slogan is a question. What would you do, Mary, if you weren't afraid?
I know this isn't an original thought. Do something everyday that scares you, is a similar quote I hear a lot attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. But often with common sayings we don’t pause to consider the meaning.
If I've stopped to think about these sentiments at all, I've discarded them out of hand. I’m not scared of anything. Okay, I am scared of snakes, but I can live with that, and I see no reason to delve into it or sign up for a snake handling class. My life is fine, thank you. I don’t need to sky dive or swim with sharks.
But what hit me this week is that the things we are most afraid of are not exotic feats of nerve. They are things very close to us. Things we encounter without straying from our daily routine.
What would you do today, Mary, if you weren't afraid?
It took less than three seconds for me to realize the thing I’m most afraid of right now is resuming work on my novel. I legitimately put it aside to work on a manuscript already under contract, which will be finished soon. Very soon there will be no reason not to open that novel document and begin revising.
Why is that scary? You might ask, isn't that what you do every day, Mary? Write stories?
It’s scary because it matters so much. There in lies the clue to discovering what scares you the most. I guarantee, if you’re honest, it’s those few things that matter most to us that generate our fears.
The scariest things of all are love and creativity. Unconditional love strips us naked. Funny thing, it’s scary whether you’re giving it or receiving it.
Love never stands still. By nature, love grows. Growth is change and love insists we grow along with it. What true thing would you say to your loved one if you weren't afraid of hurt feelings? How would you interact with your children if you had no fear for the future?
Out of love for yourself, what would you stop putting off, if you weren’t afraid?
Like love, creativity urges us to change, to shake up the status quo. If we don’t think about it we realize our natural inclination is to try to keep things as they are, to hold on for fear of losing what we have. This effort toward stagnation strangles love and creativity.
It’s amazing what we will do to stop creativity from blooming, to stop love from flourishing. Sometimes all it takes is turning on the TV or checking Facebook, but sometimes we go to elaborate lengths to thwart intimacy. For creativity is nothing if not intimacy with our very selves. The key to intimacy is vulnerability. Getting back to that being stripped naked—that’s what I’m afraid of. That’s what must happen if I’m to finish my novel.
Is it love or creativity that scares you most? What would you do today, if you weren't afraid? Come on...tell me I'm not alone in this.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known stories from history. Stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
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