Another essay, published in All About Women sometime (I don't remember), and in honor of the many people close to me currently enduring the hellish part about change.
Leap of Faith
By Jeanne Supin
During college summers I was a lifeguard. (Nothing Bay Watchsexy, mind you; this was a municipal pool adjacent Garside Junior High in the cement strewn suburbs of Las Vegas). One year a little boy spent almost the entire summer longing -- but too afraid -- to jump off the diving board. He did everything right: he loved the water; he followed the rules; he easily managed the required swim across the pool’s length. Every afternoon he climbed to the end of that board. We’d cheer him on, yelling, “You can do it!” “It’s fun!” “It’s easy!” “Don’t be scared – you’ll love it!” But every day he’d eventually turn around and go back down the way he came. Finally, as the late August shadows fell across the water I realized we needed something new before the pool closed for the season. Before he lost his chance. So I climbed up after him.
“Are you ready to jump today?”
“ I want to, but I’m scared.”
“Ya know what? You’re right. We’ve been telling you it’s easy, but we’re wrong. It is scary. But you have to jump. Sometimes no matter how scared you are, you have to do it anyway.” I took his hand and we jumped.
That little boy was genuinely scared, even though the rest of us knew he could do it, knew he’d love it, in fact. That’s the weird thing about fears – to most observers they seem so unnecessary. But they feel so damn real to the person having them. Certainly there are real instances of potential harm that result from genuine threats outside our control. But they’re rare for most of us. Even violent acts that are disturbingly common, like rape, don’t actually make us wring sweaty hands day-to-day. Nope, we usually fear other things. One friend is afraid to drive at night, even though nothing bad has ever happened to her. Another worries her smart, delightful, well-behaved daughter will get into some vague, undefined “trouble.” Some of the loveliest singles I know are certain they won’t find a partner. Others become momentarily crazed their wildly devoted spouses are having affairs. Competent people fret they’ll lose their jobs. Healthy people fear they’ll die.
My fears, the things that wake me breathless some nights, are poverty and being too cold, rational, and responsible to have real passions. Twenty-five years of steady professional success don’t matter. Genuinely loving my family, my friends, my work, and my life is irrelevant. The moment I feel tired, sick, or under the simplest of stress I become certain I won’t be able to pay my mortgage and I’m as cold as a stone. Sometimes I fear so deeply it blends into my very existence, and becomes me.
Yet to an objective eye, another’s fear seems pretty odd. Kind of ridiculous, in fact. When I express worry about occasional slumps in business my best friend rolls her eyes and reminds me I’ve had the same unwarranted worry every year she’s known me. My husband thinks the whole cold, rational, passion-less thing is just bizarre. But when I’m in them I’m truly paralyzed, unable to walk, let alone jump. Runaway emotions take hold, and I usually spin around like a top, lashing out about everything under the sun, at everyone close by.
But if I take a deep breath ... if I can remember to step back from my own panic just a little, I notice – again and again – that my own fears aren’t actually the same as my reality, even though they dress alike. If I’m brave enough to back-up two steps, I turn my fears into productive motivation. Three steps and I can actually laugh. These days I’m trying to bypass them altogether, laugh before the panic sets in and let the fears float off unrealized.
Eckhart Tolle observes that most of the time absolutely nothing is wrong at this precise moment. Most of our fears reflect one view of our past and one possibility for our future. And we can change those things. Technically we can’t alter our past, but we can certainly re-interpret it. Forgive. Let go. Commit to desired ways we expect to be treated, new ways to engage and behave. Creating our future is a bit trickier, but doable. Be intentional about the future we want. Direct those things we can, and stop fretting about everything else. It really is true that all we have is the present. We can only actually live now. Fearlessly. Leaping full into the moment as wisely as we can, and then trust it’ll turn out alright. Believing our life is actually as lovely as our friends say it is.