Have you ever had that thing happen where you notice something and then you see it everywhere? Like you’re car shopping and thinking about buying a Honda, and suddenly you notice that everyone’s driving a Honda.
Well, that’s kind of how it’s been with fear lately.
As most of you know, my 2019 started out like, well, like total crap. I totaled my brand-new car on New Year’s Day (not my fault) and had a miscarriage a week later. By February 1, 2019, I was already ready for 2020 to arrive.
Having a miscarriage brought fear to the forefront of my life. I was deathly afraid of miscarrying again or of never being able to conceive.
Being aware of this fear slowly made me aware of all of the other ways I was constantly afraid: afraid of dying, afraid of someone I love dying, afraid of getting hurt, of failing, of not meeting my full potential, of a million other things.
Reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown highlighted even more ways fear was affecting me, and the more I mulled it over, the more it bothered me.
Maybe it’s because I’m a control freak, but I don’t like the idea of fear ruling my life. I want to rule my life, you know?
That’s why I’ve chosen an anti-word of the year: fear. The opposite of fear, in my life at least, means so much more than just courage, and I want to be the opposite of fearful in all of those ways.
So what IS the opposite of fear then?
The opposite of fear is courage.
There are a lot of words I’d use to describe myself, and “brave” isn’t one of them. Witty, maybe, depending on who you ask. Talkative, ABSOLUTELY. Brave? Nah.
So many situations already this year have put me at a crossroads: either I can be brave, or I can be fearful.
I remember very little of our drive to the hospital the night I miscarried, except for what was playing on the radio: Stand In Your Love by Josh Baldwin. In case you haven’t heard the song, it’s a Christian song and the chorus goes, “Fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in your love.”
Somehow, in the midst of total crisis, I knew this song, and this message, was going to be incredibly significant going forward. I knew this year was going to take a lot of courage. And it already has.
Speaking publicly about my miscarriage took courage. Thinking about trying to have kids again has tested courage. Besides these things, I’ve seen a need for courage in other areas of my life, too.
Case in point: church. We’ve had so many new people come to our church this year. I want to be that kind of person who welcomes new people into our church family like people so graciously welcomed us. But I’m always stopped by fear. What if I’m too young to welcome people older than me? What if I haven’t been here long enough? What if I’m just incredibly awkward?
Lately, I’ve been trying to push this aside and to be unabashedly friendly to newcomers at church, despite how awkward I feel sometimes. This verse has often to mind: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Courage doesn’t come naturally for me, but I’m practicing it in the small things.
The opposite of fear is joy.
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” – Brené Brown
I had a lot of epiphanies when reading Brené’s book, but the biggest one was about joy. She describes in her book how when she came a mother, she found herself sabotaging her own moments of joy. When she would find herself looking at one of her babies and experiencing pure joy, she would quickly tamp it down with thoughts of something bad happening to her children. She was afraid to be joyful, because what if something bad happened? Joy was dangerous. It was risky. It was vulnerable.
When I read this, I was, as the kids say, shook.
When I was a kid, I got this awesome (read: awesome in the early 2000’s) fuzzy leopard print coat. I was so excited about it… so excited that I never wore it. Why? Because I was too afraid that I would ruin it somehow. I was afraid to enjoy this stylin’ coat because the coat could be ruined or lost. It seemed easier and safer to never fully experience the joy of wearing my coat than to experience joy and lose it.
That pretty much says all you need to know. I have lived so much of my life, I now realize, in fear of joy.
This year, I’m leaning in to moments of joy. When I find out I’m pregnant again (fingers crossed), I’ve decided I’m going to feel that joy in full. I’m not going to shy away in fear of what could happen again. Because what if that baby is born healthy and I realize I spent my first pregnancy terrified and anxious instead of joyful and excited? The cost is too great, and life too short.
The opposite of fear is life.
I mentioned in a previous post that I’m working with a health coach. I hired her earlier this year because I was tired. I was tired of counting calories, of worrying about what I was eating, and of constantly worrying about losing weight – or gaining it. I wanted out. I wanted to JUST EAT and neither feel out of control nor worry about every little thing that went into my mouth.
After the holidays + multiple crises in January, I was also struggling with gaining back weight. Yep, I’m putting it out there, y’all. I’ve gained weight. And in January, I was really struggling with it. I was discouraged and disappointed in myself.
I’d been reading this health coach’s blog for awhile and had tried many of her recipes. Earlier this year, I listened to a podcast where she talked about the focus of her practice: helping women ditch the diet cycle and discover a healthy relationship with food. That’s exactly what I wanted. I was in.
It’s hard to summarize everything I’ve learned, but what I’ve learned so far is that disordered eating, or having an unhealthy relationship with food, comes from fear. It comes from a fear of gaining weight and of not being “thin” enough.
Sound familiar to anyone else?
When I was on Weight Watchers and constantly worried about gaining weight or not losing weight, I was letting fear get in the way of living. Basically, I was worried about whether or not I should eat the cake instead of enjoying the party.
Brandon once commented on how he wished I’d be less worried about eating healthy and just enjoy eating stuff, after I spent ten minutes at the fair debating whether or not I should order deep-fried oreos or not. At the time, I thought he was just being ridiculous. Now, I realize he was pointing out the exact problem that later would make me so unhappy: in my “healthy” diet, there was no room for “living.”
In 2019, I’m gonna live.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to eat ice cream for every meal; I’m just going to focus less on the scale and on conforming to our ridiculous societal standard of wellness and more on living my life. Food and eating and health is going to be a part of it, but it isn’t going to rule it.
This is the first year I’ve chosen a “word,” but it’s seemed too present in my life to ignore. So here’s to a year of being less fearful, and more courageous, joyful, and full of life.
Do you have a word of the year?