In one of our upcoming podcasts, Lily and I talk about how having fears doesn't preclude you from being a fierce, foxy, FEARLESS human bean. We're fed this idea (from the media, man) that fear is the antithesis of fearlessness. That's not true. Fearlessness is about working through the anxiety to reach a place of peace. It's about saying fuck it, you only live once and doing whatever it is you dream. It's about soaking up this moment—all that's beautiful and hard—and listening in on what would make you feel most alive.
Earlier this week, I backpacked to Conundrum Hot Springs. I was feeling excited about the hike until several of my traveling companions shared their worries about oxygen and the cold and bears (!) Suddenly, I found myself absorbing their anxiety too. What I had thought would be a fun, if challenging hike, was now cast in a fearsome light. I was so caught up in their emotional baggage that I neglected to trust my own experiences. I'm not proud to admit that I called my Mom the morning of to ask for reassurance that um, yes, I can survive chilly weather.
And then I set out on the trail and it was blissfully beautiful and my legs felt strong and the pack wasn't all that heavy and the cold wasn't too bad and the hill wasn't so steep and the only wildlife I encountered was an elk splashing in the creek and a badass beaver doing its thing and I just laughed at the thousand things my body knows that my mind so often forgets. I hiked the 8 1/2 miles in the glow of the blue sky and swam in the natural springs during a cloudy Colorado night when only Mars was visible. As I soaked up the view from the hot springs the next morning—naked and latticed in layers of dirt—I thought I'm a mountain mermaid. And it was so OBVIOUS in that moment that I could only smile at the (not-so-secret) knowledge that no matter the external circumstances, I will always have within me the same reserve of vital, life-affirming fearlessness that carried me up this mountain. I can trust in my ability to make things happen, I can trust in the wholeness of my self, in my lovability and my desirability, in my curiosity and my creativity. Because I'm just a MOUNTAIN MERMAID YOU KNOW? I CAN SURVIVE IN WATER AT HIGH ALTITUDES. And that's rad.
My greatest fears, I'm coming to realize, are all in the hypothetical future. I'm afraid of what ifs. What if I don't find another job? What if my family gets sick? What if I never fall in love again? None of these worst-case scenarios have happened yet because my story—and the stories of those I love and this world that I love—aren't over yet. Fearing the unknown is natural; it means we're surrendering control. But surrender is a kind of power, too. It's an opportunity to be the fullest versions of ourselves; to return to the person we were in that moment when we were afraid of heights but still scaled the cliff, when we were anxious about money but still were generous with our time.
Practicing fearlessness doesn't always mean we'll get exactly what we want or think we want; it's not as if the only barrier between point A and B is speaking our truths. If you can learn to detach from the outcome, as I am trying (and sometimes failing, and trying again) to do, being brave will grow into the goal within itself. You'll be enough. Because what matters, really, is that you do "it" anyway—whether "it" is skydiving or taking up an art class or telling some sweet someone that you're mad about 'em. Fearlessness is embedded in the grand act of letting go and in the small gesture of holding a loved one's hand.
It feels damn good to say you did something bold & badass ANYWAY. And so, in the spirit of bringing a little more fearlessness into our lives, I thought I'd share some tangible tools that have helped me address my anxieties these last few months.
(1) When my mountain mermaid self is feeling lost—frustrated by the fears that I still hold onto, bogged down by just how slow my healing process can be—it helps me to write lists (like the one below) that remind me of my strength.
TIMES I WAS FEARLESS
- When Tali, Lily, Elijah, and I got lost in the Atacama Desert and made our way home.
- Speaking in front of an audience of 1,000 on both my struggles and successes as an aspiring environmental activist.
- Moving to new place(s) for the adventure/the opportunities/the experience.
THINGS THAT MAKE ME FEEL FEARLESS
- Dancing in the supermarket aisle because this Blue Oyster Cult classic is speaking to my soul.
- Wearing my Exterminator Chili T-Shirt & Silver Cuff.
- Writing my thoughts and feels on The Shapes We Make.
(2) Share your fears with a loved one. I remember once listening to a friend of mine sob in high school that no one will ever love me. We both started laughing hysterically. Sometimes, when you say out loud whatever it is you are so deeply afraid of, the only response is to laugh hysterically at just how silly life can be and how small a speck of stardust you are (in the very best way). A lot of fear is just white noise.
(3) Do one little fearless thing. Maybe you're nervous about saying hi to strangers and want to challenge yourself to engage in a conversation with the cashier today. Maybe you're afraid of traveling somewhere alone and decide that this is the weekend you take the train to a crazy beautiful destination just because. Your definition of what's "fearless" might not be the same as someone else's and that's okay. You're you and you get to do whatever it is that you want to do.
It's a new month today and hope sure as hell springs eternal. I hope you find some way to be fearless in the coming weeks—to go after a pipe dream, to dive into new waters. And I hope that you can remember that no matter what fears cloud your heart, you ARE fearless. You are capable of doing big, beautiful, brilliant things.