Riding in Cars with Fear: A Letter to Make Peace
I read somewhere that it’s considered trite to use too much alliteration, but ‘alliteration’ reads like the word ‘alligator’ and if that isn’t charming, I don’t know what is. Lucky for this post,I haven’t been afraid to buck convention lately. For better or worse, I feel myself settling into some sort of happy and clean space, with all the requisite creaks of an old house with good bones.
As someone whose fear of failure and darkness has ruled almost their entire life, it feels like a quiet sort of victory to be here.
There’s this sort of idea that yoga teachers are all perfect and happy all the time and they never break out or say rude things to their partner in a fit of hunger-induced rage. That we are fearless and half-pretzel, half-guru, of which I am neither.
Instead, I’ve been low-key panicking my entire life.
I like bright and quiet solitude, and the library is my favorite place on Earth besides National Parks on non-holiday weekends. (Since the library has a stronger guarantee that I won’t be eaten by bears or trip off a cliff, it wins.) I don’t like loud noises or unexpected quick-moving things. I’m more comfortable around mellow people and while sometimes my angry heart doesn’t always feel like it fits with what I want, I still crave softness and light. That softness brought me to writing and yoga, and all things that seem hard and meaningful.
Sometimes I feel like I only know myself by fear, and the way it shapes and rearranges what I choose what to do and what not to. It guides so much more than yoga postures, it shapes all of my decisions into black and white things, like ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Fear can be so insidious that it looks like a resounding yes. Because it sounds better. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? An enthusiastic ‘sure-I-am-SO-easygoing!’ But that’s wrong, too. Because sometimes saying no can be beautiful and kind and right. It can be the same thing as yelling YES at the things we love and NO THANKS to the noisy and irrelevant shit that does not serve us or the world.
There’s this amazing quote on fear by Elizabeth Gilbert:
“You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps or suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Given that I drove my moms car into my house at 17, this quote feels particularly salient.
There’s an urgency to fear, a strings-attached feeling that makes me not trust myself. I’m trying to remember that fear is important but sort of a dummy, or a drunk acquaintance from high school who keeps asking you the same boring questions over and over.
As I’m listening to David Bazan, he croons I never wanted you/I never wanted to/I know I said I did/In front of witnesses–I think of every decision I’ve ever made that ignored my open heart and honored my Monster Mind and fear of failure and vulnerability. Fear affects me with distractions. It keeps my focus off things that matter; compassion, writing, yoga, my relationships.
It makes me get caught up in political circle-jerks and dramatic interactions between people I hardly know.
When I drive and make fear take the backseat, my writing gets better. My yoga practice becomes loose and fluid. Happy. I am less likely to snap at people when they tell me I look tired or stressed. I get really spacey, too. I push open doors with too much gusto, try to unlock my house with my car keys, and use words that don’t exist in real life but make sense to me. I feel like myself, strange quirks and all.
This year, moving forward, I’m going to keep my fear. But I’ve decided it has to earn its keep. Instead of paralyzing existential dread, fear is going to work for me. It’s going to stop me from doing things like touching stoves and reconnecting with toxic people.
Yeah, that shit is over.
Fear crashed my mom’s Corolla and made me work at a frozen yogurt shop for a year to pay off the damage. I’m not down anymore. It’s time for fear to pitch in for fucking gas. This time around, it’s going to fuel my purpose, not define it. Fear of failure is futile, because it’s always gonna be along for the ride. Don’t let it ride for free.
We’ve got this.