I had a minor meltdown last week. I say minor because in the scheme of things it was small, however still somewhat debilitating in the moment.
For the first few weeks of my new part time lifestyle I was overcome with excitement. I would drop my son off at school and come home and drink slowly consumed coffee while contemplating my day. No hurry, no peak hour traffic, no agenda. It has been surreal, I have dreamt about these moments for years. I was literally walking around smiling to myself, chuffed that I finally had the courage to chase my dream and chuffed that I had all this time to do more of what I love. And then one day, fear snuck in.
Was it rational? Not one bit. I haven’t made it my business to be concerned with money since I made the conscious decision to pull the pin on full time employment. I weighed up the finances long before I made that decision. I also know if (gotta love those ‘what ifs’) I ever found my finances running short, I would find work of some sort – hunt down some copywriting work, land a photography gig, clean houses – I would make it work somehow. The problem here was, I didn’t even need to be worrying at this stage, I was only weeks into my dream chasing and far from broke.
The problem with fear is it often isn’t rational. It creeps up and preys on the mind when it is feeling most vulnerable. Worrying thoughts take over, rationale takes a running jump and all we’re left with is an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. I had worked myself up into such a frenzy that the small moments I usually enjoy no longer brought me joy and my stomach stirred with intense anxiety. The things I had worked hard for over two decades seemed worthless and I felt exhausted. My head hurt.
Then, after days of excruciating fear all created and stirred up in my own head, it dawned on me, the basis of this unwelcome feeling of immense fear.
I often write about anxiety and how it works (as I did in this post). During moments of complete peace and acceptance and happiness, I have this wonderful little way of expecting tragedy. As a result of two tragic events in the span of 9 months in my family some 8-9 years ago, my nerves have this uncanny ability to predict trouble. Of course, the predictions are not accurate, they take the shape of fear and manifest in the confines of the troubled parts of my mind, hiding from the rational side of my mind. My body primes me for trouble, whether it’s looming or not.
During this moment of realisation a few days into my panic attack, it hit me: things were good, real good, so of course I was expecting things to turn bad. How could I be living the dream and not have something to worry about?
During my full time employment, I can honestly say I didn’t stress too much about money. I didn’t want for much, I barely enjoyed shopping for shoes or clothes or makeup, so my money went mainly on household items, family holidays, and food. I could happily spend a fortune in the supermarket, stocking my pantry and fridge makes me very happy. However during my panicking, I found myself strolling through the supermarket nervous about racking up my usual hefty shopping bill. I started to compare the cost of hand soap, something I haven’t done for many years. So very silly, but at the time, so real.
Once I realised where the fear had come from I started to breathe a little. Recognising the source gives me power to accept it isn’t rational, and then I work at removing the feelings of fear. The panic was settled quicker than it was born. And I went back to enjoying my newfound freedom and space to be creative.
The thing with fear is, when in its irrational form it serves no useful purpose. It takes up thought and turns everything dark and scary. I know this, and yet in the depths of my despair I find myself spiraling down into that scary place I really don’t want to visit. Sometimes I allow myself to stay there, just for a day or two. But eventually I have to snap myself out of it and let rationale take control.
I am following my dreams whether my fear likes it or not. I will have moments of nervousness and self-doubt. I will have moments where I really think I can’t do this. There will be times where going back to a secure pay cheque seems like the safe thing to do, I may even briefly (but not at all seriously) consider this. But in my heart of hearts I know I am following my dreams whether my fear likes it or not.
If you have ever had a dream that consumes your every thought and all you want to do is chase it, know that fear will be present. Also know that it should not stop you from chasing that dream. Fear is driven by the false self, taunting you to discourage you from chasing that dream. Listen to your authentic self, listen to your soul. Do the very thing that bursts your heart open and fills your days with pure joy. And leave the fear behind.