The first time that I remember consciously doing it was when I was in Uganda , trying to sleep in the searing heat under a mosquito net with tarantula sized holes in it. I was having a full-fledged panic attack. I couldn't breathe enough to gasp out the sobs that my soul was working up, and it wasn't the mosquitos or the tarantulas, since I am pretty sure there aren't any tarantulas in Uganda. It was as if I had suddenly realized, laying down to sleep, that I was, at a bare minimum, two days of travel away from my four little girls, without the resources or ability to get to them if something went wrong. I was a single mom, beyond poor, halfway around the world from my kids. The fear and doubt and guilt that raced through my mind that night was crippling. I couldn't escape it, so I faced it. Starting with the Worst Thing I Could Imagine, I looked each fear in the eye and asked myself what I would do. If one of my girls was hurt - how would I deal? I made a plan, who I could call, how I could get there. Then I faced the next fear, until I worked my way down the Worst Case Scenario List, making plans, until I had taken away all of the reasons to not go on with my trip and sleep soundly that night.
That, in an nutshell, is fearsetting. It's looking the most Terrible Thing You can Imagine in the face and asking yourself what you would do. Once you find an answer, the fear subsides. And there is always an answer.
On a daily basis we deal with anxiety about relationships and money and decisions, when the reality is that the thing that we are freaking out about is something we have probably already faced (which makes them rational fears, but fears nonetheless). When I panic about the risk of a being dumped or rejected or abandoned, I remember when I was, and I think about how I survived it, and how I would survive it better now. When I fear financial destitution, I reflect back on the moments of absolute poverty-stricken impossibility and how I got back on my feet by digging all of the quarters out of the couch cushions to buy gas to get to work. I wish I could say I was exaggerating.
I have never faced the loss of a child, or even a very close loved one, but I can imagine the disabling grief and when I am overwhelmed with the knowledge that their protection, especially as they launch into their own lives as adults, is out of my hands, I have to find peace in knowing I have the people around me to keep me together if something like that happened. And if I don't, I'd better get busy finding them.
Fears are really the things that keeps us from our goals. Fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of wasted time, energy, passion - those are my big things. I have never really had money to fear losing, and failure is such a ritual procedure for me that it doesn't scare me that much, but wasting one more day of this infinitely short life (yes, that's an oxymoron), scares the shit out of me. It's like FOMO (fear of missing out, for all you old people) on speed, because instead of missing out on like, the best Halloween party EVER, you're missing out on years of your life - or you gave them away like an idiot to some jerkface who didn't appreciate them.
So I face that fear, the fear of wasting time, and I look at all of the things that I have brought with me from the "wasted" years. Four AMAZING kids. Skillz. Mad skillz. Insight. Compassion. Empathy. Humility. A complete Battlestar Gallactica DVD set. So how wasted were those years? Look where they brought me! To a place I would never be otherwise, with people I might never have known. The fear subsides and I look forward to the next adventure. I pray that it is one that will last, but if it isn't, I know I will have gained even more.
So that's where I am at. Eating fear for breakfast along with pain and failure and stomping off all of the negative vibes. Or at least most days I am. Why we, as humans, and especially me, are so intent on finding the things to worry about when we have such good things to be doing, cookies to eat and dogs to pet and just, LIFE! But we, me especially, have to bog the good things down with the what ifs. And what if things were just fine? What if we had nothing to fear because we always have a way out? I say these things to remind myself that even the Worst Things can, and will be survived, so I might as well enjoy all of the Best Things that surround me every day.