It goes without saying that being Fearless is all about taking a risk. But most of us shy away from the risks because we're too afraid. It's a vicious cycle.
There is something about taking a RISK that puts everyone into a tailspin. We feel our chest tighten, our hands become unsteady and worst of all, our minds go into scramble mode and we turn into complete idiots about the simplest things.
You see when we take a risk, we also have to choose. We have to choose what is potentially good for us versus choosing to stay where we are and be miserable. Either way, you make a choice. Isn't that an interesting proposition? We get to choose to be miserable.
I was in my forties before I realized the truth of that one.
In the middle of a huge fight with my husband, while I blamed him for everything that was limited about our life, and blamed him for creating the circumstances that created these limitations, he said something prolific and simple. "You chose to be here".
It was one of those lightening bolt moments when I stopped in mid-sentence and swallowed my next round of invective. Suddenly, all these years of blaming him, of blaming other people for the misery I was experiencing in my life, was no longer true. I was responsible for my choices. I had chosen to be in these circumstances. I had chosen to be with the people in my life. I had chosen to limit or expand my universe based on which direction I was going.
In my book, it doesn't get more profound than that.
I have an acronym for risk. It really sums up what it's all about for me. When you take a RISK, you Respect Intention and Show Kourage.
When we respect our intention we set the program for change.
Twelve years ago, I began writing a book about my family. It was a difficult story full of rape, incest, unwanted children, physical abuse, retarded children and adoption. Many families are complicated. I just happened to think that mine was a little more than most.. But there was a burning desire to tell the story, and although I was afraid, I knew it was essential that I make sense of it. I wanted to know why the same patterns kept showing up generation after generation, destroying the lives of so many along the way.
I took a risk in writing it for several reasons. Firstly, I had no track record as a writer when I began it, and secondly, because I was talking about the secrets that had burned their way through three generations of my family. We had three generations of women having children born outside of marriage, including me, and I wanted to know what that was all about. My journey was to unlock these secrets from the people who were still alive to tell them, and they did. In the process their lives were transformed also.
An aunt, the first of the illegitimate children, disclosed after 65 years, the secret she had been holding back from everyone. When I wrote about it in my first draft, she was angry with me that she had been forced to tell her children. When I questioned their response, she told me they had said 'So!" The secret that was held for too long had lost it's power all these years later.
Over the years, the story segued from being autobiographical to a novel, because I realized that I needed distance from the characters to make them believable and to discover who they really were. I was writing about my grandmother, who I hardly knew, and my mother and father, who I knew but only to a certain point. How many of us really know who our mothers and fathers really are? They are identified as parents, not as individuals. It was my task to find out who they were as people.
I had no idea how writing this book would change my life.
How many of us hold family secrets because we're too ashamed, too afraid of what harm they can do, too afraid of hurting someone else. We believe that if don't take a risk, we will protect ourselves, when in fact it is the complete opposite. When we limit our existence, we feel miserable. You then enter the cycle where you wish you had taken a risk, and then don't, growing into being more limited, more miserable and so on. We say no to choice when we refuse to take a risk.
There are many reasons for holding back the family secrets but unfortunately, they poison the well. They seep down through the rich soil of who we are and leech out all the spontaneity and life that is ours. We sacrifice ourselves to the stories of previous generations. We carry so much baggage around with us and the truth is... it's not ours to carry. We have to set it down. It's old stuff. These are someone else's story; someone else's expectations; someone else's limitations. We are straight laced by our history.
So what can we do? We must make a choice. We must step outside of our comfort zone, and we must take that risk to invent new stories. We have to reinvent our own lives. We have to step outside the confines of our old belief systems, take a RISK by making a choice, and become the woman you were meant to be before you inherited the lies.
I did that when I created this book When The Crow Sings. I had to make a choice. Was I going to be carrying the weight of failure around with me forever, or would I choose to change it. I chose to change it because my life was a mess. Writing this down became my way of making sense of the history. Of knowing where I came from so I would know who I was.
I learned I wasn't my mother, my father or anyone else outside of my body. I wasn't their language, their limitations or their belief systems. I was me. I had developed a life confined within the narrow boundaries of who they were, and I spent a great deal of my life breaking free of them.
Thankfully today, I am free of the past, although I've learned how to take RISKS and I've taken plenty, there are still moments when taking that RISK is difficult. I doubt myself, I worry about the future, and I get involved in stories that are lies. I started Fearless Fifties on an idea with only a sense that I had something worth saying. I took a RISK that people would want to hear it. But now, when I face the fear of taking the next RISK, I know that it's been done before and I can do it again. I just have to believe it's possible.
We all need to believe in who we are. When we can do that, miracles do happen. We become the person we were meant to be. We become true to who we are. And the most amazing miracle of all is this. When you truly know who you are, people respond in the most amazing ways. They respect you. They admire you for your courage. They want to have a little of what you've got. They make you feel special because you are.
"We're in a free fall into the future. We don't know where we're going. Things are changing so fast. And always when you're going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. But all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It's a very interesting shift of perspective . . . Joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world and everything changes." (Joseph Campbell in Sukhavati)