Exercise #17: Building Courage

Scared child

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Exercise #17 instructions

We all worry.  All of us.  It’s human nature to be afraid of how things will or won’t go in our lives.  Eventually, though, there’s a lesson we each have to learn about fear and worry and it’s something I learned fairly recently.  This is that story.

When I was ten, there was a seventeen-year-old boy who was staying with us.  At the time, he manipulated me into believing that I was special to him, that he loved me.  Then, when he found that I was too small for his intended purpose, he stopped.  It was like his love was somehow suddenly cut off.  At ten, I believed, in that moment, that he stopped loving me because I had failed to please him.  You know how kids are.  The way they see things tends to be rather warped.  Sort of like looking at fish through the top of the tank instead of the side.  What I mean is that my incomplete psyche told me that the reason the boy stopped loving me was because there was something wrong with me.  So, for some reason, I stopped trusting myself to make decent friends.  As a result, I shut myself away from the world to avoid getting hurt.

Nineteen years later, I married my sweetheart, but the first five years of our marriage were difficult ones.  Any time I would make some mistake, a failure to do something or remember something, I would fight with my husband, challenging him, believing that he would stop loving me the way that boy did, that he would leave me alone.  It was terrible, like I was just waiting for the happy life I’d built to suddenly collapse on me.  If my husband had left following one of those fights, which he would have been within his rights to do, I would have been destroyed.  However, he surprised me and continues to do so.

After each fight, my husband would say the same thing.  “It’ll take a lot more than that to make me stop loving you.”  Whenever he would say that, I would always cry and he’d hold me until the tears stopped.  However, it took five years of near constant chaos before I finally started to believe it.  After all, if he didn’t leave in five years, I think it’s safe to say he’s not going to leave.  It’s been nearly twelve years since I married my sweetheart and we still get in fights, but they’re not nearly as bad as that first five years and they don’t leave me terrified that I’m going to wind up alone.

I learned that all important lesson about fear and worry.  You see, both fear and worry have a purpose.  Fear makes us consider our options and decide if what we’re about to do is worth it to us.  Worry helps us keep our eyes open for mistakes, so that, if it’s within our power, we can make corrections.  However, neither emotion was ever meant to stop us from moving forward or acting on our situation.  Yet, as with any such emotion, if we allow ourselves to be overcome by them, we will be stopped, paralyzed, as they say, by fear.  The lesson is not to avoid fear or worry, but to feel them, examine our lives and make whatever changes we need to, or just to move forward in spite of our fears.

The exercise, as you know if you clicked the above link, was to keep track of our daily fears and worries for a day and then check them off the next day.  However, I really don’t like having to keep track of things like that.  It’s why I don’t keep a food journal, like they say you should do if you’re trying to lose weight.  So, instead, I chose my biggest, deepest fear and wrote about that and what I’d learned from it. So, yes, what you’re reading here is a true story about something that really happened in my life.

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