Walking Through Fear to Joy

St. Augustine, FL.
Photo by Katie Rea

I Worried

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?
Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

Poem by Mary Oliver, Dream Works in 1986.

I made a leap of faith and joined a women’s writing group a few months ago.

Feelings of fear and joy combined as I listened to other’s creativity. I even had the courage to share my own work. It didn’t stop the worry which flooded me though, even as I joined the monthly class and participated.

What if I’m not talented enough to be in this group?

What if no one likes me?

What if no one likes what I share?

What if… what if… what if… Lots of “what if’s”.

I found this poem by Mary Oliver. I cannot remember if it was from my Spiritual Direction lessons or from the writing group—possibly both—but I loved the poem. I too was worried a lot. I could certainly relate. I spend much of my time worrying about things I couldn’t control. “…will the earth turn/as it was taught, and if not, how shall/ I correct it?”

I remember a story where a man had such extreme anxiety, it paralyzed him. It interrupted his life and kept him from pursuing his dreams. He lived in a cage of his own making. No drugs or therapy sessions seemed to help. Finally, one day, a therapist asked him to list something he desperately desired to do and list all the fears which flooded him regarding this goal.

The man wrote down that he desired to travel. He then wrote down all his fears concerning the possible trip. Financial worries, heath concerns, fear of flying, everything. He wrote down every “what if” he could think of. Then, an aha moment happened. He started to answer each scenario. He could put aside money to save to go on the trip. If someone stole his wallet, he would make sure to have a secondary source of money. He’d make sure to get all the meds he would need before his trip. If he lost them or had a heath crisis come up, he’d research the medical clinics and hospitals in the areas he would be traveling to.

This allowed him to come to terms with all he feared and allowed him to have an action plan just in case. He found he could walk through his fear to the other side where joy was waiting. Most of the time, most of his fears never happened, but if something did happen, he felt comforted he had or could develop an action plan based on this habit. He is now a world traveler. He didn’t try to slay his fear, he worked with them.

Tim Ferriss gave a TED Talk: Why you should define your fears instead of your goals. He stated in the podcast how the worst-case scenarios may still come, or you’ll find out fears you had were legitimate, but “you shouldn’t conclude that without first putting them under a microscope.” Ferriss also quoted Jersey Gregory Peck, “…The hard choices, what we most fear doing, asking, saying these are very often exactly what we most need to do.”

I have heard that worry is like a rocking chair. You just go back and forth without ever moving forward. I actively notice when I’m rocking back and forth in my worry or fear, and I mentally stand up and create an action plan. I don’t see that worry comes to nothing, but as a signal of opportunity. Each time I have a choice to stay paralyzed in fear or take a step toward action.  Even if it’s just writing something down.

This year I have really been working toward being open to new experiences and creating more faith in my life. I’m continuing my spiritual direction coursework, took a Lectio Divina class at St. Mary’s Sewanee, felt called to become the Vice President of the Daughters of the King for the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, and joined a women’s writing group.

Not all has gone perfectly, but I notice each time I open myself up, I find unexpected blessings. New friendships, affirmations, laughter, wisdom and even pure joy.

I’m not trying to slay or conquer my fear. I am trying to act through whatever tries to paralyze me. “Was I right, was I wrong…can I do it better?” Probably. But that is okay. I’m a work in progress.

As this year comes to an end, take the time to reflect on a desire you may have. What fears are stopping you? Feel free to create your own action plan. Allow the unknown year ahead to fill you with hope instead of dread.

Go “out into the morning” and allow yourself to sing songs of hope and inspiration. Find your own way to act in faith. Work with your fears to joy.

“Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7

*This is an opinion piece based on personal experiences. Seek a mental health professional or a physician for medical advice.

More information:

Hamblett House Amy Lyles Wilson | Creative Soul Tender

Wisdom Tree Collective

Mary Oliver Mary Oliver | Poetry Foundation

Anxiety Action Plan – Beat Your Anxiety With This Simple Approach (thementalhealthupdate.com)

Ted Talk: Why you should define your fears instead of your goals | Tim Ferriss – Bing video

Tribe Of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World: Tim Ferriss: 9781328994967: Amazon.com: Books

What Is Worry? – Psychology Tools

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2 responses to “Walking Through Fear to Joy”

  1. Katie – Your writing is amazing and really hits home! Keep doing it! And, the picture is so beautiful and has such a calming and peaceful effect. Mary Crews


    1. Thank you! I appreciate the affirmation! Glad you like the picture. It’s when we went to St. Augustine.


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