Dreaming of La Sal

A serial novel by Michelle Curry Wright

Backstory 15

How to figure out whether you should face your fears — or lock arms with them on your walk through life.

After I saw that documentary about Tony Robbins (I Am Not Your Guru), the one where he helps birth people’s personal breakthroughs (a lot of hype, but transfixing), I got to listening to some of his podcasts.

I started listening to podcasts when I decided to ride my cruiser (the bike I had when I was 10, actually) a couple of miles to the reservoir and back as a form of morning exercise.  

It used to be, that at 7:30 in the morning, almost every morning, I’d get in some more intense form of bicycling, or Pilates, or cross country skiing or running. Now, in a different location and time of life, I take the lead-sled Rollfast one-speed on a paved path. With a headwind, it’s an actual workout. 

(Anyway, shout-out to the millennials at work when I started this riding routine for tuning me in and turning me on to the world of podcasts.)

Weirdly, though, however vast the selections out there for me to choose from, with every scan of the possibilities, I seemed to resist a little before listening to any of them — TED Radio Hour, Oprah, Insights from the Edge, Stuff You Should Know, Good Life Project — or whatever was. Would it hold my attention? Be interesting? Almost every time, I’d get sucked into to whatever subjects, vacuumed into them, really, because they almost always turned out to be very, very good.  

With Tony Robbins, even his podcasts are an on-steroids experience, with all the entrepreneurs, celebrities, the hype, the Robbins machine, the sped-up voices. The last one I listened to was an interview with Mike Tyson. (Really, Michelle? I was thinking as I pressed Play. Yeah. Really. Big story. Unfathomable hardship, early vices, bullying, raw talent, abuse of power, vices, vices, vices, and more vices. And then….redemption.) 

One of the things he said about growing up in a tough neighborhood (he estimated he had 400 street fights there) was that his motivation for fighting was never wanting to be picked on again. To not be afraid of anyone. Ever. Again.  And the way he did this was simply to pummel anyone who triggered in him the kind of fear he’d experienced early on. This was the foundation, begun at the age of nine, of the eradicate-fear-forever program.  

I’m thinking of this in relationship to something I read years ago, something I’ve been rolling around in my mouth like one of those cinnamon Atomic Fireballs for a long time, which is the concept of doing something you’re afraid of every day. To have a fierce heart and step daily into that place of overcoming, with courage leading. 

Though I  understand this in theory, I’ve always resisted it. I put it in the same sort of category as being a cowgirl. I’m not one, but shouldn’t every woman have a little cowgirl in her? Shouldn’t I be different than I am, be better, be more courageous and spunky?  The fear-a-day proposition makes me tense every time I revisit it, and then kind of cowardly as I back away from the idea. Here I am, working on having more peace in my life, more contentment and joy, more deep acceptance and gratitude. Is this done by seeding the day with challenge of feeling fear then overcoming it? 

When I turned fifty I came up with this idea of fifty essays’ worth of trying new things, which was a sort of positive version of fear-a-day. It kept me busy for a while — but it was deeply rooted in proving things to myself and others. The notion of an audience appreciating someone who was trying to be a little more of a cowgirl. 

Now, with the help of the incredible books on my nightstand — and other podcasts, of course — I think I’m finally ready to spit out the Fireball. What has tripped me up with the idea of a fear-a-day is time — our entanglement with its passage, its heavy accumulation of details, the push of it behind us and pull in front, the comparisons it heaves at us from all quadrants when we let it.

If we attend to right here and right now — the eternal now — we are fear’s greatest (and most loving) enemy, This is the only portal to the fearless heart. I think what we are meant to do in the present moment is to allow it in a gazillion times until our narrow mental ruts start to budge, to widen, or veer in a new direction.

Thankfully, we are helped along by all manner of present moment reminders on planet Earth. Clouds in a deep blue sky. The whirr of a hummingbird. Biting into a plum. This is where we stop and settle in and let love dissolve every facet of darkness. I think.