The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates
Welcome to this new monthly column on living consciously. I am excited to take this journey with you. As I live and learn, I have determined that life is indeed a team sport, the world our classroom and every living being our teacher.
My life has taken me on wild and rewarding, painful and confounding adventures from the corporate boardroom to silent retreats in the forest. I write to you as a 45-year-old woman always seeking (and sometimes, finding) my place and purpose in the world. Like you, I am keen to discover more meaning, fulfillment, love and peace and make the contribution I was surely designed to share.
I hope you will read my words as a letter from a dear old friend and share in the victories and sorrows that are life. Whether you agree with my musings or not, the point is to consider the ideas, try them on and decide for yourself what rings true. In my estimation, to simply be in the discussion together is divine.
I hesitated to share this first story because the topic is fear. As humans, our natural response to fear may be to duck, run and try to escape at any cost. But this is what makes fear a perfect topic.
My good friend Mel was off to Austin for her granddaughter’s second birthday and at odds with what to do with her rescue dog, a little dappled dachshund, Frankie. Frankie appreciates only his new mom and makes it a habit of barking and growling at every other person, animal or, sometimes, inanimate object. He gets entirely depressed when taken to the kennel and Mel was concerned about his well-being, so I offered to stay at her house and care for Frankie.
I don’t know what scars were left in Frankie’s mind and heart before he was rescued by my friend, though I silently wished he could pull up a chair and share his stories with me. I reasoned if we could just have a heart-to-heart, he could be freed of his past traumas. But instead, he ran and hid underneath the bed when I arrived with my bags, ready to spend the week with him.
I tried cooing to him in my most loving voice and assuring him he was a good boy and he was safe with me. When he would not leave his crate for meals, I lay down by his side and tried to hand feed him his kibble. I brought him fresh bowls of cool water. I gazed deeply into his eyes. I delicately nudged him into the backyard so he could relieve himself.
Frankie responded with downcast eyes. He ran like a bullet when I touched him. He barely made it to the back patio before peeing and sitting in his own urine, shaking. He hid under the car and cowered when I carefully lifted him to bring him back into the cool house.
I was feeling so sad for dear Frankie, wondering what atrocities had caused his behavior. Here I was, open and loving and willing to work with him. If he had been willing, he could have been rambling in the park, chasing bunnies and squirrels, sleeping snuggled up next to me in bed, and accepting extra treats that I would not mention to his mom. But because of the pain of his past, he was immobile and depressed, spending his days hiding in total fear.
And then it hit me. How was I like Frankie? How much was I letting past hurts dictate my current reality? How was I hiding in fear instead of accepting the love and support all around me and frolicking through the fields?
It is noteworthy to share that I am in the process of separating from my husband of 17 years and quite often feel so afraid that I am surprised I haven’t peed myself and sat in it. I’ve been working through it with a therapist, taking baby steps to move out of my home and create a new life for myself, but it’s felt like a slow and painful process and I must admit I often hide out in the pool of my north Phoenix home reading and isolating myself with not-so-optimistic thoughts. Perhaps it’s wise to say that I’ve needed the past few months to come to terms with the changes occurring in my life. Frankie was a gift; he showed me how much we lose when we’re stuck in fear and pain and blind to opportunities that surround us.
By the end of the week, Frankie improved. He sat next to me on the patio, keeping his distance, but closer, without shaking. I take this as a sign that we made gentle progress and thank him for showing me that I may move forward without letting my fear debilitate me.