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What is beyond the known?

I’ve been afraid to even speak of the changes that seem to be coming, lest I impart some weird cosmic vibration and mess it up.

However, I’ve told some and things still seem to be on track for the most part. Much insecurity, but even my horoscope – which I mostly read for fun, and usually after the day is done just to see if it was close to being accurate – has been telling me good changes are coming for at least a month now.

I’ve been wanting to do something different with my career life for a long time. I tried my own enterprise, but I didn’t have the energy to invest. Even so, it taught me much about myself. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to “run the show”, as the case may be. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and my choice of a positive attitude in the face of difficulty has been noticed. Long ago I decided to rethink my purpose at work, trying to make it more of a practice of selfless service than a career or job. The opportunity to serve people is there on many levels… serve a coworker in the normal course of business, serve a coworker who is in a jam, serve a friend who needs a favor, ultimately serve the customer way down the line – the one who has no idea I exist or stops to wonder how the drug they’re taking in an effort to save their life makes it into their veins, as it should be (they have bigger fish to ponder). Changing my perspective this way has made it much easier to get out of bed at 5 am every day.

I have chosen to live my life by this quote:

Peace: it does not mean to be away from noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart.

So simple. So difficult.

Anyway, the opportunity has arisen to do something else for a living. A short hop away from my present role, but a huge leap in knowledge base and responsibilities, a change in the people I would serve. I’ve been told by everyone I’ve whispered it to that I’d be very good in this job. I believe that, too. It still scares the crap out of me.

Another favorite quote, this has been taped to my desk for years:

Knowledge is the antidote to fear. ~Emerson

With that quote in mind, I’ve set up a plan. People to mentor me, people to shadow. Classes to take, learn how to listen and pay attention. I can’t control headcount, and Corporate America is notorious for dangling a carrot one minute and hitting you with a stick the next. Expectations are there to be demolished and disappointed, so I shall forge ahead with my plan yet still take the tack of letting the path lead me.

Perhaps, if it’s in the cards, and I’ve made the right choices, and karma is in my favor, and the stars align… maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to make a definitive statement and not talk myself into spirals, worried that the cosmic gate will slam in my face or hit me in the ass.

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Fear. Fear is our greatest motivator, we do a lot of things because of fear. And everyone’s a little different in the fear department: what is no big deal for me, can be utterly terrifying to someone else. I’m not interested in having a spider for a pet, but I can’t say I fear them. Yet a friend of mine totally despises spiders and calls for her husband (aka “Arachnid Man” da-da-da-dum!) any time one of them dare take up residence in her home. There are some big fears, too, ones that are pretty common to all of us. In fact, the insurance industry counts on it. Fear of death or dying, fear of being unable to support our families, fear of illness. In fact, all our fears really boil down to one thing: loss. Fear of losing something, whatever that something might be.

But, I digress. I’m here today to tell you about a fear that I have that is, so far, totally irrational. What I mean is: I have no idea why I have this fear, it stops me from doing things I want to do, I can’t seem to overcome it, people don’t understand it, and it embarrasses me. My fear is the fear of being lost.

Of course, my fear of being lost directly ties to loss of security, which is a fear many people have. But my fear presents itself in a way that I can’t seem to tie back to a root cause. Let’s start with this: I like to travel. I despise traveling alone – by car, train, bus, plane, it doesn’t matter although the fear grows in proportion to my giving up control, and distance from home. Getting lost in a strange city after a flight is much more terrifying than driving in my home state. But this rears up even when I’m walking with a friend in their neighborhood… OMG, what if this person should need medical attention! I don’t even know where I am! Crazy, right?

The only cause I’ve been able to tie this fear to is the fact that when I was about 6 or 7, I was on a trip with my summer camp to a mall (to see a movie). I remember getting distracted by a display, looking up and not seeing any other campers in matching blue t-shirts. But that’s the end of the memory… I have no idea how they found me/I found them, or how long I was lost. My mom has no recollection of this event, so it must not have been very earth-shattering to the adults around me. Or perhaps this time at the mall is totally in my mind, imagined. Using the theory of reincarnation, in one of my past lives I might have gotten tragically lost and the energy is so strong, it followed me into this birth. I just don’t know.

Guided by one of my favorite quotes (“Knowledge is the antidote to fear.” ~Emerson), I’ve come up with a few coping mechanisms:

  • Paying attention while others are in control of the navigation (but I find this difficult, as I tend to relax when I’m with someone else)
  • Taking the route in advance (this usually only works with driving)
  • GPS (sometimes this makes things worse)
  • Mapquest, Yahoo Maps, directions from humans (often all three)
  • Playing stupid and asking someone else to let me follow them or, (feeling like a dog) if they’d drive/come with me.

My famously lousy sense of direction doesn’t help. I have been known to have perfectly good directions, driving along in minimal traffic on a highway with clear, legible signage, and I still get on the Northbound side when I know darn well I need the Southbound lanes.

While I sometimes wuss out, I’ve tried to conquer this fear. I’ve driven all over the state, and occasionally into adjoining states. When I lived in Philadelphia I used the mass transit system. I’ve also flown by myself twice even though both times I had friends meet me at my destination airport, as the thought of renting a car in a strange city makes my knees weak. In fact, this fear presents itself with a wide array of symptoms and not always in direct proportion to the scariness of the situation. It can range from mild concern, through butterflies in my tummy and cold sweats, all the way to full-blown nausea. I’ve mostly avoided it, but I know this fear has the potential to hold me back at work, and it affects my social life too. And, for me, it just seems so dumb! I mean, what is the worst that can happen? (Ok, that is a rhetorical question, no comments on that please!)

Do you have any irrational fears? Something that seems to be unique to you, or perhaps to your situation (like a fear of the ocean when you’ve always lived in the middle of New Mexico).  What have you tried, if anything, to overcome it? Leave a comment.

When I was in the fourth grade, I was in the school play. It was mandatory and I hated it.  Even though my part was playing a cheerleader and I had no lines, the thought of being in front of a group of people made me sick. Literally. I never made it to the actual performance, choosing rather to throw up on the kitchen floor about an hour before show time.

As I worked my way through school and started my career, I managed to avoid having to speak publicly. If I had to do it, I ended up reading from my paper at about 400 words per minute – never looking up to see my audience. In fact, if they were to go to the restroom en masse, I wouldn’t have noticed. However, I realized this could eventually hold me back from something I wanted to do.

That day came when I volunteered for a team charged with changing the culture in our 40-person department. We would eventually have to roll out our ideas during a two-day offsite meeting that we held in the ballroom of a large hotel. PowerPoint slides, videos, breakout teams, the whole kit-n-caboodle.

 When the student is ready, the teacher appears. A few months before the big meeting, my company offered a seminar on public speaking. We had a great instructor who gave us fabulous advice, tips, and practice. All of that was great, but the best piece of advice I picked up is the quote at the top of this article by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I’ve had it on a post-it note stuck to my desk for years now.

I realized that as long as I knew my material inside and out, how bad could I mess up? As long as I could speak clearly, loudly (not a problem for me!), and manage to not trip over my feet, what could possibly go wrong? What was I afraid of? Someone asking a question I couldn’t answer? Forgetting what I was supposed to say? Well if I knew my stuff, those issues would go away. And you know what? As long as you know your topic, audiences are very forgiving (probably because most of them cringe at the thought of public speaking, too).

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Water? Looking silly at a wedding because you can’t dance? Do some research, take a lesson, and begin to understand your fear. Once you know what you’re facing, it’s not nearly as scary as it was.

More quotes that I never want to forget. Please see my earlier post for my mea culpa about writing down people’s names.

Restrain the junk in your head, stop thinking about who you want to be and figure out who you already are.   Alison Ingenito

What you do is not as important as how it makes someone feel. What is your focus?

Action is the liberator of Intention.   Adam Kayce (Monk At Work)

You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.   Edward de Bono

Meet Fear with Enthusiasm.

Want what you have, don’t want what you don’t have.   Santosa meditation

May I find freedom from fear in my life. May I also in turn help others find freedom from fear in their lives. And may I meet the fear in our culture with the courage of the open heart, which acts with decisiveness but never divisiveness.

It’s not what happens, it’s how you react to it that makes it what it is.   Alison Ingenito

Laughter is more powerful than screams.   Sully (Monsters, Inc.)

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