- Jason McCarty
Why Are You Dying?
There is something exciting and rewarding when embracing the fear that comes with “falling forward” (see my article Getting Into Your Life to learn more about “falling forward.”) Lately, as I have tried to embrace the fears in my life, I have found that my relationship to fear in general is changing. Something about it feels like a “buzz”, but one that comes from authentically confronting one’s existence not escaping it. I guess I can see how people get “high” from doing things like skydiving or rock climbing. Maybe life calls us, at least at times, to take it on in such a way that we are at the edge. We are unsure of the footing to come. To go backwards feels so draining, so old, so much like death.
To step into our lives means to ultimately confront death in such a way that we feel alive. To step back into comfort is to experience true death. Our ultimate fears around death are not so much about the physical ending of our lives but about all the unactualized potential of our lives, all the missed possibilities. Stepping forward into our lives, into our relationships, into what calls us, means we will confront fear. But if you stay in that fear long enough or you walk through it and realize you didn’t die, you begin to experience a raw and exciting life that feels deeply. That’s right, your life will feel deeply.
I have worked hard most of my life to avoid suffering and pain. I still do in some ways, but much less so. If I were to get my life to a really comfortable place I believe much of my anxiety would return. The comforts and securities of our lives are protections against both pain and satisfaction. The securities of our lives are similar to the flattening effect of anti-depressants. Accepting fear and struggle, truly accepting it, as much as I can (and not just accepting it so that it goes away), seems to be leading me to a happiness that feels different than I envisioned. It feels more honest, open and mature. It feels real and bright. It feels light as though I were better able to flow. It feels richly deep like soul food or a good merlot. The fixed part of comfort and security keeps our worlds narrow, closed, and constricted in some way.
Lately I have felt the refreshing and gritty aliveness that “falling forward” provides. Falling forward into our lives and embracing fear is like breathing in smelling salts – it will wake us up like nothing before. Life becomes clearer because we are not so busy fighting off pain and suffering. The pain and struggle of life starts to feel kind of good, kind of exciting, like, “what will happen next?” Building this kind of relationship with our future embraces and welcomes uncertainty, whereas the anxiety that drives our battle against uncertainty leads to a draining and overall empty existence. Building this kind of relationship also allows space for pain, struggle, failure and uncertainty. Creating this space means one can live with and handle a greater variety of life experiences. It is satisfying.