IV: “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Adair
Around the time I was getting back into the swing of dating, I heard one line from an interview with actress Demi Moore that has stuck with me all the years since. She said that what scared her was the possibility of finding out that she was “not worthy of being loved.” Perhaps it was because I was at such a vulnerable time of my life that I both related to and cringed at such a statement as if it was bad luck to say such a thing out loud and could predispose others to wondering the same thing. But it also struck me as such an authentic admission that I marveled at the raw truth of the statement.
I was inspired by Moore being able to name her greatest fear because it seems that we can state it out loud we instantly reduce its potency. When I thought of having a child by myself, my first reaction was, “I can’t.” Educating myself on all the options available, I quickly found out that it was very possible, but I still balked at the idea because I was embarrassed to be a person who had to do it in a non-traditional way. Somehow that felt like failure to me and like I’d stick out of the crowd in a way that didn’t match with how I would like to be noticed. I think both fear and pride can be instructive emotions – they keep me from moving too fast towards something that I shouldn’t do. But they can also grow so heavily tiresome that action isn’t possible. “I can’t” was just shorthand for me saying that I hadn’t yet decided between suffering the weight of unrealized dreams and stepping up and living. I feared the stigma of doing it differently.
Naming that fear, the fear of being different, helped defang it. My perception that there’s a traditional way to have a family and that is with a partner is not only oversimplified but a little self-pitying. We all listen to our own souls in one way or another, try to chart our own paths and then respond to the circumstances and challenges we face as best as possible. There isn’t just one way to live this life.
I finally went and looked up that 2012 interview with Demi Moore and found that what she said next was “…so the fight against gravity for me is to find that love for myself that gives me the courage to reach my fullest potential.” Seems like a pretty good formula – name the fear, dig deep to find courage and belief, face the fear and then reach one’s fullest potential. As George Adair says, everything we’ve always wanted is on the other side of fear.
In my mid-forties I visited the lake house of one of my friends and we went out to enjoy the water. As I stood on a platform looking the 20 feet down to the lake below and contemplated jumping in, I felt every muscle in my body tighten and thought, “I can’t.” But that wasn’t true – I’ve jumped off higher things before and while I don’t like heights and would prefer to be bounding in from the shore, I certainly was capable of jumping in. Standing on that platform in the bright warm sun contemplating overcoming my fear of jumping, wondering what I was trying to prove, thinking that the whole exercise was pointless and silly, I jumped in. Because who wants to live on the wrong side of fear? Sometimes proving it with my body helps my mind to catch up. So I named my fear of being different as a single parent, an then I ticked through the list (a million times) of the things I’ve accomplished and overcome in my life as a way to marshal my confidence. I finished all the decisions and arrangements to try to get pregnant by invitro fertilization and then crossed my fingers that my body would follow.