07 September 2014

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with Fear

A couple of days ago, Bill over at The OCD Diaries posted about five things he has done recently that were scary for him. To many, he admits, they seem like small things, but they were significant to him.

It was a good reminder that it's important to step out of what makes you comfortable sometimes and stretch yourself by doing things you consider scary.

I've even heard it recommended that you should do one scary thing every day.

I likely won't do scary things every day, but I see the value--especially in my life--of doing things that are intimidating or scary on a semi-regular basis.

Throughout high school and college (and beyond) I struggled with anxiety, mostly related to interactions with other people. Once I became An Adult, I didn't have to step outside my comfort zone nearly as often, so I didn't.

The past few years, my comfort zone has been flexed and changed and relocated to another state. And Bill's post reminded me that it's sometimes good to do scary things so we don't let our comfort zones shrink too much. So I've decided to create my own list of five things that I've done in the last year that are/were scary to me (in no particular order).

1. I did not get a traditional, full-time job when I moved back to Florida.

Freelancing can be a scary career. There are times when work is plentiful and life is good, and times when you're refreshing your email every ten minutes waiting for nibbles from clients. It can be unsteady, which is not always conducive to taking care of munchkins.

When I moved back to Florida, I had just come off a traditional, full-time job in a marketing department at a software company. It was a good job that allowed me to make money doing what I love: writing. I considered finding another traditional position in order to have the income stability I'd gotten used to while working at that job in Illinois.

But I know it's not for me. I have never been so happy in my career as when I'm freelancing. I adore the freedom and flexibility to be able to be home with the munchkins every day (taking Puck to and from school, taking time off for events and activities, and even working at night so I can play with the munchkins during the day). I've been freelancing since 2008, and am good at what I do. I enjoy it, and have been very successful at providing for my family for the past year or so exclusively on freelancing.

It was scary to step out into freelancing without anything to fall back on, especially being so far from my family and friends in Illinois. But it has since proven to be the best decision I could have made. Stepping out into the fear and continuing to freelance has shown me that I am good at what I do, and it is the best decision for my family, and for me. I can't imagine doing anything else, so I'm going to keep freelancing for as long as I possibly can.

2. I drove with the munchkins up to Illinois for Christmas last year.

The munchkins were with me for actual-factual Christmas last year, so we went up to Illinois to spend it with family. And because I'm not a good flier, we drove. Yes, I drove 20+ hours with a (then) four- and two-year old, staying overnight about halfway, for our Christmas trip.

I've made the drive between central Florida and central Illinois many times. I know the way pretty well, and am comfortable driving it. But adding two munchkins to the mix changes everything. We had to stop more often, there was a lot of urging the kids to hang on just a little longer before we stopped, or that yes, I promise, we are almost there. (The drive back down was better because they had new toys to keep them occupied.)

It was a physically and mentally exhausting trip. Now that the munchkins are a little older, I think it would be easier, though I'm really thankful that the next time the munchkins and I go up to visit family in Illinois, Bo will be with us.

3. I started dating Bo.

Dating after a divorce is scary. Especially if you were in a relationship with your ex for six years. And have kids.

When I first met Bo, I wasn't particularly looking for a relationship. I was looking to reach out to people, make friends, expand my circle. And it just so happened that Bo and I connected incredibly well, so we started dating.

There have been scary moments along the way, like when she met the munchkins (scary for her and for me), and when we decided to move in together. And there are moments that leaning on someone else the way I lean on Bo is scary to me (because of experiences in past relationships).

But I am happy. Happier than I have been in a very, very long time. Thanks to Bo.

4. I have come out as an atheist.

My parents are Christians. My mother is a more-spiritual-than-religious Christian and my dad is a Bible believing, Bible practicing, fundamental, independent, King-James-version-only, Baptist type of Christian. The vast majority of people in my life believe in the God of the Bible (or some variation thereof).

Not me.

I was raised in a Christian home, was saved as a girl, got baptized, converted to Catholicism in college, and until very recently, didn't feel any real challenge to my beliefs. This was due in large part because I surrounded myself with others who either believed in the Christian god or didn't really say anything about their beliefs.

However, it was due to my heart sister Dana that I had a lightning bolt moment and realized that I do not believe in a creator/god/supernatural being.

I'm not ashamed of what I believe. First of all, any guilt for what I believe would come from fear that I will go to hell for it. There is no hell. There is no fear. Second, I will never be ashamed of living an authentic life. I am doing and living the way I believe is best for me (and my family). I stand up for my convictions and values.

But there was still a bit of fear at "coming out" as an atheist because of so many people in my life who are Christians. I fully expected to be disowned by certain family members (who I don't think really know yet that I'm an atheist....), and I expected others to quietly distance themselves from me (which has happened).

Coming out as an atheist is not dissimilar from coming out as gay. People have strong feelings for or against, and anyone who believes or lives differently is wrong, wrong, wrong (and going to hell for it).

5. I went to a chocolate party hosted by Bo's sister.

This falls into the doesn't-seem-scary camp, but it was scary to me, due mostly to the circumstances surrounding the party. Bo and I hadn't been dating too long (like...a week, I think?), and I not only met her sister and brother-in-law, but her sister's mother-in-law and a few (extroverted) friends. I'm nervous enough about meeting new people, but this was a very different level for me. I'd been enjoying my hermit-ness for quite some time, and this was most definitely out of my comfort zone.

However, I'm glad I went. It was a good opportunity to meet some of Bo's family members, and as a writer, I like getting the chance to observe people.

I know that over the next year, there will be even more scary things I can add to my list of accomplishments. Some will be easier than others (next fall I'll have to take a plane ride, which will not be easy), but I know that when they're over, they will be good memories.

What scary things have you done in the past year?

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