"I'm afraid to stay the same, but I'm terrified of changing"
I've shared Forest's videos before, and I especially appreciate the kind guidance and wise observations that he shares in this interview with Cole. I remember experiencing many of these fears during the early stages of my own physical transition.
The process of change— specifically, learning to navigate the fear and anxiety that I experienced in those early days/months/years of transition—gave me a gift of perspective that's helped me to learn that there's another, easier, and less anxious and fearful, way of being in life.
Sure, a lot of this relief is due to the new feeling of "calm", that Cole mentions towards the end of the video, that came to me once I finally felt alignment around my gender identity and gender expression. I also learned, that by working WITH my fear, instead of staying paralyzed by it, I could keep growing and changing and transitioning, in ALL areas of my, much calmer, more centered and balanced, life.
Now, years after crossing those early, tempestuous transitional waters of first coming out to friends and family, starting testosterone, having surgery, adjusting to the physical/emotional/social shifts and other, overall adjustments, I'm still learning to master the inevitable flood of fear that we must cross in order to get to wherever it is that we want to g[r]o[w] next.
By shifting the way I think about fear, I've been able to shift my relationship with fear.
I'm better able see that my fears are really just there to show me where I will continue to grow and to shift and to change. By moving through my fear, something within me will change. By practicing the mastery of fear and using it, instead of continually being used and blocked and depressed BY it, I've discovered that whenever I step into my fear, I'm transformed in positive ways.
Sure, change can feel scary, but that feeling can also feel a LOT like excitement.
Can you feel the difference in your body? I can't. Not always. For me, I don't find the difference inside my body—I find it in my mind, with the thoughts that I'm thinking about the pending change. Whenever I forget the difference I stay stuck, behind a seemingly, impenetrable wall of fear that keeps me blocked me from the change that I want.
The particular fears I experienced and navigated throughout those first couple of years of my physical transition proved (to me) that fear really only exists to help me and to point me in the direction of the changed and expanded version of myself that I'm meant to become. I can see, now, that my fears aren't really (usually) "real" at all, and they can only take the shape and size and energy that I give to them... The fear exists ONLY in my imagination, and it'll dissolve into something else, entirely (excitement?) if I can just keep moving into it.
In my experience, the fear always rears its head, after I initially start picturing and considering a more desirable circumstance for myself (like beginning my physical transition). Whenever that part of myself, the instinctive, reptile part of my brain that really wants to protect me (even when there's nothing there physically threatening me), and it inevitably chimes in with stories about what "might happen" or "nine things that might go wrong" or "all the reasons I'm not good enough"... I know it just wants to keep me safe, so I'll thank it, and then, I'll take another step... even if it's just a tiny, baby step... even if it's just a better thought that will move my mind one tiny, baby step closer...
Other times, I'll give into the damn fear, and I'll stay exactly where I've been. I won't move, and I'll get stuck and eventually, I'll be miserable.
Life is great like that—it always provides us with ample opportunities to understand what it is that we'd prefer to experience...
I call that experience "contrast".
Light can't exist without dark. We know this.
We can understand that we wouldn't appreciate the sunny days without the rainy ones.
This experience of "contrast" provides us with the spark of desire that will help us make a change.
Dis-content and dis-comfort and dis-ease are all sources of contrast.
So, now I'm able to recognize that these moments of contrast are really just opportunities to understand what it is that I DON'T want, so I can better understand what it is that I DO want. Once I figure out exactly (or sort of) what I might prefer, the next step in the creative process is usually to think thoughts that take you to steps in that direction...
I've spent a lot of time WAY too terrified to fully embrace whatever step was next for me, and I've been known to self-sabotage and sink my own hopes and dreams on more than one occasion. My body would always seem to get sick or give up, until my brain would invent a new problem for me to solve or worry a new fear into existence.
I've succumbed to fear, and I've let my resistance win.
MANY unexamined thoughts successfully convinced me that bad things might happen if I kept moving in the direction that I most wanted to go. The closer I'd get, the bigger the fears would get.
So, I stalled...
Or I quit...
Or I disengaged...
Or I kept myself perpetually distracted so I didn't have to feel how disappointed and frustrated and sad I was.
Fear succeeded in holding me back, and it kept me small and stagnant and scared.
For me, the fear has always been there, and I finally came to understand that it's not going away.
I'm finally learning to transform my relationship with my fear.
I'm learning to think about it differently and to see it as something else, entirely. I'm learning to shift my perspective to leverage fear as a tool—a kind of compass, maybe—rather than looking at fear as the roadblock preventing me from reaching my goals, I can see it as a big sign that points me in the direction of my greatest opportunity for growth.
Now, fear is something that shows me where I'm meant to go.
Now, whenever I sense the looming approach of fear that, inevitably, precedes my next step towards personal growth, I will listen to what it has to say, keep moving, and I stop believing everything that my brain has to say). ;)
I know that I can master my fear because I've done it before, and I know that I will do it again... and again... and again.
For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid
There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot--air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That's the world, and we all live there.
~ William Stafford