It was a dry, hot summer the year I was eleven. My best friend, Rosalind Russell and I were on a mission—to dig a fort with trenches deep enough for the world’s largest sleep-out. Armed with shovels, buckets and spoons, eight kids, including my sister Helen who was six, and Rosalind’s five younger brothers and sisters, dug for three sweaty, dirt-streaked days.
Finally, we were ready. Newspapers padded deep cool trenches, broomsticks held up faded sheets as tenting. Flashlights, mason jars of lemonade, old blankets and a few toys were stashed for good measure.
Helen and I ran home for a quick dinner as Mr. and Mrs. Russell packed their gang in their station wagon for the grocery store. Dad took us to the A&W drive-in as a treat, but Helen and I were too excited to eat. It was dusk as we drove past the Russell’s darkened house to our garage.
That’s when we saw it.
As our headlights swept the Russell’s front porch, we could see a man inside, trying to hide. In the dim hallway light we could make out the brim of his hat and sleeve of his overcoat as he pressed against the door.
Shivering with fear, we waited in our garage for the Russell’s to arrive home. My father had already called the police. As Mrs. Russell and the kids huddled close to us, Mr. Russell grabbed an axe and ignoring my father’s protests, strode towards his house.
We heard Mr. Russell yell as he burst into his house.
Then his roar of laughter.
It took serious convincing to get all eight of us kids to the Russell’s front yard so we could see for ourselves: the man hiding in the dim light was nothing more than Mr. Russell’s hat and coat hanging on the coat rack.
Despite seeing reality with our own eyes, we were still afraid. Fear had shaken us to the core. And it would not leave. No one wanted to sleep outside. Ever.
The next day we filled in the dirt. We never dug another fort.
Fear can do that.
Fear can grab you so hard that you are too scared to look and see what is really there.
In less than three weeks we start a new decade. I have no doubt that in this next ten years fear will on occasion raise its head to try to blind me from seeing what is actually sitting in front of me. Will I cling to imagined threats, or will I have the courage to confront my fear, ask where it is coming from, or who, and take a good hard look at the reality of what is actually there?
The other side of fear is actually freedom. Freedom from the drama that fear creates – there’s always drama around fear – and freedom to make your own choices. Interestingly enough, once you tackle fear, there are always new surges of energy and flow. Study after study shows that fear and creativity cannot both be operational at the same time.
Often, once a woman has done deeper work, including confronting fears, there’s an almost visceral sensation of openness—like standing in the middle of an endless Manitoba prairie. You can see in every direction, but more importantly, you can move in any direction, without fear.
As you celebrate this season and begin the new decade of 2020, my heart-felt wish for you is that you will choose to confront any and all fears; choose to live your Purpose fully; choose to speak your words in your voice and choose to use every one of your gifts to create more beauty and joy in our world.
Much love to you,