If you met me on the street, you’d never know I walk around with this crazy, delicate balance of being scared and wary versus being excited and eager to see what’s around the next corner.
We like to talk about being brave and fearless and embracing the authentic, but I live in a culture that has about 129 guns for every person living in the US. (to “defend” – your property, your family/loved ones, etc. Only the greatest threats seem to be coming from each other, and everyone has a gun, so everyone’s a threat, because how can you be a threat-deterrent without being a threat yourself?) It’s a culture of being afraid (and it is exhausting. Sorry, but it is).
Fear Has Flavors
Fear freezes you. The kind of fear that’s a jump-scare or the revelation of a cryptid (funny side-story–I once spotted an Amazon delivery person in the dark, bent over to put down a package on my porch and the angle made me think it was the neighbor’s beagle come to visit until he stood straight and I thought, “Holy shit that beagle is six feet tall on his hind legs, AAAAHHHHH!” That delivery guy has not been back to my house since. I hope I didn’t scare him too bad).
Fear is also a gift (somebody wrote a book about it. It’s a useful book, go read it). Being strategically afraid is useful. Keep your powder dry (see, even our metaphors are armed) and only jump at the shadows that belong to actual threats.
But the fear I’ve been thinking about lately is that fear that produces creative resistance. The fear that keeps us from chasing after all but the greatest ideas that seem to hit us and pass through us like X-rays, invisible but exposing our insides and altering us at the cellular level at the same time.
It’s kin to that “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) that attracts our attention instead of prompting us to run. This is the active twin of that jump-scare that says, “look at this, be fascinated by it.” The creative resistance inside that fear is the thing that says, “Hey, this is big. This is a Big Idea that will challenge you. You sure you’re up to this?”
But creative resistance doesn’t speak in screams. It whispers in corners of rooms with bad acoustics so you really have to listen to hear it. And only fools don’t heed its warnings. I’ve been that kind of fool before. There are lessons to be learned once you bandage the wounds. For what it’s worth, I’d be the same kind of stupid again over these ideas if I had to do it all again. But going forward, I’ve learned a few things.
Creative Resistance is a sneaky fear that needs to be sat down with and served tea (formally) and listened to. This fear will speak of its nature and in doing so, provide a road map of the dark woods leading to exactly where I need to go.
Courage is being scared and doing it anyway. I think about the legend of Baba Yaga, the witch who lives in a house that ambles around the dark wood on chicken feet (I’ve never been clear whether it’s two giant chicken legs, or hundreds of regular-sized chicken legs. I persist in believing the latter though, because that’s somehow more scary in its ordinariness). To survive an encounter with her, you must approach her with manners and respect. For the few who can look upon her terrible visage and call her “little grandmother,” she may even let you leave with a gift.
Right now, I’m teased with a Creative Resistance fear. It’s whispering Big Ideas and I recognize the warning signs. I remember my manners well enough…but am I scared enough to have it over for tea?