“Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up. I’ve seen it. It’s fascinating.” He releases me but doesn’t pull away, his hand grazing my jaw, my neck. “Sometimes I just…want to see it again. Want to see you awake.”
― Veronica Roth, Divergent
Fear shuts most of us down. It takes work to feel the fear and take action to move beyond the fear. As I’ve come out as gay this last year to more and more people, culminating in coming out to 175 people at a leadership meeting at my company two weeks ago, I’ve learned to ‘surf’ my fear. I see the fear like a big wave that can either engulf me and take me under, or, I can develop the skill to ride the fear wave to the shore. I’ve gotten good at riding the fear wave. Getting past fear takes work and skill. But getting to the other side fear can feel fantastic. Every time I’ve moved past my fear and come out, I feel stronger, more integrated, empowered and at times even joyful.
I think a large part of how I’ve been able to feel afraid, at times terrified, about coming out, but come out anyway, is that I don’t see the fear as coming from who I am. The fear is a tired old story that telling someone I am gay is like telling someone I have an incurable disease or some ugly disgusting part of my soul that is reviled by god and all humanity. That old story did control me for many years, but at this point I’ve come out so many times in the past year that the story is a distant whisper.
Today when I feel the fear of moving forward on this gay journey, I try to see it as a wake up call. The fear is a sign that I need to be vigilant and on guard against old voices that can deter me or shut me down. And when those voices do come, I need to fight back. At other times, just putting myself on alert helps me move past the fear.
What causes fear to rise in me today? I am no longer afraid of coming out. I am proud of how I have come out and continue to do so. My fears today are more about intimacy and having a relationship with a man. Intimacy with another man it is what I want and it also something that frightens me. I’m afraid of having large feelings for another man and being engulfed by those feelings. But aren’t we all? It’s not a bad problem to have, because coming out has let me get to the next level of my journey.
When I feel fear, I try to have it wake me up, so I can manage it rather than have it manage me. I try to find out what the fear is really about, and work to move past the fear. Moving past the fear is letting me create the life I want to have.