The Key to Change is to Let Go of Fear

Hope when you take that jump, you don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises, you built a wall
Hope when the crowd screams out, they’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs, you choose to stay.

One Republic is one of my favorite bands. They’re my go-to jams for any mood- whether I feel like cleaning, studying, working, or just plain zoning out while driving. Driving. Listening to music while driving used to be such a good coping strategy for me because it allowed me to physically escape while retaining control over something, that something being the car in my hands. It also allowed me to appreciate the scenery around me as I drove, letting my troubles disappear- but this might have been due to the natural propensity I have to “get lost” while driving because there never was anything significantly breathtaking for me to observe in suburban Chicago. I guess it was just a good thing that I could appreciate the sunlight hitting the trees that line lengthy residential roads. I haven’t driven for comfort in a long time, but more recently I had started associating driving with fear, disappointment, and insecurity.

When we first got married, my husband got himself a used manual Mazda 3 and I took over his Corolla. We had many unrealistic ideas, hopes and dreams at that time (for proof I have a spreadsheet of a 5-year plan we had made), and one of those was the idea that I would also be able to drive his car at some point in the future because the Corolla was aging. As time passed and after a few newly-wed tiffs we quickly and quietly, without mention, tabled some of those goals we had made for ourselves. However, Pathik was persistent with teaching me how to drive his manual. I was more than happy not having anything to do with his car. Driving it was never something I had wanted for myself, because in all honesty I was perfectly content being a lazy, thought-less drone-like driver. In fact, creating more “work” for myself during my time to be on automatic mode both mentally and mechanically just seemed silly.  It was only when I realized that I was afraid of it did I ever want to overcome that fear.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

I’m sure there have been many happenings, but the only time I recalled actually being afraid to the bone was during my childhood when I contemplated trying to make a new friend on the playground. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but I was a complete introvert and perfectly happy with having books as playmates. The possibility of having someone to play with or call friend was not enough motivation to endure the intense discomfort and nausea I felt when approaching someone I didn’t know. Something I’ve learned during my time in practicing in mental health is that people only change when they start to value change over the status quo. At some point I decided I would rather undergo intense social anxiety and start playing four-square on the playground rather than reading against a school pillar. Making friends, or playing games, or being on the playground even if I had to endure anxiety had become more valuable to me than remaining comfortably on the sidelines.

Speaking of valuing change, I’m not exactly sure how I came to intensely hate the fact that I did not want to learn how to drive Pathik’s car. Maybe it was insecurity because everyone in his family (including his mom) knows how to, and I felt it was a right of passage for me. Or maybe, it had always been in the back of my mind but I only felt empowered enough to overcome this gap between what I wanted and what was after becoming more confident in general as a person. Four years after being married and three years into my professional life, there are fewer changes and transitions happening in my life, and fewer roles for me to take on and adjust to, and fewer tasks in which I feel pressured to succeed, because all those things have become a part of my new status quo. They all ceased to be challenges.

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Our mutual goal became my goal when I decided it was personally no longer acceptable for me to be afraid. In the end, learning wasn’t easy. But this time, I did not become disheartened after a few stumbles: it took me forever to get the hang of first gear, I stalled if I turned on the AC and once I just broke down crying in the middle of the road when I stalled two turns away from my destination. That was year one of getting married- since then, I have come to realize that for my own sanity I cannot be unforgiving of myself for failing a couple times in life because life is not about acing all the tests, it’s about trying my hardest and learning as much as I can.

This time around by putting less pressure on myself to succeed, I was able to tackle it as a problem to be solved step-by step. First step: practicing getting into gear one and holding the car in position even on hills (this really tested my new motto because if I rolled back, I ran into other cars). Second step: go from gear one to two to three and take bring the car out of the subdivision next door to home. Third step: go to all the gears by driving home to Chicago at night where nobody is on the highway and I don’t have to be scared. However, I don’t think I would have become “proficient” if I wasn’t forced to drive Pathik’s car around the city and home from Chicago one day when he wasn’t able to drive it. Looking out for him dispelled any last remnants of fear I had. When needed, I could step up to the pedal for him. I could take care of him, and knowing that dispelled any remaining self- doubt.

During this entire process, I was actually practicing all the time- even when I wasn’t behind the wheel. Being an OT, the idea of “mental practice” is something I am aware of but had never used with any of my patients. I thought of what I would be doing every step of every drive, including how long I would wait when slowing down before shifting down or pressing the clutch. Anytime a sudden situation happened like someone cutting me off or when I needed to switch lanes instantly, I problem-solved what I would do. I actually feel like this mental practice added to my automatic thought process, or “muscle memory,” when I drive. The greatest value of being an OT is that I can apply what I do at work to real life.

Hope that you fall in love, and it hurts so bad
The only way you can know is give it all you have
And I hope that you don’t suffer but take the pain
Hope when the moment comes, you’ll say…I did it all.
 

I overcame one fear, but there are still many other situations in daily life that I will continue to need to navigate. There is no turning back anymore- I can no longer put off things behind the excuse of school, or languish in the comfort of talking about all my insecurities during tea with mommy and escape making any real decisions.  Learning to drive a manual car was just one thing and it wasn’t truly even all that significant except for the fact that it was my own personal Mt. Everest. All around me friends are taking the jump into the next stage of life with seemingly no uneasiness and I get sick to my stomach just thinking about all the hassles that come with parenting, the daily mental and physical drain and the gargantuan financial demand. Don’t even get me started on the discomfort of pregnancy. One day, though, the value of wanting to love someone beyond all selfish thoughts of wanting to remain “comfortable,” of wanting to spend all my time and money just for myself will overcome wanting to maintain status quo. In just four years of being married, I have learned (some) of what it means to live each day not just for myself but for another person, and by extension everyone else involved in each other’s lives- OUR family. One day, I will be ready to let go of my fear and allow myself to grow- to create another human just for the sole purpose of releasing every ounce of love, selflessness and energy I may have hidden away in the deep recesses of my mind or in every cell of my body.

“Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in the giving that we receive.”- St. Francis of Assisi

 At a One Republic concert I went to last summer, Ryan Tedder said the song “I Lived” was for his son. In thinking of being ready to overcome my fear of moving on to the next stage of life, I also know that fear is not something I want to pass on to my children. So instead of making objective goals for the next five years of our marriage, I do know that one of my goals will be this: to be fearless. And if I allow myself to let go of familiarity, the next five years won’t be about progressing to a certain level at work, or travelling to xyz country, or earning that amount. They will be about continuing this journey of personal growth- learning even more what it means to be selfless, and pushing ourselves beyond our own mental boundaries. They will be great.

Hope that you spend your days, but they all add up
And when that sun goes down, hope you raise your cup
Oh, I wish that I could witness all your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes, I’ll say…I lived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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