“Be not afraid of life.”
“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.”
So says philosopher William James. I’ve found much inspiration from his writings, and “be not afraid of life” has had a profound and positive impact on my former default position of “be afraid.”
Why was I ever afraid in the first place?
I used to be afraid of what anyone and everyone thought about me. The basis of this fear was the underlying feeling that I was not “good enough” just as plain ol’ me. Now that I’ve invested a couple of years in getting reacquainted with myself, I realize my quirky self may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It does not follow, however, that I need to change one whit of who I am.
Be not afraid of life: my personal life, and how I choose to live it. And the same is true for you.
I used to be afraid of falling off a horse. I’d still prefer to keep my horse between me and the ground, but I have come to understand that I enjoy riding horses very much and I choose to do so because it gives me so much happiness. That means I accept the risks that come along with that choice. I also accept my level of comfort and of risk. I do not ride four-star eventing horses. I am not an exercise jockey for race horses. I do not apologize for my riding choices.
Be not afraid of life: my riding life, and the horses I choose to ride. And the same is true for you.
I used to be afraid of growing old and flabby. At least, that’s what I told myself. The actual underlying message was: I am afraid of being unloved and lonely. And I used food as a balm because, after all, food is socially acceptable, doesn’t impair you like alcohol or drugs, and only harms the eater (supposedly).
I have come to understand I am my own best friend – or worst enemy – depending on how I care for myself. How I speak to myself, feed myself, rest myself, and exercise myself can literally make me or break me. Nobody else can control these things for me; only I can do so.
As my own best friend, I can choose to speak uplifting, supporting thoughts in my own head. “Of course you and Kaliwohi are going to have a great ride today!,” “I believe in you!,” “You are getting stronger every day!”
As my own best friend, I also have to be the truth-telling wing-woman. “Guuuurl – I saw you opt for the grande mocha frappuccino when you swore you’d only order the tall! Don’t even try to deny it! Now are you gonna drink that whole thing or are you gonna refocus, stay on track, and toss half of it?” (I did.)
The most liberating thing about accepting responsibility for your own life is also the most challenging thing. I can’t blame anyone else. I can’t blame someone else for who I am, what size I am, how I live my life, how I ride my horse, or anything else about me and my choices.
I alone am responsible.
The magnificent thing about this self-awareness is: all of sudden, all those inner voices that shouted negativity and self-condemnation for so long have gone quiet.
Aside from my own positive self-talk, there is utter silence inside. The unrealistic expectations are gone. The guilt-ridden mistakes are gone. All of the negativity and fear is gone. Only the lessons remain – hallelujah, so I hopefully don’t repeat any past errors.
Now, there is space within to create my own sense of self, my own choices and preferences and life goals and riding goals. I feel like a painter standing before a huge blank canvas. The painting will be entitled “the rest of my life.” And the colors on my palette are bright, bold, and beautiful.
I got myself fat, one poor choice at a time. And I am getting myself fit, one healthy choice at a time. These choices aren’t just about food, although I do choose to eat more healthy foods and fewer processed foods. I choose to have more positive self-talk. I choose to create more space in my life for rest. I choose to do more of what I enjoy and less of what I do not enjoy.
I choose to LIVE – unafraid and unapologetically.
“Be not afraid of life.” One tangible way I chose to follow James’ advice this week: I cantered Kaliwohi under saddle for the very first time. This is a milestone in any young horse’s training. For me, this was a monumental moment. Not because we were perfectly balanced (we weren’t), or forward and through (nope), or all the nuances he and I will work on over the coming weeks.
But because I used to be afraid of cantering a horse. Everything you have time to think through at a walk, you must do on “auto-pilot” at the canter. It was time, however, for Kaliwohi to learn his next “gear” under saddle, so I chose to face my fear and do what was best for my riding partner: introduce canter.
I trusted my young mustang, and he took excellent care of me, and I enjoyed his canter like a carefree young girl.