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Of COURSE It’s Terrifying!

The potency of anticipation is so often underrated. It can be quite a sticky-wicket to set realistic expectations. Especially when you’re scared. Or full of doubt. I mean, you make a BOLD decision, you finally COMMIT to something that’s important to you, you take that FIRST step toward your dreams, you LEAVE the fleecy blanket of comfort for the open tundra of the unknown and what….you thought it would be…Easy? Comfortable? The same as before? Uh, yeah. Think again.

It’s all about that sharp intake of breath in anticipation – like the moment before you plunge into an icy cold ocean on a warm day. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s all about that moment.

It’s easy to fall prey to the seductive lure of the irrational expectations, isn’t it? Especially when we’re about to embark on a whole new chapter or we’re poised to take a leap of faith into the unknown abyss. It’s a way we psych ourselves up for actually taking that leap or making that change. Perhaps that’s why the phrase, “ignorance is bliss” was created. It’s all part of the hokey-pokey of navigating change.

If I sound like I’m making light this dance we do with change, I kind of am. And I’m guilty of it, too. It’s just that sometimes we’re so adorable as humans, it’s kind of endearing to witness ourselves dipping our toes in and out and in and out of the icy water. Or running up to the edge of a cliff and then screeching to a halt. What we’re really talking about is a rite of passage. And feeling it in our bones. Deep down, we know the person on the other side of the leap isn’t going to be the same person anymore. So of course it’s terrifying. Whatever happens as a result, you will ultimately land on the other side of the sharp intake of breath. You might still be holding your breath, but you’re on your way to an exhale. So that feeling – call it terror, fear, or exhilaration – it’s kind of part of the package. In that context, there’s really no escaping it.

Giving birth? Yeah, it hurts. Getting a tattoo? Yeah, that hurts, too. Falling over on your bike when you’re using clipless pedals on your bike for the first time? Hurts. Disappointing someone you love or feeling guilty because you put yourself – just this once – at the top of your priority list? Ouch. Leaping out of a plane and potentially going splat on the ground? Yup. Uber hurt.

But I think hurt and fear get a bit of a bad rap in our culture. We brace for it, we cringe in anticipation and contract all our face muscles as we avert our eyes. Like getting a tetanus shot at the doctor’s office. It’s only natural, right? A human response to avoid pain. But what if we turned into it instead? Anticipated that sharp intake, so when it came time, it was more of a friend than a foe? What if we named that feeling without shame, but with honor? Reverence, even.

Would that rob us of an essential ingredient of transition? Would it still constitute a rite of passage if we didn’t feel the terror or grip of fear that taking such a risk can elicit? I’m not sure. This is my fervent wish, though: I hope we can move to a place of pride in those intake moments. As when a baby crowns or the icy water engulf us in a polar plunge, I hope we can one day exhale and say, “Ah, this is to be expected…”