Self-doubt can creep into my life like wild mint. With soft aggression and stealth, it bursts forth with every intention of taking over my entire garden. It uses up nourishment from my soul’s fertile soil and emits a smell that becomes familiar, comforting—dare I say fresh, even? This weekend was a wake up call to not let myself get so comfortable with my fears, but to get out of the habit of letting them have their full share of my life’s “soil.” Fear, like mint-gone-wild, takes up too much valuable space. It chokes out my dreams, the reality of where I am presently, and pursuing where I want to go next.
This weekend I encountered a few parts of myself I had been keeping tucked safely away from my consciousness for years. This is a strange sensation—meeting a part of you that you didn’t want to know, but just barges right in like an unwelcome guest at Sunday night supper. At the Eat, Write, Retreat conference, I also met incredible folks who were just doing what they loved. Imagine! Only doing what you love and not thinking about the consequences. There is a big part of me that tries to live this way—constantly readjusting, bringing my focus back in line with what my gut reactions are, and then going for it. Art, eating design, health, more design, and photography (read: creative) are some of the pursuits and wonderfully rich paths I’ve learned and continue to learn so much from. But there is another part of me that worries—worries that I’m not doing the “right thing” (whatever that means) or I’m not focusing enough on what I should be doing (the word “should” always raises a red flag for me). Notice a pattern here? I sure do.
Like an ashamed mother, I’ve held back parts of myself for fear of not being good or good enough. “Would you rather be good or whole?” is a question I love. Obviously the answer is whole, but when I get uncomfortable I inevitably revert back to hiding those aspects of myself that make me feel scared—instead of steadily aiming straight for them. This weekend, I realized how unfair it is of me to hide from myself and not live a whole life. When I hide, I am preventing myself from giving the world the gifts that come from being who I am.
But let’s be real, mint isn’t all bad and does have it’s place in the garden. It brings a freshness and vitality to our palates, even if it does tend to have an overbearing personality. This is a good way to look at our fears too. They’re there for a reason and they do add a certain vibrancy to our lives—even if it’s just the challenge of over coming them; when you do, it’s exhilarating. So instead of choking out all that mint, try making a daily practice of checking on it, trimming it back, tending it carefully. When I take the same approach to fear, I realize those fears aren’t unmanageable and in fact have a particular and useful place in the garden of my life. Who would have guessed? Certainly not me.
Anyone up for a mojito?