Many of us talk about being afraid of death, but I am beginning to wonder how many of us are actually more afraid to live? How many of us actually have the courage to not just exist, but to live fully?
Just take a moment to explore ways in which you might be avoiding living fully; ways in which you might be trying to take the edge off of being fully present.
1. Do you have a glass of wine in the evening to unwind? This might seem quite harmless – after all what harm does a glass or two of wind cause? It’s not like I’m getting drunk! While it may be true that you are not getting drunk, you are using something to alter your feelings chemically. You are putting a buffer between you and whatever you might otherwise be feeling.
2. Do you eat or not eat when you are stressed or feel lonely or need comfort? Food is a common way to put a buffer between us and the rawness of our experience. Different foods have different impacts on us emotionally, and I bet you know exactly which food to go to when you don’t want to feel a certain way.
3. Do you fill your day so full of activities you don’t have time to just sit and do nothing? It is so easy to justify being busy – how else would everything get done? This is a great way to distract ourselves from uncertainty, or fear, or loneliness.
4. How much time do you spend in front of a screen other than for school or work? This could be watching TV, surfing the internet, checking your social media feeds, and shopping online, anything that has you sitting in front of a screen rather than doing something else. I’m not saying all screen time is a distraction, but if you are honest with yourself, I bet a lot of it is.
Getting the picture? There are many more ways we distract ourselves, the ones listed above are just some of the more common ones. The point is, I think we are more afraid of living than we are of dying. It takes a lot of courage to truly feel the insecurity of not knowing if we can pay our bills this month, or of not knowing how secure our job is. It takes a lot of courage to feel the intense loneliness of being divorced and not knowing if we will ever have a successful intimate relationship. Courage is required to face the anxiety of putting ourselves out there knowing that there are people smarter, better looking, and more confident than we are.
Life is hard and it is scary and it is unpredictable. I think that we are trained from a very young age to avoid the discomfort of the uncertainty of life. We are not taught that it is normal to feel some anxiety, it is normal to feel scared and insecure and lonely sometimes and that there is nothing we need to do to fix those things. It’s ok not to feel good all of the time. No one ever told me that when I was young – did they tell you? I am telling you now, it is ok not to feel good all of the time. You don’t have to avoid uncomfortable feelings. But it takes courage. It takes courage to stay when things are tough rather than finding a buffer. The good news is courage does not have side effects like the buffers do – courage won’t make you overweight, it won’t give you high blood pressure or diabetes, it won’t drain your bank account, and it won’t damage your liver.
It does help if you have some support if you are going to be courageous and fully engage in life. Find people who are also willing to let go of the buffers, who will encourage you and cheer you on and sit with you when you cry. You may still choose to take another path, but at least be honest with yourself, that sometimes life is scarier than death.