It’s just fear… in really good shoes, but it’s still fear

It’s very cliche to talk about the journey.

We’re all on a journey.  It’s all about the journey, not the destination.  We each have our own journey.  But a journey is a hard thing – it implies long distances, singular adversity and undoubtedly a little bad weather.

What if it’s not a journey?  

What if it’s an expanse… wide open spaces that surround us.  Make a slow, 360 degree turn.  We can choose to go in any given direction.  We can choose to head into a city or a sleepy village, a forrest or the beach. We can choose to move towards people or away from them.  We can choose to eat chicken breasts and mixed greens or fried chicken and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy.  Or my personal favorite, lava cake and tawny port…

We can choose.

So why don’t we?

Think of the number of decisions you make in any given day, week or year.  How many of those reflect what you believe is the ‘right’ decision – the decision that will have friends, family and society at large smiling kindly at you?

A lot.  We make a lot of decisions to just get along.  We seek affirmation and value from those around us and we make decisions that make it more likely we’ll garner that approval.  We choose our brand of peanut butter based on what was the cupboard when we were kids.  We like the cars our fathers drove.  We majored in parent-approved fields, dated friend-approved men, wear peer-approved clothing and adopt boss-approved behaviors at work.  And we do much of it without thinking. This is how we’re trained.  This is how we get along.  We stumble into each stage of our life, following the pattern of what’s expected without questioning what we want. We go to school, we get married, we have kids, we have jobs…

What happens when you make a decision that is truly reflective of what you want and who you are?  For starters, you might actually get what you want.  That’s the upside.  But the rest…?  Our family might think we’re making bad choices.  Our friends might disapprove.  Our peers may raise an eyebrow and gossip.  Our boss might deny that promotion. We might be ignored. We might be shunned. We might be happy. That’s a lot of mights.

And it’s a lot of fear.

We keep up appearances.  We move forward through the parent-approved life playbook, marry the friend-approved man and dress in our peer-approved high heels.  And we fall forward into these lives not even conscious that much of what drives us is fear… “in really good shoes, but it’s still fear,” (thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert).

Decisions are not always as easy as buying a jar of peanut butter or choosing between classic black leather pumps or a strappy red heel.  When you consider divorce, illness, a new job, a cross country move… other people are involved and impacted.  Sometimes legalities add complications.  But at the end of the day, you still have to make a decision.  Or put another way, you have to decide how to best explore your possibilities.  What criteria will you use?

Most of us don’t even see the 360 degree expanse of the world that is around us and the unending possibilities.  We are focused on that journey, with predetermined curves and bumps, with the embedded idea of a predetermined destination.  Most days, we aren’t even sure which turn we took to get us this far along the journey in the first place.

So I invite you to stop. Make the 360 degree turn. Slowly. Really take in the possibilities. Forget the journey. Open your eyes to the expanse around you.  It can be overwhelming.  It can be deafening.  It can be freeing. There are decisions to be made out there. They are ours to make, to consciously choose and own.

Put your favorite heels on – you know, the strappy four-inch ones that your mom hates and your best friend covets – and step firmly forward.  In any direction you choose.

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