Fearlessness

When I was 18 my father looked straight at me and said to me, “You know you have more balls than any man I have ever met.” At the time I was just dumb-founded and totally uncertain what he had meant. In my eyes my life seemed rather tame. Yes, by then I had the courage to have the lead in two musicals on stage. I had been on the debate team and an editor of a junior high yearbook and a high school newspaper. I had even been featured in the local newspaper for going around our town in a costume to get attention for a political cause I cared about. And, (like my father I must add), I was not afraid to speak my mind. But, none of that in my eyes qualified me as being a “ballsy person.”

I would agree that I was a risk taker. In fact one of the greatest risks I ever took in my life happened when I was 22 years of age. I had just graduated from Michigan State University. As the first person in our family to graduate from college my father responded by giving me the gift of a used car. After graduation, it was my father’s hope that I would go back to my home town and join him in his sales business. The problem is I had other plans for my life. Though I had first majored in communications in college in the hopes of being a journalist (something my mother had also once aspired to), I later switched to the realm of psychology. That field fit my growing need to understand why people behave the way they do.

“Master’s minimum, Ph.D. preferred,” one of my professors told me when I headed into the psychology field. Understanding this I had applied for a number of Master’s programs. It’s just I didn’t want any old Master’s degree. I already knew I wanted an approach that dealt with the whole person and went beyond the old paradigm of how we were defined by illness and not our deeper spiritual nature. In 1982, that meant going into the new field of Marriage, Family, Child Therapy. Although it was not necessarily spiritual in nature (later I would get degrees in the fields of spiritual and transpersonal psychology which were more spiritual in nature), at least the field of Marriage, Family, Child Therapy used a whole person systems approach.  The problem was at the time only one university in the country was accredited in that field. Worse, it was all the way out in California. Fortunately, I had been accepted into their program after applying. And, I was one of only twelve people in the country to have made it in.  Apart from the fact that the program was so far away from Michigan, I faced another even more major hurdle. I literally had no money to go.

One day while I was talking to the owner of the pizza parlor where I worked during my summer break as the day manager, I shared my fears about heading out to the Master’s program. If I was going to go, I needed to go as soon as possible. But, where would I live? How would I survive? Even more perilous, how would I even afford to go out there? He looked at me and said, “What is the worst that could happen? You go there, you don’t make it, you come home.” Actually, in hindsight that was a pretty simplistic answer. Since I didn’t even have the money to get out there, how would I have the money to get back home?

However, his words stuck with me. Then I remembered, a friend from my freshman year in college had gotten married and moved to Long Beach, California her sophomore year. Maybe she and her husband would give me temporary shelter while I got on my feet. That night I gave her a call. They told me they could help me, but only for two weeks. The next thing I did was pull out my gas card. I called to see how much I could charge on it for gas. It seemed I could charge enough to go. Then it dawned on me. I had a car. I had a credit card to pay for the gas. I even had a very temporary place to land. The problem is I didn’t have any money to find a place to sleep along the way. Finally, I decided I would take a chance and spend the night sleeping at a rest stop along the way.

Having pulled everything together in my mind, I decided that night to go for it. I called the owner of the pizza place I had just talked to and told him I would like to quit the job. He said he was fine with that. He could cover things until he found another employee. The next thing I did was call up a close friend of mine to share that I was leaving. Having put everything in order, I drove back to my home town where my parents lived to say good bye to them. The only problem is they were on a vacation and were not at home. So, I spent the night at my childhood home, wrote them a goodbye note, got in the car early in the morning, put all my sparse belongings in the trunk of my car, and headed out to California.

The drive out there was exciting and a little scary. The scary part happened when I had to spend the night in a rest stop. To keep people from knowing I was alone in the car, I put up some sheets I had taken with me for just this reason, to cover the windows while I spent the night. To avoid having to spend another night in the car I drove as long as I could each day meaning I made it to make it to my friends home in Long Beach in two days time. When I got there I was a little dismayed to find out that they had a loft apartment. That meant their bedroom upstairs had no door and was open to the floor below. This made staying with them feel awkward. Even two weeks seemed a huge imposition on them in such a small space.

For this reason I moved as fast as I could to find a job. Within days I landed a job as a singing telegram girl. Drawing from my experience on stage I transformed myself into Dolly Parton, Cleopatra, the Tap Dancing Heart, the Birthday Bumble Bee, and a very short Wonder Woman. At the same time I looked for a room I could rent near where my new college was. A woman had two rooms available in her very small house. I got a loan from my friends so I could pay one month’s rent for a room, and agreed to pay them back once I got my first paycheck, which I did in a few short weeks. To my amazement within a matter of a few short weeks, I had left my home in Michigan, gotten to California, found a job to sustain me, and moved my sparse belongings into my new place to live. A few weeks after that I got a loan to start my Master’s program and I began to train as an MFCC (now known as an MFT) in California. Maybe, just maybe, my dad was right after all.  I did have a lot of balls, only I told myself silently, they were really ovaries.

How The Above May Apply To You.

Fearlessness or recklessness? How do we tell the difference? Sometimes it is very difficult. Later in my life I would receive an endorsement for one of my books by Susan Jeffers, author of the book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. I would also interview Rhonda Britten on one of my radio shows. Her book was Fearless Living.  Both their books spoke to me about my own fearless journey. What I can tell you is that part of what leads you to fearless action is the power of conviction. There is a strong sense of “this I must do.” In my case, the other options before me seemed completely out of alignment with my spiritual and professional destiny. If I didn’t take the leap and go to California, what else was I going to do with my life? I had applied for other Master’s programs, but this was the main one that had accepted me and it was in the field I wanted. I could have drifted from job to job like I had been doing while putting myself through my Bachelor’s program. I had been a waitress, worked at fast food restaurants, and managed a pizza parlor to name a few. Was that the best I could do?

Of course there was always the option my dad had wanted for me. Come live at home, work for him and sell business forms. I had actually helped him do this one summer. He had sent me to Chicago to be certified and I completed the basic training, went home, and worked to help him for awhile. It’s just nothing could be more out of alignment with who I was than that. The only regret in my fearless action is how my decision to go to California created a rift between me and my father that took a long time to heal. Through the years I couldn’t help but wonder, would it have been better if I could have waited and told my father in person that I simply had to go? Remember, my time to act was very short. I didn’t have a week to spare to wait from him to come home to try to help him believe in me and see past his own fears of my going. And, this was before cell phones. My parents were not easy to reach. In fact, the night I left I had no idea where they were.

What I can say about why I believe it was fearlessness and not recklessness was how rapidly things lined up once I made my decision to go. A few years later even, some other events took place of a more spiritual nature that revealed why I really needed to go to California in the first place. For now, in that moment, all I could do was act and let Spirit show me what to do through a very rapid series of inspirations.  Because everything fell into place so quickly, I thoroughly believed the hand of Spirit was at work. What I can say to you is I now believe that when things flow, and you don’t resist that flow, Spirit is at work in your life too.

Finally, I believe a fearless act is a courageous act in the true sense of the word courage, which essentially means “take heart.” When we are acting out of fear we are shutting down our hearts. Then we are prone to confused, angry, selfish and egotistical actions. Though many people, even meditators I know, like to emphasize the importance of the brain, the scientific research of Heart Math shows that despite what we may think, the brain is not the primary decision maker. The heart is.  That is because they have proven time and again that moments before the brain picks up a thought, the heart has sent it a signal.  (Learn more about that by following the link here. The Heart-Brain Connection — Heart Math Institute).  When you learn to pay attention to the signal and come from your heart, then I firmly believe your actions ultimately lead towards the good. That is because insights for the highest and best good of yourself and others can more easily come to you. In the spur of the moment when quick decisions have to be made, despite your fears remember to consult your heart. Work for the highest and best good for yourself and others and follow that where ever it leads you. Then, no matter how scary it may be when you take a leap, the net of Spirit will fly along right under you.

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