I write about staring down fear a lot. Partly because it comes up often in life coaching, but there’s no getting around that the main reason I dwell on it is because I prefer to live in a way that requires dealing with it over and over again.
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In my life philosophy, fear is a necessary part of living fully. Like most, I can be really good at pushing through fear sometimes and I really struggle with it other times. I take it situation by situation.
Lately, the star “situation” has been my injured knee. I have an unremarkable medial meniscus tear, but to me it is very, very big and daunting because it is an unknown. Despite winning an award for a series I wrote on the prevalence of knee injuries in female athletes back in 1997, that wasn’t about my knee, my body, my life. Oh, what a difference me-me-me makes.
This week I went to an orthopedist for a second opinion on whether or not I need arthroscopic surgery. The answer to that, though, is not what this column is about. It’s about the feeling I got from the experience of the doctor’s office and my desire to share it.
I took a cab from the PATH station to my appointment across Manhattan to minimize my walking. The doctor was terrific – he examined me, really listened and carefully laid out my options. (In my book, when you can say you’ve left a doctor’s office feeling heard and fully informed, you have hit the medical jackpot.)
But the key moment came when he asked me about my pain. Had it lessened over time? Worsened? Changed? He wanted details and I realized I couldn’t give them to him. I wasn’t clear on why until I was prone on the X-ray table and thinking about it. I had been so paralyzed with fear that I had barely allowed myself to get into a situation where it might produce pain.
Walking down stairs might hurt, so I did it the safe way. Bending it might cause a twinge, so I rarely did. Being on it for extended periods made it sore, so I steered clear. What if I made it worse? Because if there’s one thing you learn when you wear a knee brace, it’s that much of the population has dealt with a knee injury and many are all too happy to share their experience, even if it means terrifying you.
“It might not be a good idea to listen to lay people,” the doctor said gently.
Yes. I could have kissed him. That felt so common sense and freeing. Not just with relation to my knee or any other physical issue. It was a metaphor for every darned fear, wasn’t it? It’s not like I originated this thought. Open up Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life and look up “knee” or “leg” – inability to bend, fear, inflexibility, fear of the future, not wanting to move.
All this went whirling through my mind. Stop listening to others when it gets to the point of detriment. Move forward at your own pace. Listen to your gut. But make sure you are moving, taking action, paying mind to those sharp instincts.
I wasn’t. Like a lightning bolt to the head, I realized I was stalled in my fear.
When I returned to the examining room after finishing with radiology, I shared this insight with the doctor. He nodded, adding that there’s no need to make this decision right this second. I could put the “scope” option in motion by just picking up the phone when and if I decided on it.
“So if I skip the cab right now and walk back to the PATH station on the other side of town, that would be OK?” I asked.
He said yes and so I walked about six long and three short Manhattan blocks to catch my train. When I got back to my New Jersey town across the Hudson River, I sat on a bench by the water and wrote this about a professional endeavor I see on my horizon:
I am clearly scared of the next level. Clearly scared out of my wits. So I’ve been sitting in that, the frightened-out-of-my-wits place. And now I’m tired of it. I feel it’s time to flex and stretch. Get out there and move. Leap. You need two strong knees to leap and a heart that is open to accommodate the new and unexpected.
Bring it home.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.