Being Afraid

I remember driving home from the grocery store on the night of March 11, listening to sports radio. And because these things burn into your memory, I remember the exact patch of Goldsmith St I was on when the host broke the news that the NBA was suspending its season due to one of its players testing positive for coronavirus.

It’s a cliche, but there’s truth to it–fear feels like electricity jolting through your brain. And after that moment, the floodgates opened: what would this mean for my family, my business, our community? Were we in immediate danger? What should we be doing to protect ourselves?

That was the first time coronavirus sent a chill up my spine, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Over the last four months, if I’m being honest, I’d say the emotion I’ve felt more often than any other has been fear–sometimes abject (holy crap we can’t open our business for another MONTH?!!?!), but more often a sort of half-formed pit in my stomach, as though the next shoe is just about to drop.

The roughest thing about this sort of fear, which maybe we ought to call anxiety, is how it hitches a wagon to every worry and drags it all the way to catastrophe:

Someone cancelled their membership at the gym? Shit, we’re going to have to shut down.
Rough covid story on the news? Shit, we’re never going to see our way through this.
One or two likes on your post? Fuck it kid, you’re done–why bother?
This or that inexplicable political development? We’re never going to get this right.

And yet, while it’s been a hell of a year for catastrophic thinking, I’m taking a lot of comfort in my fellow travelers. Everywhere I look, I see folks who are just as scared and anxious as I am. Some tell you straight away, some show it, and others only cop to it in private, but here’s the most important part:

They all keep showing up and getting it done.

And as a coach, it’s been incredibly important for me to see what that looks like. If I am being honest, I have to admit that I’ve always seen fear and anxiety in binary fashion–you’re either scared and shut down or you’re unafraid and bold. I’ve looked at fear as something to be conquered instead of something to be acknowledged and then set aside momentarily in service of movement and activity. In retrospect, this has caused me to beat my head against the wall personally and professionally.

I wish I’d known better but maybe it’s good enough to do better today. I’m still afraid, I’m still anxious, but I have things I need to get done and people who are counting on me. I see so many around me braving the storm and I’m going to keep at it too.

Be afraid, but do it anyhow. Keep pushing.

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to know all the answers.

But maybe that’s exactly what 2020 is teaching us. And maybe, at long last, that’s what true bravery actually is.

Be afraid, but do it anyhow.

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