You’re about to read Chapter 38. Want to start this story from the beginning? Go here.
I don’t believe in the bogeyman and I never really did, so I wish Katherine had chosen a better title for Lesson 38.
Something like “Acknowledging Your Fears” would have been perfectly apt, but whatever.
Title notwithstanding, this lesson was a worthy one.
Fear ruins relationships
“Going into an intimate situation is risky business for anyone,” Katherine says at the start of this lesson.
Of course she’s right, and she’s also right to note that for those of us with trauma in our histories, “a loving connection can feel like a lifeline in a nasty storm at sea.”
The problem is, our lovers can never be our lifelines.
And when we cling to them like they are, they’ll either flee despite their best intentions, or they’ll “rise to the occasion, fight the good fight, and end up going under with us.”
Either way, we lose the security we should not have been attempting to secure.
Identification to the point of discomfort
I was already identifying with the anecdotes in this lesson to an uncomfortable degree, and then a particular part caught at me.
LOL, just swap in our names, I wrote in the margin next to this section:
“Holly’s desperate attempts to get Ken to provide her with much-needed stability have actually served to push him past his breaking point. His inability to meet her intense needs are weighing upon him and he finds himself behaving erratically, with less constancy than he ever has before.”
Granted, my dynamic with Paul was hardly as dramatic as what poor Holly and Ken underwent.
She was straight-up telling him she expected him to pay her rent, even though they’re both struggling artists and had been together only a few months.
Regardless, I identified.
I do think I was desiring more than Paul was prepared to give, and even if my desires were appropriate, the imbalance was not.
And according to Katherine, both Paul and I were motivated by fears we had not fully faced.
Lesson 38 in practice
In the homework for this lesson, Katherine invited us to name our “most chronic and troublesome fears,” and just in case we needed a little help, she provided a long list of possibilities.
After writing down what resonated, we were to pick the one fear that has the most “juice” for us and then write a letter from it to us.
I had plenty to choose from: abandonment, being ordinary, financial insecurity, loneliness, failing, being alone, not reaching my potential.
And though I tried to pick just one, the last two ended up merging to reveal my deepest fear-truth. Here’s what it had to say to me:
Look, it’s just the way things are. Don’t be such a baby. You’re born alone, you’ll die alone, and yeah, you’re alone for the in between. Not everyone gets a partner. Your desire for one is cute—and also pathetic. Toughen up and move on. You have work to do; it’s a distraction to get tripped up in this longing for companionship and soul connection. Even if you did have it, it wouldn’t last, because you can’t be successful unless you’re on your own. You know it, I know it, so quit wasting your time pretending otherwise. If you want to reach your potential, get serious about your work and give up on desiring partnership. It’s not a real thing.
Your Fear That You Can’t Be Both Successful and Partnered
Fear doesn’t get the last word
Yeesh, that fear was not very nice. But at least it was not afraid to get in my face. And at least part two of the homework encouraged me to talk back.
It’s important to note that the response is not meant to be an argument, but rather an acknowledgment that offers “firm, yet compassionate correction,” the way you might talk to an “errant child.”
I did my best:
Hey there, fear,
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me so honestly. I really appreciate your willingness to tell me how you feel. And honestly, I can see where you’re coming from. There isn’t a tremendous amount of evidence in our personal experience that indicates my creative success can pair successfully with intimate partnership. I get that, and I so appreciate your desire to prepare and protect me. I really do.
And also, I need you to know that plenty of people successfully partner with others who nurture and support their creative and professional development. You’ve inspired me to do some research and show concrete examples, but for starters, look at Tracey and Mike. Lindsey and John. Hillary and Bill. And I can see how it might look like Paul and I failed, but in truth, he supported the development of my highest self—I’m developing right now, writing this very healing letter specifically because of my partnership with him.
So you don’t have to believe me, but I hope you can understand why I will choose not to worry about the things that you said. I choose love instead, and that includes you, fear. You make so much sense, I am grateful for what you show and teach me, and I believe in something better.
It’s okay to enter the emptiness
“Facing our fears means entering the emptiness of life,” Katherine says. “It means accepting the possibility and the probability of the inevitable ebb after the flow, the predictable loss after the gain.”
I wouldn’t call the loss of Paul predictable. I truly didn’t see it coming, and I don’t believe our story is finished yet.
But I do believe that loss is inevitable, and, that is okay. As Katherine puts it, I can “trust loss, that life is in a constant state of flux and change, and that emptiness is as much a part of life as fullness is.”
I confess to feeling a little empty in recent days—it’s getting dark and cold, which makes me extra aware of my aloneness.
But I have fullness, too, and I do not have to be “under the hypnotic spell of fear.”
The more I lovingly acknowledge my anxieties, the less power they hold.
When I am willing to welcome my distress and put it in context, I increase my sense of peace and freedom.
And I prepare myself to be a better partner.
Love > fear,
Want to know what happens next? Proceed to Chapter 39.