I am afraid. I have been afraid much of my life. I can feel the talons of the bird of prey digging into my flesh. It tears at my flesh and digs for more. I had got so used to fear that I would call on the four horsemen of the apocalypse in order to feel at home. I almost felt like being in fear was home. It was awful but at least I knew it.
There are two parts of my psyche. One is the hare. He is fast. He pretends to be fearless. He is brass. He wants to get to the destination as soon as possible. He is very smart and operates his life lost in his brain. The other is the tortoise. He is cautious. He trudges. He is humble. He is aware. He takes his time to see the journey. He lives from his heart.
They line up at the starting line. I look down the race course and off to both sides are large black birds. They are different sizes. The seem to just be sitting there, ignoring the slight breeze ad the sweltering heat. The starting gun goes off and the two contenders start the journey. The rabbit darts off, tasting the win. As he passes the first bird, he fears that maybe he isn’t really as fast as he thinks he is. The black bird on his side of the road grips his back with large talons. It screeches and hollers. The rabbit tries to ignore it and hopes it will go away. He runs faster, and the bird digs in deeper. As the rabbit runs, the fear of failure overcomes him and a second bird grabs hold. It screeches. It digs in, grabbing flesh. Again, the rabbit feigns strength and ignores the pain. False bravado spills from his mouth between hastily taken breaths. He feels alone and isolated and thinks that he will not be loved again since he has such fears. The next bird latches on. The next and the next. The birds screech so loud, the rabbit is skittish and runs without direction. He is lost and doing the wrong thing over and over. He wonders in the forest, afraid of being alone. More birds grasp his flesh. The fear consumes his energy, his resolve. He is smothered.
The tortoise begins his trudge. He walks with purpose. He trudges the road. He passes the first bird and it latches on to him. He addresses it and tries to learn about it. He questions it and understands it. He lets it ride on his shell and the bird seems to shrink and melts into a different color. It flies away. The next fear is larger and more foreboding. It screeches and makes a fuss. The tortoise pauses in agitation, doubtful. It moves forward. The bird lands on him. It carries him away. The tortoise clings to the fear. It panics at the thought of being dropped. It embraces the fear and feeds it to keep it strong enough to carry it. The tortoise suddenly begins to understand that floating in the talons of fear isn’t much of a life. He hears a voice that reminds him if he doesn’t feed the fear, it will weaken. As it weakens, maybe it will land and leave. It does and the tortoise find himself back on a different path. The journey continues in a whole new way. The fear is gone. There will be more. He can pause. He can panic. He can confront. He can accept and ask for help. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather how you work through it.
I oscillate between the two racers. I feel better and like myself so much better when I am the tortoise. However, I still think about winning the race, proving myself fast and important and worthy. I end up lost in the wilderness, far from any journey at all. I fear being alone and my fear leaves me alone. When I pause, I live as a tortoise.