The other day, I read one of those “feel good” social media posts that said, “She felt the fear and did it anyway.” It spoke to me in so many ways. Back in 2019, I made a promise to stop listening to the “what if” but they are still winning in most aspects of my life. They are as loud as ever. I can not seem to quiet them.
“What if ” is holding me back. It is holding me back personally and professionally. The fear of failure, the fear disappointment and the fear of heartbreak is holding me back from my true potential, my true calling, my true joy and possibly my true love.
I go out a lot with friends and on dates. I hold back. I don’t alway let my true self shine. Sometimes, I want to be loud and a little crazy and I stand quietly by. What would someone think? On dates, I hold back. I try to keep it very surface. What if I let someone know the true me? What if I invited them into my beautifully blessed, messy life and anxious mind and they don’t like what they find?
Here we are again, back to the “what if ” situation that I promised myself I wouldn’t live in. It is my nature. It is who I am and changing that is hard. It is the billboard for my life. It takes work and patience and reminders. So, here I am reminding myself again.
When it comes to dating, the “what if’s” have never bothered me. I felt like they were helpful. They protected my fragile heart. The “what if” allows me to hold back my true self. It allows me to keep everyone at arms length. It allows me to be emotionally detached when it doesn’t work out. It allows me to go on countless dates and not worry about getting turned down or hurt. It allows me to be casual and fun without thinking about whether or not they will call again or if they like me. It keeps it light and fun and, to be honest, a little bit lonely.
The statement, “I don’t want a relationship,” has come from my mouth more times than I can count. I just want to have a little fun. I just want interesting dates and casual friendships. If I say it enough, maybe I’ll believe it. And then the truth comes out. It has nothing to do with not wanting a relationship, it has to do with all the complicated emotions that come along with one. It has to do with my trust issues. It has to do with my fear of getting crushed. When you’re single, you don’t have to worry about someone throwing you out of the plane. (Read more on that here.)
Relationship are wonderful and marvelous and messy. When your heart is involved, you can not always solve the problems with your mind. That scares the crap out of me. I am very logical and there is no logic in emotion. When you have a life that is a little bit messy and a mind that is a little bit messy, it is hard to comprehend adding a heart that is a little bit messy. And so I allow the “what if” to hold back my true self. I allow the “what if” to win.
And then I couldn’t. Just when you say you don’t want it, it hits you right in the face. I went on a date, it was quick and sweet and casual. He had a kindness in his voice and a glimmer in his eyes when he spoke. He laughed loud and bold. We talked for nearly 2 hours and it felt like the date ended in 10 minutes. He walked me to my Jeep and that was it. The date was over. Huh?
And then it wasn’t, there was a second date and it flew by as quickly as the first. Something in me, threw the “what if” out the window and didn’t hold back. I was unapologetically me. I was anxious and nervous and mildly awkward. What nervous? How is that possible? I am never nervous on a date. And then it was over and I didn’t want it to end. I drove home thinking, what am I going to do this weekend. That is not happening. He is not interested.
And then he was and it did happen again. Then, it did again and again. And then, it became very clear to me that this was becoming so much more than casual fun. Run… Fast… Get out before your heart gets involved. I have a severe flight reaction and I was ready to grab my parachute and jump out of that moving plane. I don’t need this messy. I don’t need anything more than casual. I don’t want to let my heart be messy. I don’t want someone to rely on me. I don’t want any obligations in my already busy life.
And then I did. I found myself wanting to know more, wanting to see him more, wanting to make time. What if he doesn’t call? What if he doesn’t text back? What if he doesn’t ask to see me again? Who is this girl? I was awkward and nervous when I’d see him. I stepped on his feet a few times. I’d talk too much. I’d walk away wondering if he thought I was selfish or self absorbed or a little nutty? We all know I am a little nutty. I don’t do this. It’s too much for me at this point in my life. I was acting like a school girl with her first crush. I can’t do this.
And then I could. I was chatting with a friend and discussing my situation and these dates. He said to me, “You have a fear of commitment. You always have and have missed out on some potentially good relationships in your life. You always let the best ones go because you are afraid to jump. You keep them on the line so long that the hook breaks and they get away. You just need to jump in and not worry about what will happen tomorrow.”
He made me realize that I couldn’t “what if” my the feelings away. I couldn’t “what if” the nervousness I felt. I couldn’t “what if” what my heart wanted. No matter how many “what ifs” I came up with, it was not going to change the fact that when his name came up on my text message, it made me smile. It was not going to change the butterflies that I felt in my stomach when I saw him. It was not going to change the fact that I wanted to see him. That I wanted to get to know him. That I wanted to let him get to know me. All the “what ifs” were going to do was make me miss out on something that could be amazing.
What if it doesn’t work out? What if we don’t mesh well? What if he can’t handle my crazy? What if he thinks my beautifully blessed, messy life is too messy? What if I get my heart broken? Well, I listened and decided that I can not stop the “what if” billboard in my brain, but what I can do is reframe it from a negative to a positive. What if he turns out to be as sweet and kind and compassionate as I think he is? What if we get along great? What if he is caring and supportive? What if he loves my type of messy? What if I find my last great love story?
So, as the “feel good” post said, “She felt the fear and did it anyway.” I jumped in that water and it felt warm and inviting and exhilarating and scary. And the butterflies are still there. And my heart is beating a little faster. And I am smiling a little more. For the first time, in a very long time, I feel truly excited for what my future holds. There is a little less anxiety, a little less loneliness and a lot more laughter.
I have written a lot about my trust issues and the cracks in my foundation (read more here.) I have written about hoping that I might meet someone who sees those cracks as an opportunity to get to know me better. He see my fear, I have expressed my trust issues. We have talked about them. He does not see them as a red flag but an opportunity. He sees beyond them. He see what’s beneath.
So, what if they become too much for him? Well, what if they don’t? When I let fear hold me back, I let the moments pass me by. I don’t want to be on the dock wondering if the line will break. I want to dive in and wrap my arms around that great big fish and catch him.
And so I did. And when the waters get choppy and I want to get out, I will just slow down and tread water for a moment to catch my breath. And I will remember, in the midst of chaos, sparkle. Don’t let life dull your shine.
The Manicured Mom