How to face your FEARS

“There is no illusion greater than fear.”  Lao Tzu

Fear is great at bluffing. It convinces you that all the worst case scenarios you are thinking are going to come true. The truth is that they won’t. Fear is just bluffing and all of it is a dud.

When I was a kid I would often sneak into my grandfather’s room.  I wasn’t supposed to go in but it was a place of wonder for me. He had served in World War 2 and there were lots of things to fascinate a kid – uniforms, medals, knives, bullets. It was my own personal museum where I could actually touch the exhibits.

I would inevitably get caught and promise not to go in again but the draw was too great – I always snuck back in. When I was six years old, my dad had to do some errands and promised he would get me some candy but he made me promise to stay out of my grandfather’s room.  “No problem Dad!”  As soon as the door closed behind him, I called my cousin and said “Dad’s gone. It’s on!”

So my cousin and I were rifling through the room and I found this one cupboard that I hadn’t explored. I hit the jackpot! Inside was a massive grenade with the pin and everything. I looked at my cousin and grinned and we immediately started playing catch with the grenade, like it was a hot potato.

I didn’t realize what kind of danger I was in. So we kept tossing the grenade around but eventually we tired of the game. I caught it one last time and was holding it and smiling. I still don’t know why he did this, but my cousin walked up, looked at the grenade, and pulled out the pin.

Now I’ve watched enough Arnold Schwarzenegger movies on VHS to know what could happen next. Quickly, I clenched the handle and looked at my cousin in shock. He was also shocked and panicked. Like most kids, when panicked, he ran away. With the pin!

I was standing there in my grandfather’s room with a live hand grenade.  My six-year-old brain ran through my options. Option one – toss it out the window. It will destroy the vineyard that my grandmother makes a small living from. Aleks will survive the grenade but there will be no vineyard and dad will come home and kill me anyway.  I did the math – it didn’t work.

Option two – go to Grandma. Grandma has the answer. She’s old, she was probably in World War 2. She will know what to do. But then I realized every time I went to grandma she would rat me out. Can’t trust grandma. I did the math again – Aleks survives the grenade but then dad finds out and kills me anyway. Still didn’t work.

So I ran out of options and all I did was sobbed and clutched the grenade. My grandma was partially deaf so she didn’t hear me and I was wailing for a good 20 minutes. Finally my dad got home and heard me.

He rushed into the room and saw me on the bed curled up in a ball. I was so scared and exhausted that I had used my torso to press my hand into the grenade’s handle so I wouldn’t let go. My dad can only see me in a ball crying and is now panicked as well “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”

I looked up with tears streaming down my cheeks and I know I’m in trouble but I need help. I raised my hand with the grenade in the air and a stream of incoherent gibberish came out and it ended with me saying “Boom!”

My dad’s face goes stern and stone cold. He walked up to me and said “Let go of the handle.”

“Dad! No! Are you crazy? We’re both gonna die. And then you are going to kill me! (Six-year-old logic) I can’t let go!”

He yelled “Let Go!”

Apparently, I was more afraid of my dad than death by hand grenade so I let go. As it was falling, I saw the handle pop out from the hand grenade. My six short years of life passed before my eyes – I saw a light, a doctor, my first steps. Then the grenade landed, bounced and the handle fell under the bed. Suddenly, I realized my dad was laughing.

I looked up at my dad completely confused and back down at the grenade.  There was no boom! My dad looked down at me and said “There’s no gunpowder. You’re fine. I hope this taught you a lesson.”

It did teach me a lesson.  Not the one my dad wanted me to learn – I continued to sneak into my grandfather’s room. It taught me that when fear holds you, it convinces you that if you let go, that if you ask for help, if you try to move on, you’re not gonna make it.

Every major change in my life when I had to make a choice, was just as scary as holding a hand grenade.  The major milestones in my life – deciding to take over TDS, getting out of a five-year relationship – all those moments when I felt I was holding a live hand grenade ended up being duds. I was much better off after I made the choice, after I made the decision.

Fear is legit, and it’s not just a simple matter of letting go, but I think it has to start with all of us understanding that our brain convinces us the fear is real and we are not going to make it. But it’s always wrong.

Fear is bluffing. So if there’s a decision you’re sitting on, if there’s something you need to do but you’re too scared, know that you’re always going to regret clutching on to the hand grenade more than making a decision.

And so I hope you have the courage to make the right one and unclench the grenade, let it fall and realize there’s no boom. It’s just a dud.

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