I’ve lived most of my life like a bird in a cage with the door wide open. At any time, I could have hopped over to the opening and soared to new heights and explored new horizons. All along, I have known how to fly. No one clipped my wings.
So, what kept me in the cage? My own fear and self-imposed limitations kept me there. I was my own prison guard.
Sure, there may have been poop all over the floor, and I may have gotten insanely tired of numbly existing inside a little, wire box day after day, but at least, there was always food, water, and shelter. Even though it was terribly confining, I knew what to expect and what role I was supposed to perform. I was in my comfort zone even if it was uncomfortable as hell. The cage provided the safety of the known versus the big, scary unknown. Even if I was miserable in the known, it was preferable to me than the “who knows what?”
A Nice Cage Is Still a Cage
About a decade ago, I lived in Palm Harbor, Florida. I was in the final stretch of a marriage that lasted 18 years after dating for six years prior to getting married which was basically, my whole adult life and some before. I lived in an elegant home complete with a laundry chute (never used it – although it did make a good slide for Pokemon figurines my sons discovered), a swimming pool, marble countertops, and a Porsche in the three-car garage. Despite this to-die-for lifestyle, I was extremely unhappy. It was a cage. A nice one, but a cage nonetheless.
Even with all that, I did not feel joyful or grateful in my soul, and I knew that something was definitely missing and wrong. “There HAS to be more than this,” I thought. Just under the surface, I was always boiling ready to explode because I wasn’t living authentically or meeting my own needs. I wanted out of the cage dammit, but I was too afraid to take the leap and stretch my wings. Every time I even considered it, my heart pounded all of the way up into my throat, and I got that panicky, bug-eyed feeling.
The Opposite of Fear Is Freedom
Finally, I summoned the courage to step through the door of the cage. While there have been legendary crashes at high speeds and many out-of-control tailspins since then, I’ve also learned to gracefully glide and even soar at other times. I feel so much more alive and like I’m living the life I’m here to live. It’s taken years and has been a slow-growing and learning process, but I’m finally being honest with myself and others about who I am and not playing the role of who I believe everybody thinks I should be.
While I still feel the suffocating fear of the unknown at times, I forge ahead anyway because I know now that this feeling is part of living fully, and I’ve learned to have trust and have faith in myself and the universe. Life is exhilarating and sure, there are downs as well as ups interwoven into the rich texture of this thing called life.
Fear is a prison. It’s a box in which we keep ourselves to avoid failing, to avoid being laughed at or judged, to avoid feeling disappointed or hurt, and to avoid all kinds of things that make us feel uncomfortable. However, if we protect ourselves from these things, we’re also shutting ourselves off from the many possibilities and joys of living to the fullest.
Life’s journey is not to
arrive at the grave safely
in a well-preserved body,
but rather to skid in sideways,
totally worn out, shouting
‘…holy shit …what a ride!’
image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aussiegall/