Present Tense


We’ve been going through a bit of a transition in our house regarding our plans for the future and it’s required a lot of physical, emotional and psychic energy over the past month or so.  It’s taken me a while to process my feelings about how life will look going forward; to stare my fears and anxiety in the face in order to grow and evolve.  We all come to forks in the road where we need to choose a path. I’m working on doing that from a place of wisdom, rather than fear; a place of growth, rather than stagnation.

I was corresponding with someone that I consider a mentor about some of the choices I’ve been struggling with and he told me that the problem with getting older is that sometimes we make choices based on fear; fear of shaking the status quo, fear of losing what we’ve worked so hard to accomplish and accumulate, fear of making the wrong choice.  He reminded me that I’ve always been one to make bold choices and now is certainly not the time to suddenly start making decisions based on fear of the unknown.

Because, let’s be honest:  life IS unknown.  No matter how much planning and scheming and plotting we do, it’s a crapshoot.  Giving into fear makes no sense because in the end, we all get whipsawed by fate.  Adaptation is a better guiding principle.

I have a dog tag necklace that has one word on it: Fearless.  I wear it to remind myself to speak, act and live a fearless life; I’m good with that.  As I get older, I’m trying to embrace that concept more and more. I know way more now than I did 20, or even 5 years ago and I’m emboldened by that.  It’s a shame that we don’t value and revere the wisdom that our elders can pass along.

As a kid, I would cringe and shut my ears every time my mother uttered the words “I’m older and wiser than you”. In fact, I ignored the sage advice that usually followed that statement for a very long time, much to my detriment.  I’m finally starting to understand the whole ‘older and wiser’ concept because it’s true.  I’m morphing from being irritated by older people AND younger people, into reverence for the old and their life experiences and amusement at the young and unwise.  I know what’s it’s like to be young and stupid and I can’t wait to be older and wiser.  Acceptance, adaptation, fearlessness; those are my new buzzwords.

I’m reading a book by Richard Rohr, called “Falling Upward: A Spirituality For theTwo Halves of Life” and his premise is that the first half of our lives is all about building our container, while the second half is for filling it up.  We work hard to build a life, a career, a family and we end up making a lot of sacrifices that can sap our souls.  The key is to get to the place where we can finally enjoy and fill that ‘container’ that we’ve spent so much time and energy creating.

I’ve built my container; it felt a bit crowded with extraneous stuff, so I’ve spent the past few months purging it.  Much of it has been a physical purge of possessions and junk, but it’s been equally about purging expectations, both mine and others.  I’m purging the past to make room for the future.  My container was full of a few too many moldy leftovers.  Things I was afraid to throw away.  Not any more.

Acceptance.  Adaptation.  Fearless.  Moving forward.

August 26, 2012 - Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Good one. And you always are reading such interesting books. I have one little tattoo that says courage in kanji. Not sure it has been that helpful! I got it when I turned 45.

    Comment by Jessi | August 26, 2012 | Reply

  2. Fear is useful. More than that it is a vital and hardwired construct in our genetics designed to protect us. It is a natural response to the intuitive sense that “something about this situation is dangerous for me”. I don’t think we should denigrate or revile fear. It is a gift for our protection. The “fearless” among us tend to get reckless, and hurt badly. We must embrace the teachings fear has for us and incorporate those teachings into our core with a rational mind. That does take some practice. God knows I’m not even close yet. Where we go wrong with fear is to lapse into panic. Panic happens when our resources have been tapped out and we feel trapped. When panic sets its teeth into our bones all bets are off. We are helpless in the face of the situation. Listen, there is much to fear and be wary of in this world whether we be young or old. Older does not equal wise. My own father at the age of 87 is still about 14 mentally. He is not mentally handicapped…he just never learned how to grow up. The key in heeding the warnings of fear is to work hard to shore up resources, mental and spiritual – and yes even with weapons, so when fear warns us of danger we can be deal with the situation without panic destroying us.

    Comment by Greg | August 26, 2012 | Reply

    • There is a difference for me in the visceral sense of fear, when in true danger as opposed to fearing to make changes that can enhance one’s life. Perhaps it’s a matter of semantics for you. I am hardly someone who’s life has been marked by recklessness, since I tend to carefully weigh (sometimes to a maddening degree) my choices and options before acting. Once the choice has been made, however I want to move forward minus the fear. In my opinion, fear can be limiting.

      Comment by janelondon | August 26, 2012 | Reply

      • I have become convinced that the fear you speak of in making changes that can enhance life IS visceral as is all fear. You fear for your physical safety and personal security. What else can bring up fear?The warnings of fear has no other basis that I can imagine. Maybe you can help me out here? I think if you look closer you may see that it is panic that is limiting, not fear. Fear is a teacher. Panic is the limiter and destroyer. Maybe we are talking semantics. But I don’t think so. At first fear and panic may seem to be but two words for the same thing, but they are not the same. One protects and guides, the other limits and destroys. I think we are in trouble when we equate the two. And it is a major piece of work (for me at least) to keep the two in their proper place. They are closely related in that fear can induce panic if not rightly embraced. But rightly embraced we find ourselves on a safer path and over time can learn to trust such guidance. And we become increasingly less likely to panic in “risky” situations which gives us more confidence to make life changing decisions. Love you Jane! You share your journey so openly and beautifully!

        Comment by Greg | August 26, 2012

  3. Very interesting dialogue. Is it the fear of making a fool of ourselves that makes us uber prepared for speaking in public, losing our reputations or even our jobs by making the mistake of not preparing? I feel fear of making a mistake can be a great motivator. Fear of failure helps us give our best to what ever we are doing. That is a different fear than going into a room of hostile, out of control youth who I am expected to deescalate. I agree that decisions that take us out of our comfort zone can cause fear, and I need to make some of those decisions real soon and I will use your blog to help guide my way. Thanks J.

    Comment by Tim the enchanter | August 26, 2012 | Reply

    • Fear can be a great motivator toward a new level of perfecting our personal presentation to the world around us. It makes us brutally honest for once. But in our honesty we can genuinely disagree without being disagreeable. That takes some maturity that fear can actually teach. You cannot fake the ball when fear has been leveraged in your life. It encourages us to think very deeply over how we present ourselves as we seek to effect our presence in this world. Fear teaches us to be honest in relationships that absolutely require honesty. It subdues random acts of youthful idiocy that we all suffer from in regret. It grinds down our rough edges of immaturity and provides guidance for a more mature and refined presence in this world. Fear is not the problem. Fear of fear is the problem. And fear of fear is panic. Panic over loosing control of our lives…over what ever you may fear. At that point of panic setting in…grab your ankles. Game over. Fear actually wants to teach us how to obliterate panic from our lives.

      Brother “Tim the enchanter” I wish you well with what you face. I don’t know what you face and it would probably do you no good if I did know. Just know you are not alone, We have all probably found a point where we need to know fear. And digest it. And find it a teacher and not an enemy.

      Comment by Greg | August 28, 2012 | Reply

  4. Jane, you are indeed wise and fearless. I love this column and your thoughts and agree with so much. And I love the books you recommend. I’ll have to give a lot of thought to the concept of making decisions based on fear…and consider whether I’ve done that…thanks for this…

    Comment by Francesca Amari Sajtar | August 27, 2012 | Reply

  5. Jane,
    You have always been bold and fearless! Sure, some may have been hurt by it, but I continue to admire and respect it. In fact, I am hoping to model it! Power on sister, to your next phase in life.

    Comment by barbslistaylor | August 27, 2012 | Reply

  6. Love this post, especially as I’ve sort of now hit the age of ‘older and wiser’ though quite often don’t think I know much at all! Every day is a school day for me as I usually learn something new about people and life at some point during my day. It’s great isn’t it?

    Comment by Sally | August 28, 2012 | Reply

  7. Jane – I really enjoy reading your posts and I think you have an interesting take on everything so, I’m delighted to nominate you for the Silver Quill Blogger Award, which I hope you will accept. Visit my blog to see what to do next!

    Comment by Sally | September 3, 2012 | Reply

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