How to Look Fear in the Face and Say, “I Just Don’t Care”

“The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go.”

–Henri Nouwen

gratitude

Photo Credit: tangledmoons via Compfight cc

On the morning we boarded a plane for the TODAY Show, I woke up in a panic. The house was February cold and the morning was February dark. I sat alone in my office and shivered.

I wasn’t shivering because of the cold.

I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into and how I might turn back time and not agree to go on national television. I meditated. I prayed. I couldn’t find peace. But then my prayers were answered by a still, small voice inside saying the strangest of things:

Glitter in the air.

I reached for my phone, played the song of that title, and the lyrics I’d forgotten were a blessed reassurance: 

Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?

Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, “I just don’t care”?

It’s only half past the point of no return,

The tip of the iceberg,

The sun before the burn,

The thunder before the lightning,

And the breath before the phrase.

Have you ever felt this way?

For the rest of that surreal weekend in New York and at 30 Rock, as the fear would creep back in, I’d imagine our family with fistfuls of glitter thrown into the air and floating down around us. Crazy. Messy. A little bit out of control. But beautiful. Alive. Awake.

Next Wednesday morning, I have a feeling I’ll be waking up in a bit of a panic. The house won’t be cold and dark—it will be July warm and the morning will be full of July light. But one thing will be the same: our family will be on the brink of leaving our comfort zone once again.

Next Wednesday morning, we move.

This time, instead of heading east to the big city, we’ll be moving west to a small town. This time, the stakes feel even higher because there won’t be any return flight. And when you can’t go back, the gnawing fear sounds a lot like a nagging question:

What if we’ve gotten this all wrong?

What if we listened to our hearts, and we misheard?

And how will we know if we’ve gotten it wrong? When we run into hardship? But isn’t hardship a part of life, wherever you live? When we feel lonely? But isn’t loneliness woven into all of existence? When the kids have trouble with friends? But friendship isn’t immune from conflict, in the suburbs or the small towns, is it?

P!nk sings on:

It’s only half past the point of oblivion,

The hourglass on the table,

The walk before the run,

The breath before the kiss,

And the fear before the phrase.

Have you ever felt this way? 

On a February morning, the lyrics reminded me where this all began.

Next Wednesday, on a July morning, I’m going to remember again:

This path we’re on began with a practice of gratitude in the autumn of 2011. It started by recording every gift around me and within me, writing them down, pen to paper. It started with awakening to the beauty all around us. I quit being afraid of saying what I wanted to say and doing what I wanted to do because I knew criticism and rejection and failure, no matter how painful, were still wrapped up in the beauty and the blessing surrounding us in every moment.

All our pain and sorrow and every mistake is gift-wrapped in grace.

Next Wednesday, our family is going to look fear in the face and say we just don’t care. Next Wednesday, we’re going to throw a fistful of glitter in the air. It will be crazy and messy. But it will also be beautiful. We will feel alive. We will be awake. And when you’re awake to the blessings all around you, even in the midst of your biggest mistakes, you can’t go wrong.

Here’s to glitter.

Here’s to gratitude.

Here’s to grace.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Note: For the second time since I began the blog, there will be no weekly post next Wednesday. You can’t type when your hands are full of boxes and covered in glitter. Next post: July 8, from our new home, where grace, I trust, is waiting for us to arrive.

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Disclaimer: My writings represent a combination of my own personal opinions and my professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with me via the blog does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. I do not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accept no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Peter

    Dr Flanagan,

    Good luck with the move. It’s never easy. Our family did the same just Christmas past. Glitter free, just fists full of frustration. I’m sure I’ll have other glitter moments….life is just like that.
    All the best
    Thank you for your articles. They truly are a light in the dark for this self-professed ‘scaredy cat’.

    Peter

  • Tracy Rowe

    Absolute perfect timing! I need BUCKET loads of glitter right now. Thanks for the inspiration, and good luck with the move.

  • Beth Chase

    I have
    no idea if this is a monitored or not – but I just wanted to say
    thank you and hope that your new home is filled with joy, grace and
    peace. You are an amazing man, and I am truly blessed by your posts.

    Love and blessings,

    Beth

  • Alexandra

    Good luck with your family on this new journey together. May your new lives in a new home be blessed. It’s never easy to move, but I must say, your post came at a great time! Thank you so much!

  • Laura

    Dr. Kelly – Again, you have reminded me to think about things bigger than my day to day dippies!

    I am so excited to hear what is happening in your “new” life. I wish I had heard these words about 3 years ago when we moved from New York State to Virginia. It would have helped me through some dark moments when I kept hearing my mind say – “Retreat!”. I made it through, with some help from my friends and a good church “family”. You will have shiny days and not so shiny days. It will be messy sometimes and ultimately so rewarding.

    Best wishes to you! I will miss your post next week, so I will pray for you and your dear family, so we can hear from you the following week. I know – very self-serving of me.

    Thank you so much for the many times that you have hit nails right on the head!

  • Natalie

    Here’s to Grace. Thank you for sharing. Yes I have felt the same. Now I know how to use glitter.

  • Candice Marquette

    I love big life changes. Scary and exhilarating at the same time. When I was 27 years old I moved away from Texas to Oahu Hawaii with two suitcases and my life savings. Leaving my family, friends and 95% of my possessions for a new start. Luckily I found a job when I was down to my last 800 bucks. In a tiny apartment with only books and one bed and a lamp….I was the happiest and felt more at peace than I ever had. I realized that your sense of home, comfort and belonging travels with you like a shell on a turtle. Good luck on your new adventure and I can’t wait to read all about it.

  • BellaTerra66

    I wish you well in your move and your new home. Over nine years ago, I moved, shortly after I retired, from Southern CA to Albuquerque. Six to twelve months later, the honeymoon was over; and I grieved, for a LONG time, for my life in Southern CA, for my work and my work family, for my friends and blood family. I just KNEW the move had been a big mistake. [I do want to include: When I was younger, I was most fortunate to travel all over The US, Europe, Greece, Israel, Mexico and South America. And since the first time I saw New Mexico, I have thought that this area has to be one of the Top 10 most beautiful places in the world. And every day the skies and terrain here still give me a literal thrill.) It’s now almost 10 years later. And for so many reasons, I am very glad I moved here and live here; and, altho’ I am still homesick at times — and I will never, ever stop missing the ocean — I will (as far as I can tell now) spend the rest of my life here and be grateful that I am doing that here. I am still and always will be a Big City Girl, but, after a lot of research, I don’t think there is any better place to grow old and die than in Albuquerque, NM. //// I don’t know anything about glitter — well, maybe not true — my glitter has been the skies and terrain of NM. What I can tell you, without flowery language, is: give your new place some time (and that means a few years, at least). If it doesn’t work out or if it just doesn’t feel right after a few years, you are young enough that you can move someplace else. I wish you the very best. And please do be gentle with yourselves (you and your family) to each other and to your own selves. Unless you are very unusual (and you very well could be), the first couple of years are going to be a bit rough. Not every moment of every day, but just overall.

  • Kathi

    Throw as much glitter as it takes, friend! Grace much more abounds…peace.

  • “Fear is like a big bully: face it, stand up to it, and you take away its power.”
    ~Cassie Nightingale, the Good Witch

    I thought of you and this wonderful, beautiful article that you wrote when I read this this morning. Thank you again for sharing your wonderful wisdom and your humble honesty with us. I so very much appreciate it as it helps me and reminds me to try to be the same. God bless you all as you make the big move to your new life!! Can hardly wait for your book to come out!!

  • Myfanwy Eyres

    Thank you. This song was our 1st dance at our wedding. It was good to be reminded why we chose it. Good luck with your new adventure.

  • Beverley Croft

    Dr. Kelly, I am sure you will enjoy your new home. From all the reasons that you are moving there, it is clear that it is the right move for you all. You have been guided by your own hearts, trust that. Yes, you will have to make new friends, but with the amazing communication avenues we now have, there is no problem in keeping in touch with old friends as well. You have obviously felt that you are required in this new area, you have work to be done, that is key for you all. All the best to you all, and really looking forward to hearing more about your new life in the west.

  • Katrina

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder. May we all realize we already and always live gift-wrapped in Grace.

  • Brandy N. Mayo

    God bless you on this new leg of your journey, just as your writing continues to bless me. That P!nk song is one of the best and most moving that she’s done, but then, she kind of always rocks…I digress. lol 🙂 #glitterintheair

  • isa

    Good luck, and plenty glitter-ness for all

  • Chris

    First time commenter here.. but I read your entries every week. I just wanted to thank you for your post yesterday. I really needed this. I am also embarking on something of a journey – I’m getting married in 6 months and it seems like everywhere I turn, there are doubts. Her parents doubt my ability to take care of her financially and my parents doubt whether she’s ready for marriage at all. I don’t doubt that she is for me but the negativity sometimes gets me down. I saw your email at the right time and it reminded me to take things one step at a time.
    I wish you all the best with your new life and I look forward to your entry on the July 8th.

    Take care.

  • drkellyflanagan

    I have a deep gratitude for the constant support and encouragement I receive in these comments. Thank you, too, for all the well wishes about the move. We are in the throes of the transition right now. More soon, from the other side, and best wishes to all those of you who reached out and shared your own stories of on-going transition. Glitter. Gratitude. Grace.

  • Farah

    I am 22 years old and have been reading your posts for a really long time. The first posts that caught my eye were the, if I remember clearly, 3 posts on hope.. and I was captured! I am truly inspired by your work.I have a question for you. I hope to be getting married soon and I was thinking about what people say about loving someone’s dark side, especially your spouse. What does that even mean? And how do you do that ?
    please do a post on it : )

  • Georgia

    First time I faced fear by choice was at the the tender age of 22 years when I left my country (South Africa) to work on Cruise ships in the US. It was hard work, literally blood sweat and tears, but the adventure was too great to resist. I stayed for six years and in that time I met my Colombian husband, got married and conceived our beautiful daughter. Then it was my husband’s turn to face fear by leaving his world behind to live in South Africa. In the midst of fear, disappointment, struggle and sacrifice he has no regrets and is so grateful more the professional and spiritual growth he has benefited from. Once again this month, I leave my comfort zone and face my fears as I start homeschooling our 8 year old daughter. Thank you for your honest and sincere posts and enjoy your new adventure! Looking forward to hearing all about it!