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

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.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.