I made a big scary decision this week about something I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time. (More on that in the weeks to come.) Since then, I have been waffling between excitement and pure unadulterated terror.
I was cycling to work yesterday when one of those terror moments struck. “What do you think you’re doing?” said the voice of fear. “This won’t work, you’re foolish, you’ll fall flat on your face and end up regretting this decision for the rest of your life… blah, blah, blah.” You know the gig – I don’t have to spell it out for you.
But then another voice showed up. A more gentle and yet bold voice. “Remember whose shoulders you’re standing on.”
When I was at ALIA last month, Meg Wheatley asked us a question that has stuck with me since. “What are the fearless things your forbears have done? On whose shoulders are you standing?”
As I pedalled my bike, my fearless forbears lined up in my mind. My Mennonite ancestors who faced martyrdom for their faith and their commitment to pacifism, justice, and community. Those who’d left Russia to come to Canada because they believed in non-resistance and wanted to live in a place where they could claim conscientious objector status in times of war. Those who’d fought the harsh elements to build homes and livelihoods for themselves in Canada. And then my parents who’d uprooted their three small children (I was one year old at the time) to move to a small town where they knew no one but felt a calling to reach out to people there (and I can tell you oodles of stories of the people whose lives they touched).
Suddenly, my decision didn’t feel so risky anymore. “If these people can risk life and livelihood for what they believe in, then I can take a few chances too,” I thought. “They have paved the way for me – cleared some of the rubble from the path long before I even came along so that life could be smoother and more free.”
The fearlessness didn’t end with my forbears. Later that day, I was amazed at how many stories started showing up (randomly, through links forwarded by friends, people’s blog posts, newspaper articles, etc.) about people doing fearless things that surely gave them many, many moments of terror and self doubt. One of my favourites is the story of the family that sold everything to spend three years biking from Alaska to Argentina. Imagine!
And so I ask you today… on whose shoulders are you standing? What brave things have been done in your lineage that make it easier for you to follow your path and face the things that scare you? Or what stories outside of your lineage have inspired you to be a little more fearless?