So much has been written about “taking a leap.”
“The net will appear.”
“Build your wings on the way down.”
“Do one thing a day that scares you.”
And the maxims imply that once you’ve leapt, the fear dissolves. Or that you screw up your courage, and then you leap—and then you arrive at your destination.
What they don’t talk about much is the space between when you decide to leap and when you land. The decision to make a brave choice (which often seems like a foolish choice from the outside) doesn’t mean you’ve stopped being afraid. It also doesn’t mean that you’ll never be afraid again.
Think of a painting; at some point there is a second where we go from blank canvas to…something. We don’t always know every stroke it will take to complete the work, what brushes we’ll use, what colors. Many things evolve as we create. Or think of an actual leap, within a dance. Even though we have choreographed a dance and decided which steps to take, it is keeping our focused gaze that allows the dance to unfold.
I had a “what the fuck am I doing?” moment this morning; I seem to have had a lot of those this year. The trouble with our image of taking these leaps in life and following our dreams is that we often think it’s a straight shot across some wide chasm; we think the whole thing is pass or fail. One of the lines I loved best (and have oft quoted) from Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminds us,
“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear”
When we decide to take big risks in life, we aren’t leaping across some gaping void; we are leaping into the next part of our dance. Things will shift and turn. We won’t always land exactly as we thought we might—and then it will be time to leap again. And again, and again, and then again. Because this isn’t pass/fail and it isn’t—for most of us—a simple linear path. It’s a dance.
What we can do to while we’re waiting to land:
1. Breathe. Simple, obvious, and far too often neglected. Stress and fear often leave us holding our breath. When you feel like you don’t know how things will work out and it’s knotting up your stomach, take two minutes to sit and breathe. It won’t fix everything, but the world won’t fall apart in those two minutes. You can take a break from trying to hold it all together.
2. Cry. As important as it is to have a positive outlook on our lives, for it to be authentic, we need to be honest when it’s hard. Feel it. Feel that it’s hard and some of it sucks. And then let it go instead of wallowing in it. Feel that sad moment part of the dance, and then move into the next part.
3. Connect with friends who have taken similar risks. They will have advice for you, but much more important than advice—they will support you. They know how it feels. They can help you stay focused on where you’re headed instead of feeling stuck where you are.
4. Move. Move your body. Go outside. This isn’t some magical cure, but physically moving our bodies in an enjoyable way helps with our mental and emotional momentum. When things aren’t moving the way you’d like in one area, enjoy the movement that is within your control.
5. Soften your gaze. Sometimes we can look so intensely at a situation that it’s like we have blinders on to everything else. The key is—as in dance—finding our focal point, and then softening. Our focus on where we want to be can be all consuming, if we let it. Or it can be what guides us and keeps our steps headed in that direction. If we look in the direction of our dreams, and then soften, as things are spinning, it will keep us from becoming dizzy and overwhelmed.
What leaps are you taking in your life? What’s helping you soften into that space between leaping and landing?
Kate Bartolotta is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. Her book, Heart Medicine, is available on Amazon.com. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal and The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Connect with Kate on Twitter, Facebook and Google +.