When Fear Rises to the Surface

35This seed has a very hard shell that encases it with a very pointed end. When it drops from the tree, the pointed end stabs into the earth. The soil then helps to break down the hard shell, and invites the seed to open, until the uterus of the seed is exposed, and a beautiful tree is born. It’s such a wonderful miracle, this process! It also reminds me that in order for there to be transformation and growth, there must also be change and destruction.

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone.  The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes.  To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” -Cynthia Occelli


A couple of weeks ago, I resigned from the district I was working in as a teacher.  I had taken a leave-of-absence, for the second time, last year, but teaching was always there as plan B, as a fallback, as a “just in case.”  Two weeks ago, however, I went in to the HR office and resigned, completely resigned.  After the beautiful experience I had in Costa Rica, I knew I could not go back to the classroom, wholeheartedly.  If there is something I absolutely learned in Costa Rica, it was that I want to work with youth without having to test them or grade them, or hold them accountable to standardized expectations that have nothing to do with their passion or soul.  So on Wednesday of last week, I mustered up the courage to go in and resign.  Earlier that morning, as my husband was headed to work as a school counselor once again, after having been laid off for three years, I experienced the most anxiety-filled emotion when imagining for a moment that it might be me heading out to the classroom.  That moment built enough momentum and courage in me to walk right into the HR office and fill out a resignation form that took all but two minutes.  And just like that, fourteen years of teaching, came to an abrupt end.  No handshake, no certificate of acknowledgement, no “Thank You.”  Just a time stamped copy of my resignation.

I had been transitioning out of teaching for quite sometime now, but it never seemed to be the right time to walk away from it permanently.  My experience in Costa Rica compelled me to choose between something I had come accustomed to and something I wanted to have.  I could no longer hide from my heart and my soul’s yearnings. But the courage I summoned on the day I resigned soon settled like heavy, bitter soot weighing heavy in my lungs.

From “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

It seemed that as soon as I decided to resign, the world began to fall apart around me.   I received a $20,000 bill for my daughter’s college tuition, that I was not counting on receiving.  A program that had asked me to submit an application for one of their job postings, e-mailed me and told me I wasn’t even considered for the interview process.   I had planned to substitute for the district I had resigned from, and had spoken to their HR about this, and while they confirmed my availability to do so, they forgot to tell me that I needed to reapply as a new employee and do a background check all over again.  I am still waiting for my background check to clear so that I may start substituting.  I have to figure out how to juggle paying for my daughter’s college tuition and my own school loans, which I probably should have paid off by now, had we not decided to buy a house, which we ended up foreclosing on.

Alchemist2And so there was a moment, when I fell apart, the way a glacier crumbles because it has lost its strength; or the way a mountain caves in on itself because its core has been shaken, bringing it to its knees.  I went to the district I had just resigned from to beg for my job back, with no success.  I pleaded my daughter’s school to allow her to register for classes this semester, with no success.  Between pulling money from my retirement account, taking out a small loan, and scraping the little bit of savings we have, I was able to come up with an amount a few thousand dollars short from the tuition.  Still hoping the university will work out something with us, and maybe she will be able to attend next semester.  Everyday I sit at home, thinking about the $160.00  I am not making each day I don’t substitute; checking my e-mail obsessively to hear back from the district.  I’m afraid I will spend the month of September without working.  I am afraid I won’t be able to pay my daughter’s tuition.  I am afraid we won’t survive financially because I walked away from a “well-paying” job.  I am afraid I let my daughter down when she needed me the most.  I am afraid I made the stupidest decision of my life.  I am afraid I inflicted unnecessary suffering in my life. I am afraid I won’t be able to find a fulfilling job.  I am afraid that I dream too much.  I am afraid the universe won’t conspire for me.

Then I read this on someone’s blog: “When things fall apart, the only thing left is what was really real. When life is shaken, the only thing left is the unshakeable. When things fall apart, only the perfect remains.” 

I’m not sure, had it not been for that one moment of courage, that I would have ever resigned.  What I do know is that in that moment, I felt liberated, connected to the flow of life, as if I was the river herself.  I keep going back to that feeling to somehow get myself through the fear that makes the air I move through feel like molasses.  I was in a rut, I had been in a rut for quite some time, and I could feel my soul withering. I was choosing to stay in a job long after my soul had stopped yearning for it.  The soul, like everything else that inhabits life, is meant to evolve and expand.  However, like all change, this requires courage, and the suffering that sometimes comes from leaving the comfort of the known and finding oneself at the edge.  Yet, “there comes a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom.” (Anaïs Nin)

From “The Art of Uncertainty” by Dennis Merritt Jones

The fear comes and goes like tidal waves, engulfing all my other emotions until I feel like I’m breathing under water. The only thing left for me to do is embrace this fear.  Ask: where is it originating from, besides the obvious?  What can I learn from it?  How can I move with it and through it? What is it asking me to heal?  What else do I need to let go of?  The last time I felt this kind of fear was during my childhood, when life felt uncertain, unfair, and volatile.  Though the circumstances in my life are quite different now, there are some childhood fears that seem to be arising from this experience, and I am paying close attention to the lessons I need to learn, the parts of me that need to heal, and the wisdom that I am accessing along the way.

Change is inevitable, but paying attention within and understanding when and how to let go is important in order to honor the process of change with grace and ease. We need only to observe the rhythm of life and nature to witness this process.It takes time for the caterpillar to morph into a beautiful butterfly. If the butterfly emerges too early, before she is equipped to break out of her cocoon, her wings will be deformed. If she is not allowed to struggle through her transformation and come out on her own merit, she will never dance in the wind.

I am learning what and how to let go, and with learning comes mistakes. But there is also a sense of empowerment, as I am becoming intimately acquainted with the wisdom of knowing my own rhythms of change.The process has its own timing, and change comes into our lives when it needs to happen, but we must also be cautious of not forcing the change. Only when we are in tune with the flow of life, can we fully understand our cycles of change.


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