As I write this, the snow is swirling outside my window so fully I can’t see the pine trees just 20 feet away. It brings to mind an extraordinary and terrifying passage in a favorite novel, Driftless, by David Rhodes.
The scene takes place in the winter on a Wisconsin farm, where Graham and Cora anxiously search for their two young children who are missing in a blizzard that not only obscures their vision but quickly renders their hands and feet completely numb. They tie one end of a long rope to the barn door and the other to Cora’s waist and set out together in the blinding snow; but when they reach the end of the rope, Cora unties it and walks on without Graham. Momentarily frozen in place, as Cora disappears in the snow, Graham sees his whole life in a flash – past, present and future — and all the people he cares about. He sees “his old friend Fear standing near him, protecting him from both real and imagined harm.” And then, “holding his whole life in his hands,” he lets the rope fall away and moves “headlong into the blizzard.”
Sometimes it feels to me like we’re living in a blizzard of fear. Fear that blocks our vision. Fear that numbs our senses. Fear that paralyzes us, often against our own interests and against our heart’s urging to let our old guide ropes fall away and stumble headlong into the unknown. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once put it, “Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyzes us.” It seems to me we have an awful lot of abnormal fear swirling around us, keeping us in place.
How do we find the courage to step into the storm and to follow our hearts despite fear’s fierce grip? To distinguish between the real and the imagined dangers, and to know when even the real dangers are worth risking as we hold our whole life in our hands and consider what we cherish most?
As I begin another new year, I am interested in finding the courage to live out my dreams and my values more fully, despite my fears. And I’m drawn to others willing to join me in creating communities of courage where we support one another in this kind of bold living. Many courageous folks before us have dropped their guide ropes and stepped into the storm. How might we support one another in doing the same?
If you want to write about this, consider what old guide ropes you might need to let fall away in stepping into the unknowns of the year ahead, moving headlong toward your dreams and your hopes. And you might write from this prompt, following wherever it leads:
Letting go of my fears now, I . . . .