The Backpack of Fear (and how to loosen the straps)
I have been living in a state of fear. (I imagine most of us have, to some degree). But it’s been ramped up lately because I’m doing something big. I’m trying to stretch myself, further my reach.
So the fear is pretty constant. I usually wake up around 4am and the chatter begins. Did you do this?That?WHaddaboutthem? And it feels like it sits in my shoulders, the weight of dread. What am I forgetting? What ball am I dropping? Who is going to be mad?
What if I fail?
The visions of an empty theater and disappointed artists haunts me. Disappointment. Such a big trigger. Who will I disappoint?
And people are disappointed and angry and judgemental SO MUCH right now. Putting yourself out there is the world IS fucking scary.
So I’ve been scared. Which is not unfamiliar. I’ve created enough and produced enough over the last 10 years to know that this is a stage. It’s part of the process. The sucky fucky thisistheworstmistakeIhaveevermade kind of fear.
(and I know how very very lucky I am to be experiencing fear as a result of my choosing to put myself out there, and not because I’m in actual danger due to the color of my skin or my economic state. I’m really lucky and really grateful. I am only able to write about MY experience. Which at this time was fear).
I tried every technique I know the shake off the backpack of dread - I tapped using EFT, I wrote out the exact scenario I was afraid of - tried to face it and say “Ok, and if that happens it will suck but you won’t die" - I sang, I literally hollered in the shower as loud as I could to try and dislodge the weight.
But it never quite left. Not even a little.
Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from my friend Carola. Hey, are you around? I’m gonna be in your neighborhood, wanna hang out? Want you intuition reading I offered for your birthday?
Yes. Yes please. I can’t leave my laptop. I am so stuck. Please come.
She showed up while I was walking my folks dog, so we just walked together, and talked about what has been going on in our dance community. The flare up of boundaries crossed, the desire to make rules to keep people safe.
Neither of us is big on rules. We are both believers in the importance and necessity of sexual expression. Limiting an aspect of our dance because some humans can’t understand consent feels troubling. Carola speaks to the need for “bumpers” - membranes we create around ourselves.
We create our own safety.
I resonate with this.
I start to imagine dance-offs, where people who have struggled with one another get to dance their anger, dance their frustrations. I recall a dance from years ago where I went full Kali on a guy who wasn’t picking up my signals of rejection at his advances, and how powerful I felt. I want that for all women - to be able to carry that knowledge that you can roar, you can sound your displeasure, your discomfort, you can dance your distaste and disgust and anger. You can allow it to work through your body.
I want all women, all humans, to be able to embody their feelings on the dance floor.
Healing happens in the body.
Carola is an inspiring friend. She has started dance communities, travelled the world, become an art therapist, and created a set of intuition cards called In2It (get it?)
As we walked, she asked me what I’d like to get from my reading. What questions did I have, what was I seeking?
“Freedom from Fear”, I said. “I can’t shake it. I’m so scared lately”.
“What does the fear feel like?” she asked.
“Like a backpack pulling down on my shoulders”.
“Tell me about the straps”.
“The straps holding it on, what are they made of?”
This question stumped me for a minute. What is binding my fear to me? What is keeping it so close?
“I think it’s the fear of looking foolish. I have to hold closely to my fear so no one sees how bad I am at keeping my shit together. I can’t let anyone see my fear. I have to wear it on my back, like it’s just a normal part of me. Don’t look behind the curtain”.
“What would allow you to loosen the straps, so you could set it down, and look inside?”
“Allowing myself to look foolish, I suppose”.
She handed me the pack of cards. “Just pick one”.
I held them in my hands.
Hey universe - what do i need to know?
I opened the deck to my selection
A crude painting of a monster stared back at me.
“The gargoyle!” Carola exclaimed, delighted.
That feels about right, I thought. Maybe it’s not a backpack, maybe it’s a gargoyle stuck on my back with it’s talons digging into my shoulders.
“What is the job of a Gargoyle?” Carola asked.
“Um, to protect the walls of the castle?”
“Exactly”, she said. “They aren’t suppose to be on your back, they’re supposed to be out at the front, protecting you, creating space between you on the outside. Your bumper.
Your view is the cute fuzzy ass”.
We talked about how the voices of anger and disappointment are like those of the adults in the Peanuts cartoon. Wah wah wah.
Filter them through the gargoyle.
We talked about discernment. What to allow in. We talked about farts.
The gargoyles are there to create paws, she said.
“Paws.” She put her hands on my arm, holding me. Not talons. Paws. And pause. When you feel fear, it’s a reminder to pause, to take space.”
“Huh, that’s helpful. My instinct when I feel fear is to rush into action, to fix the leak. I like the idea that it’s ok to pause, to access, to discern what I will allow in”.
And for the first time in weeks, I felt my fear releasing.
“I feel like I’ve been put on this earth to be the fullest expression of myself that I can be,” I blurted out. “But the fear prevents me from stepping into that biggest self.”
“Fullest”. She mused. “Foolish”.
My fear of looking foolish keeps me from my fullest expression of self.
Oh. Right. That seems clear.
With that realization, I committed to allowing myself to look foolish. To taking risks that people might judge me, that I might disappoint some folks, that I might fail.
The fear of living less than my full expression is greater than than my fear of looking foolish.
That turn around has given me space to access the excitement that was beneath the fear.
The excitement of HAVING A BIG FUCKING PARTY!!!
I’m hosting a 10th Anniversary party for Dance Naked Productions at The Alberta muthafucking ROSE people! A venue I always dreams was WAYYY out of my reach. Maybe it’s foolish. Maybe I should have played it safe. But fuck it - I’m doing it anyway.
For all the casts from the past 10 years, and all the audiences that have seen our shows. And for all the folks who’ve never experiences a Dance Naked Productions, this will be a savory taste of what they have been missing all these years.
There will be some of my favorite performances from the past decade, and there will be sneak previews of the shows that are coming up in Come Inside Festival.
We are literally going to play the largest game of (consensual!) Truth or Dare ever attempted.
There will be prizes, there will be sing alongs, there will be MERRIMENT!
I’m now officially super freakin’ excited.
And then, the next day, literally, I’m hosting a Masturbate-a-thon. WHAT???
Yeah. I have NO idea how that’s going to go. I’ve never been to a Masturbate-a-thon. I’m totally making it up as I go along. Could be an epic FOOLISH disaster!
But since 100% of the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood, SOMETHING good is gonna come out of it.
And I love the idea of taking the fear and shame away from something so fundamentally important and healing. So, It too might be totally foolish, but it’s happening.
I’ll let you know how it all turns out.