I had a fabulous conversation with a woman yesterday. We talked of many things – in common and disparate; but as is wont to happen in most fabulous conversation among women, far more of the former. She told me of the upcoming retreat she’s leading this summer that includes a one-day vision quest. She was quick to point out that it wasn’t an overnight-live-at nature’s-mercy kind of thing. Still, I’m willing to admit that my first (internal) response was total and utter fear.

A vision quest? Time alone? You mean with myself? The thought made me more than cringe. It illicited a strong, potent reaction.

As much as I’d like to ignore it, I know myself well enough to pay attention to this kind of an unmistakable visceral response. I know there is another question begging to be asked.

I delayed answering for over 24 hours. But earlier today, while alone in the car for an uninterrupted 90 minutes, I let myself ask and answer the question:

What are you afraid of, Ronna?

  • Silence
  • Being unseen
  • No response
  • Being alone
  • Being unpaid
  • Shame

I am not happy with this list. But that’s not really the point, is it? This is what spontaneously came as I drove. (Yes, I admit it: I wrote it down while I was driving. Clearly my fear doesn’t extend to life and limb.) These are my first thoughts – not second or third; not edited or censored. And, now that I see them—even knowing you will as well—I feel (a little bit) less afraid.

Deep breath. Let’s take ’em one at a time:

Silence. There was a time, for sure, when this was the most terrifying thing for me to consider. It meant that something was wrong, that someone was angry, that misunderstanding was rife.

That may still be true, but I can now (mostly) hold on to myself in silence. Presence and absence can coexist. Breathing can ensue. Thoughts and emotions can dance freely without restraint of incessant words. And even if its uncomfortable – for me or for you – I can allow it. I don’t need to be afraid.

Being unseen. This was a predominant experience (at least perceived) in adolescence, for sure, but clear through my 30s. Whether completely accurate, or not, I felt invisible, insecure, insignificant. And ironically, these emotions existed in nearly opposite realities. I was (and am) a leader. I was (and am) enjoyed. I was (and am) worthwhile. Still, something deep within could not align the internal and external. Still, the voice lingers.

That was then, not now. Now I let myself be seen; and even more, heard. Doing so is not dependent on another’s response (or even lack thereof). I don’t need to be afraid. (And she repeats the mantra: I don’t need to be afraid. I don’t need to be afraid. I don’t need to be afraid. Where are those damn ruby slippers?)

No response. I’m not entirely sure where this comes from, though I know something deeply seeded within me is afraid that if I write, if I speak, if I tell my truth that it will be met with silence (oooh, there’s the first one) or being misunderstood (oooh, there’s a close kin to the second one).

I want my words to illicit response, to invite conversation, to inculcate hope and passion and life. The idea that I would write, speak, and tell my truth and not receive response, I can now see, is faulty; though clearly, still resonant. It is old. It is no longer real. I don’t need to be afraid. (And the Cowardly Lion comes to mind.)

Alone. I know where this one comes from. I am alone! That’s not even remotely true, of course. I’m surrounded by so many people who love and support me, by my family, by my daughters. But this has to do with that other kind of love. I want the whole deal: the romance, the laughter, the serious and intense conversations, even the fights. I want the proximity, the collaboration, the shared coffee. I want the passion, the angst, the understanding, the compassion. I want the companion, the movie-goer, the yard-worker, and oh – the passenger seat!

I may remain alone. That is yet to be seen. But ahhh, when I stop for even a moment to think of it? The beauty of this life I live as an independent, unconstrained, no-longer-silenced-and-bound woman! I have often said that I would choose no relationship over an unhealthy and painful one. That does remain true. I was afraid of being alone when I was in relationship. I know better. I don’t need to be afraid. (I have a heart, Tin Man.)

Unpaid. I know where this comes from, as well. I am in high-anxiety over money these days. 15 months without fulltime work. More than fulltime effort expended on developing a business, doing contract work, eating up retirement monies, and scraping together a mortgage payment. When I add this to my (now unfounded) fear of “no response” and “alone,” it’s easy to become nearly paralyzed.

To work through this and get out of my own head (and fear), I had a 10-card Celtic Cross reading done by the amazing Tarot Mama. She saw my fears in spades; well, mostly in Pentacles. Her words: “…your fears are what stand in your way on your path to financial freedom and abundance.” “Absolutely you can trust in what you are creating and building to support you! As I was shuffling the cards for this question, I heard the words, ‘Her fear is in the way. Tell her to get out of her own way and allow abundance into her life and being.'” I need to get out of my own way and realize that I don’t need to be afraid.

Shame. Of all the words, this one throws me for the biggest loop and packs the biggest punch. Not surprisingly, it’s what I spoke and wrote last. I’ll be honest: I don’t know what to do with it. It carries tremendous freight. When I read it on this page, I can feel its bulldozer-like presence in my life; primarily past, but still hovering and haunting in the present. It’s dark and heavy and nearly asphyxiating.

This is most definitely tied up in places of religion, of patriarchy, of dogma; places in which I no longer place power – or authority. Still, they’ve left a stain. I need it scrubbed away. I don’t want to be afraid of it. I don’t need to be afraid. (Not entirely convinced, but trying…)

Is it true that when we name our fears, their power diminishes? I’ve just named them. I’ve even hit “publish.” (I think…)

I can let them go.

But will I?


Maybe I’ll pour the champagne first and then decide.