I live in the desert.
It is a raw, beautifully dusty place with few rules and many unusual opportunities for spiritual training. The teachers here come in many forms and sometimes it is the wild animals that dish out the most dramatic insights.
I was recently driving into town to run my usual errands when a young rabbit decided to rush across the road in front of me. The poor little guy was completely freaked out by the noise and size of my giant red truck bearing down on it, but he made a dash for it anyway.
The rabbit easily cleared the dangerous part of the pavement with plenty of time to spare and was nearly safe on the other side. Just a few more feet and he would have been back under the familiar cover of desert brush, but at the last moment something terrible happened.
A new, deeper layer of panic seized the rabbit and threw him into such a state of total confusion that he turned around and ran right under my truck, leaving me no time to slow down or stop. It was horrible to hear the sickening thud of an innocent animal hitting my tire, but I learned something life-changing from this particular rabbit’s sacrifice.
The experience was so visual and physical that I could not shake it off quickly or easily. As I drove on, I couldn’t stop thinking about what had just happened. There was one part of the whole encounter that was particularly bothersome to me.
The rabbit had nearly made it to safety. He was practically across the road. All he had to do was go straight ahead and he was home-free.
Why would he turn around on a whim and run straight into certain death?
I soon realized that perspective is a crucial part of the answer. From the high, god-like perch of my truck’s driver seat I can see everything. I can view the whole playing field at once. I know where the starting point is. The path through danger and risk is wide and clear, and the successful destination is obvious.
Unfortunately, for an adrenaline-juiced adolescent rabbit, none of this is evident. From his narrow view there is only strange, alien pavement ahead and limited past experience to guide his snap-second decisions.
I understand this particular flavor of fear far more than I care to admit. I like to tell myself that I’m navigating through life from the all-seeing driver’s seat, but I frequently find myself sliding into the role of Panic Rabbit. My current situation is a perfect example.
I am deep in the middle of starting a business which is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is difficult, frustrating and scary as hell. I have no idea what I’m doing half the time. Everything I have is at stake, time is short and the stress is incredible, but so far I have always managed to push on through the next challenge.
While this is all well and good, my dirty little secret is that I desperately miss the days when I had the predictable stability of a regular job and the luxury of simply daydreaming about becoming an entrepreneur.
When everything gets overwhelming and confusing, all I want to do is to turn around and try to run back to where I came from—even though that world is long gone.
From what I see online, it seems that we are supposed to believe that fear is a common but simple problem that can be easily wiped away with a deep, artistic internet meme. Just get in the right mindset, keep moving and our success is assured. This is the kind of superficial thinking that distracts us from facing up to the unspeakable questions that threaten to throw us into the lower depths of rabbit-scramble fear.
What if my talent and luck isn’t enough for even minimal success?
What if all of my “friendships” evaporate when I’m really in trouble?
What if I fall all the way through the cracks and become homeless?
For me, the simple, visceral clarity of my encounter with the rabbit helped to knock me out of my personal paralysis. Every day I choose to honor the spirit of the rabbit by deciding to “cowgirl up” and move straight ahead. In more practical terms, this means hanging on tight to any idea that will help me scamper across my own chaotic, unfamiliar plain
Right now, my favorite trick is to flip the whole sucky situation on its ear and use the fear as a kick-ass litmus test for my goals. The idea is to constantly create, refine and then re-create a glittering life prize that is so bright and strong that it will pull me through to the other side—no matter how loud and crazy the fear gets.
It also helps to keep in mind that putting panic before perspective can only lead to disaster. Grab any chance to stop, rest and re-assess the situation. The more well-fed your perspective is, the safer the journey will be.
Perhaps the most important take-away in all of this is to stop second-guessing ourselves. Choose the play and then make your move. You were sharp enough, clever enough and fast enough to get this far, so finish the job.
The most tragic thing any of us can do is to turn around and run under the wheels.
Going back is death.
There is only one way out now—through.
Author: Lisa Bruder
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renee Picard
Image: Author’s own.