in which we talk around and about fear

in the dyepots

I’m in the need of some sunshine lately; it feels a little as though this chilly, blustery April might never end.

When I logged on this afternoon I had intended to lay down the bones of the skin care post, but two sentences in that just felt wrong- dishonest in a “well, this isn’t what I’m here for today” kind of way. If you write, you know what I mean: it’s a bit like being in a conversation where all you’re actually accomplishing is avoiding discussing something obvious to everybody in the room.

My Craftsy class release date is creeping up, and I’m caught in what I believe to be the normal anticipation- anxiety loop common to many first- time instructors: I’m really, really eager to get this going, to rip that bandage off and just get moving, but I also have these awful moments of self- doubt, of course, where everything is horrible and I worry that maybe I said something completely ridiculous. I mean,  I’m putting a couple hours of video of just me, with my ridiculous face, doing one of the things I love most. Impostor Syndrome is just part of the package, right?

During filming, I had this great, well- cultivated sense of calm: there’s nothing I can do except be in this moment and do the work, I’d think, and that kept me calm, focused. Now, though, I’ll catch myself tracing back to different moments and wondering if I misspoke, if my grammar was jacked, if I just plain sounded like a tool. You know, that beating- myself- up, generally non- productive inner critic thing.

My frustration with the breach between comprehending a thing on a cognitive level and integrating it on a psychological, intuitive daily space is pretty steep when it comes to this. I understand these insecurities; who doesn’t secretly wonder if they aren’t somehow screwing it all up*– especially when we are given a great opportunity?

*(Corollary: I frequently wonder if some folks secretly or subconsciously wish they had enough control that they actually could be the ones who can mess everything up, solo. There’s not necessarily any shame in that- the world can be a big & scary place and we’re hard- wired to long for some measure of control, even if we won’t ever find it. We don’t have enough control to effect change on par with the amount of fear we feel.)

If you know me in Real Life, you’ve probably heard me talking about fear, recently. I really can’t stop talking about fear: if you give me enough of an opportunity, I’ll work it into any conversation.  I have been obsessed with fear and how it affects us as individuals and as a society for the last few years.

It’s funny: after more than a decade working as a dyer (at various levels), there’s a part of me that is bizarrely yet quite honestly afraid that I’ll have said some vague, utterly unclear yet wrong thing in this class, and that this one wrong thing will somehow tank my career. This idea can occasionally inspire a real and awful sense of dread— that suffocating sort of panic. Some of you know what I’m talking about. It’s gotten a lot better since I’ve named it, though.

So, there you go, starkly stated: the thing the most I’m afraid of out of all of this. I thought it would be a different sort of failure that would worry me the most, but I said this to Sam about a week after filming- a little to my own surprise- and I was shocked at how much better I felt just saying the words.

There were a few important things about voicing what I was really, specifically afraid of in that safe space:

  • I actually took a moment to get centered and get specific about what scared me
  • Voicing my fears to someone I trust (and hearing it out loud) allowed me to get a rationality check: how much of this is just my anxiety, and how much of this is reality- based?
  • Getting specific about what I fear gives me the room to make a plan, if I need one

Really, once I’d stopped just feeling— and, as generally accompanies feeling fear, either reacting or avoiding reacting to that stimulus— I could see that my fear was waaaaaaayyyy out of proportion. There’s nothing in my class that’s going to end my career. Where’s all that coming from? There are a couple of verbal stumbles, because everyone has them, and Craftsy likes to leave them in, they’re humanizing- I get that. Re: some epic kind of screw up… hey, wasn’t I the one who coined “It’s just yarn”? Hallie (an expert in these things in her own right) was there the entire time and would have helped me out in one hot second if I’d said anything seriously wrong— and the material has been run through by a content editor before and after filming with a fine- toothed comb, too. (And really: most students won’t even care that it’s me giving them this information, they’ll just be coming to learn.) I’m caught up in subconsciously thinking that I have more control and weight than I do. I am not all- important, or even all that important.

It’s pretty remarkable how quickly that anxiety machine can spin out of control, and how big those fears can become- growing from a pretty silly seed into a giant Audrey II with almost no watering or sunlight.

Fear. Frank Herbert was on this a couple of decades ago, my fellow Buddhists have been droning on about fear for a few millennia, and trust me, this is far, far from my last word- or even my first word, really, on fear. I can’t think of a single bad thing that has happened to me (outside of life’s random accidents) that wasn’t at its core somehow attributable to fear— mine, someone else’s, or a team effort.

I’m telling myself all of this to talk myself down, but I’m telling you all this, too, for every person who has ever told me that I look fearless. I hear this a lot but I am very much not, I am just super- great at doing things while I’m also busy being scared: it’s a good distraction. I’m also putting this out there because at least in the States, we don’t talk about being afraid very much, and I think that is a shame.

It’s okay to be afraid. You don’t need permission from me or anybody else to feel your feelings, obviously, but in case you were wondering, it’s a biological response, so you’re gong to feel afraid whether you want to or not. Fear can protect us from danger. It’s allowing ourselves to be controlled or owned by fear that’s detrimental to living things. We treat our fear like it’s a thing that belongs to us— as though it’s something we’ve carefully crafted, an inheritance or an endowment, and while it may in fact be all of those things we don’t need to wear it like a crown. We have the ability to name it, call it out, examine it, take it apart piece by piece, and hopefully move through it.

I’m still feeling my fear in waves and bouts. Things will be great, then I’ll go to my Instructor Home and see my class title card and it’ll kick off an adrenaline jolt in my– I don’t know, my everything. But this is a wonderful opportunity to work on anxiety & fear, and I’m all over that. Everything is going to be fine, I know that- I genuinely do, having put in the work, having had good help, and having worked with amazing people. This is a great chance to figure out what works for me and to work those things- long phone calls with good friends, intense physical activity (what’s up, arm balance/ handstand work), painting, and four hour playlists. I have a really good playlist going now, actually, with music that pre- dates Afghanistan— hell, there are some things on here that I was listening to in high school. How’s that for comfort music?

What do you when you’re feeling afraid? How do you move through it? What scares the hell out of you? I mean, obviously for me, failure is pretty high on that list— what does you in? And while we’re at it, how many of you are Spotify users? I just realized that I could share playlists with folks, if you’re into it. Anyone want a super mixed up jumble of music? (I promise that there will be something you really like and something you absolutely can’t stand in there.) Let me know— I used to trade mixtapes online, but Spotify makes sharing music a lot easier (and less ethically murky).




  One thought on “in which we talk around and about fear

  1. April 8, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    I think most of my therapy sessions lately revolve around fear. Fear of the future. Fear I won’t be able to keep doing what I love. Fear that this hip replacement will go so very, very wrong. This is an election year and this cycle… it just seems fraught with so many dangers, loss of autonomy for myself as a woman in a country that seems determined that I’m not able to think for myself. A determined effort by so many to care for so little. What happened to Noblesse Oblige???

    I spend a lot of time giving in to the fear, letting it roam free in my mind, crying through it and then beating it, like a small dark thing, into submission because it will NOT be the boss of me. I tried just ignoring it but it didn’t go away. It was easier to show it out into the open, the light, and face it.

    I think that once this year is done, the hip is done, the election is over, the big other thing that I’m dealing with is finished that I’ll be through most of the concrete things. Then it’s just making up my mind to not allow the fear to rule me but to use it to hone me. At least… I hope so.

    I’m very much looking forward to your class and I’m thinking a good friend of mine who also is an indie dyer will take it as well. It will make a lovely afternoon of watching, note taking, hot tea, admiring, wondering and most of all…. learning so we can both keep doing what we love with color.

  2. April 8, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Best of luck with that hip- when will you be taking that on? I’ve never had a surgery that large, but empathize with you; that’s frightening. My friend John had a hip replacement a few years back and it really changed his life for the better, but I’m guessing you might have folks telling you things like that all the time? Let me know if you want any more info on that- I don’t want to be the jerk who tells you not to worry about your own life because I have This One Friend. :/

    I hear you, though- things in the States are really a LOT lately. Politics, the violence (that’s a global issue), just the way we treat one another— I have no idea where our idea of kindness is, but it does exist in pockets and in individuals, we’ve just seemingly forgotten it how to do it on a larger scale. Why is it that so many of the people I know in daily life are loving, giving, and kind, but the larger world seems to be getting scarier, colder, and just… meaner? Regardless, hoping you’ve got comfort and goodness where you’re at.

    • annacorgihillfarm
      April 8, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      I’m hoping to do the Hip in June. I want to be as well as I can be and right now, I’m not. Losing a bit of weight, shoring up my adrenal system, just trying to cross all the bits off that have to be done. I’d forgotten about allergy season… *laughs*

      I hear a lot about hip surgery from folks who are older than me, or have that ONE thing wrong. Hip surgery with a wrongity endocrine system and connective tissue disorder, not so much. I do think it will make a difference and I do think it will probably be very much a fine thing to do. I just need to wrap my head around all the details first. I think once all the ticky boxes are checked I will be able to make that pre-surgical consult and start the process from their end. I just need my ends in order first.

      I have comfort in the form of three furry Corgyn, a fabulous furry husband and some lovely not furry friends.

      • April 14, 2016 at 10:41 am

        I’ll be pulling for you up to and on the big day. Let us know when it happens? Here’s hoping you get the relief they’re promising, and hey, dogs + good friends + furry menfolk go a long, long way in the comfort department in my experience.

  3. Tan
    April 8, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    That sounds familiar. I used to have terrible stage fright–not a good thing for a musician getting an advanced college degree in performance. I laughed when I saw the Dune reference–I used to meditate on Frank Herbert’s fear litany before each performance, and just looked it up to make sure I had it word perfect to share with a friend today in master class. Performing more has helped me get over it. But surprisingly, getting the right pair of shoes made a big difference as well. I bought a pair of bright red, sparkly organ shoes. I haven’t had crippling stage fright since I started performing in red, sparkly shoes. How can a person wearing red, sparkly shoes be afraid of anything? I still make mistakes, but I am not afraid of them.

    • April 14, 2016 at 10:42 am

      Tan, I have so much to say about red shoes, especially sparkly red shoes, but for right now: I’m sending you a long distance hug JUST FOR THIS COMMENT, because it made my damned day.

  4. April 9, 2016 at 3:27 am

    This was so perfectly timed for me to read today. I’ve realized many of the same things lately. Fear is the basis of everything that goes wrong. The choices I make that are based on fear are never wise. I’d say lately my big fear is that I’m not doing anything meaningful in this one life I’ve been given. I remember reading a book by Pema Chodron where she says Fear and Hope are two sides of the same coin. I still grapple with that idea. She even said “abandon hope”. This subject is so deep and affects everyone. I do wish everyone could talk openly and bravely like you have! Thank you.

    • April 9, 2016 at 9:23 am

      Oh, Pema Chodron’s The Places That Scare You— as well as Thich Naht Hahn’s writing on anger, which is related and also so brilliant— that’s been really helpful and good. That bit about abandoning hope is something I struggle with, too: living in my now, finding contentment here and not focusing on past or getting caught up in the future is HARD. She’s so right, though! Thanks for reminding me about that book- I need to pull that off the shelf this weekend. ❤️

  5. The Knitwit
    April 28, 2016 at 8:37 am

    I’m taking your class right now (Lisa1996) and absolutely love it. After reading this post, I’m finding we have the same inner critic. It’s nice to know it’s not just me who thinks this way some times.

    Yes, it’s just yarn and I made my first flop last night. It’s an ugly muddy olive brown. It’s a good thing I only did ~50grams and I will keep it in case I need something to go with a hunter’s camouflage-type project.

    Just so you know, I hear your voice in my head while I’m doing an indirect pour of dye or dunking my yarn to untangle it or pushing it to the side and not stirring. Your words are helpful, impactful, and lasting!


    • May 4, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      The inner critic is a monster, right? I’m learning to shove it back under the bed where it belongs, but ooof, things can get noisy occasionally. And I completely hear you about making muddy yarn. THAT IS HOW I LEARNED— I wrecked so, so, SO much yarn and fiber. Sam can’t stand the smell of heated silk any longer and that’s mostly because I burnt so much of it, learning how to dye. It’s awful, but it’s really true: it really is just yarn. ❤ I'm so happy the class is working well for you!!

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