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Friday, December 17, 2010

fearLESS Friday with Karen Campbell

A few years ago I began facilitating writing classes I called "Write Yourself Free."  Despite a shaking-in-my- boots kind of fear, I knew that I wanted to help other women dig deep and tap into their creative selves.  I wanted to offer to others what Natalie Goldberg had offered to me. 

Karen Campbell was one of my very first "students."  What I most remember about Karen in those first days of this new journey, was her eyes...they were so full of light and hope and eagerness.  I could see that she too was afraid, and, even though her voice shook a little when she read her brave words, she read them.  And she kept coming back.  And she kept reading her words.  And her voice got a little less shaky. 

Today I see this beautiful brave woman who continues to take those sacred steps toward her best self. Karen, thank you for being here-I am inspired by your courage and your willingness to keep showing up.  Cheers to you and your beautiful journey!

Photo by Kevin Moul    Taos, New Mexico
By Karen Campbell

The day I turned 40 I woke up and thought, “That’s it, I’m too old to be afraid.”  Afraid of people and what they might think, or say about me.  Afraid of making the wrong choice.  Afraid that being me meant being less than other people.  Turning 40 felt empowering.  I could look back at teenagers, twenty-somethings, even people in their 30s, and laugh at their inexperience.  I strode out on that day determined not to be afraid.

About a week later I was at a restaurant during my lunch break when my boss walked in.  He had a paper under his arm, and was clearly having his lunch alone, as was I.  My first thought was that I should ask him to join me.  My next thought was all too familiar, I really shouldn’t bug him.  So the argument began.                                   
Brave New Self:    "Hey, aren’t you the one who woke up a week ago, on her 40th birthday, and said she was too old to be afraid?"    
Scared Old Self:  “Yes, yes, I hear you.  But’s it’s not that easy.  I would like to ask him to join me, but, really, what if I were truly bugging him?"      
Brave New Self:  “He’s reading the NEWSpaper. It’s a cry for company.  Just go ask him."
Scared Old Self:  “No … no, I can’t do it.”
Brave New Self:  "But you’re 40 now!"
Scared Old Self:  “Yeah, I know.  But I can’t.”

And that’s where the conversation ended.
So turning 40 didn’t make me fearless, as I had hoped, but it gave me the opportunity to clearly see just how riddled with fear I truly was.  I mean, if I can’t ask my boss (who’s friendly enough) to join me for a casual lunch, how was I ever going to do what it takes to stake my claim in this world?
I didn’t know.
Mercifully, what I did get from turning 40 was this willingness to really take stock of all that I was and what I wanted in life.  And this little window led me to a new path.  In the more than three years since turning 40, I have been given countless opportunities, not to face my fear, but to welcome it.  And in the welcoming, let it go.  Sounds counter intuitive, I know.  Luckily, I have had wonderful teachers to show me the way.  If being afraid hadn’t worked, and trying not to be afraid hadn’t worked, then what the hell, why not try welcoming that feeling of being afraid.
So I did.
And … wait for it … IT WORKED.
So I kept having opportunities to feel afraid (that’s self-help speak for ‘crap kept happening’), and I kept welcoming.  And it kept working.  Sounds too easy, I know this as well.  Sometimes I wish it could be more complicated.  I wish I could write an anguished story of all the steps I took and the incredible emotional power required to overcome fear.  But all I can relate is my quiet little story of welcoming.  But I do have some proof for you, right here, right now, as to the truth of it.  You’re reading it.
On the day I turned 40, staking my claim in the world with words on paper was a deeply held desire.  But quite unimaginable.  The roaring in my ears was deafening when I dared dream of expressing myself. Prose, poetry, fiction, I wanted to write it all.  My heart ached for it.  But the clanging symbols of fear won out, every time.  There wasn’t really a fight, to be honest.  And thankfully, there still isn’t.  No fighting, just welcoming.  And happy amazement on my part.
Fear, of course, has its part in life and it gets a crazy crescendo going from time to time.  And sometimes I think it’s pretty damn significant.  But eventually I remember what allows that maestro to take a break.  It’s welcoming.  Saying, “Hey, I see you’re here, why don’t you come on in.”  And then, just to make sure he knows I mean it, I add, “You know, it’s good to see you again.”
I think I would ask my boss to sit down to lunch with me today.  I haven’t had a repeat of that experience, but I think it would feel much different.  As for writing, I’m ready to put it out there.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure what it was I used to be afraid of.  (Maybe it was ending sentences with a preposition.  Looks like that’s gone, too.)

Karen Campbell is a woman in transition.  She lives with a man and a dog and an ever increasing sense of expansion.


  1. Oh, Karen, I just love hearing your voice here. Julia this Fearless Friday, and having guests is so fun! Karen, it is an honor to know you and your journey. I've learned and continue to learn so much from you and your welcoming. You inspire me beyond words. I love your sweet energy and am so excited to see your words here. I hope I will be able to read much more of what you have to say, partake of your amazing creativity in some form or another!

  2. Hi Karen,

    Your post was a lovely reminder of the miracles that occur when we embrace and walk through our fears rather than run away. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself. You are held.

    Love Nige


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