Tag Archives: fear

Without Fear of Vertigo

ImageI was once part of a dance piece called Without Fear of Vertigo. In the piece, the girls wore long, golden dresses and each of us had a pair of wings that slipped over our arms through iron rings. These wings were hard and heavy but read on stage as soft and beautiful. Without Fear of Vertigo was about Icarus who flew too close to the sun. It was about rising like a phoenix out of fear and into illumination and freedom.

I have flown too close to the sun. And I have landed with a thud, leaving a pile of broken feathers. But I have also learnt to lift my feet off the ground and spread my arms again and again. And again.

There are men in this life that teach you to be untrusting. There are men in this life that have mastered the art of taking while ignoring that of giving. There are men in this life who will cut your wings because you threaten to fly. When you have flown with this flock of men, it takes a while to unlearn the ways they have burnt into your navigation system.

At some point the unlearning is aided by the company of the good flock of men. I have known these ones too. And they are so powerful that when you fly with them your wings receive an extra push of air.

There is much to be fearful of. There is much that invites you to keep your wings tucked in. In this life there are no certainties and even the great ball of fire that tempted Icarus might explode one day and save us all the trip. But what can we do if we do not explore and trust and abandon fear? Some days I think Icarus was a fool and some days I think he was a magnificent genius.

The biggest gift we all have is resilience. Vertigo is learnt behaviour – much like distrust and doubt. In this dance piece, I remember being carried across the long back of a man with just my ankles and feet across his shoulders. We were meant to be dead Icarus angels – our wings spread out behind us. It hurt my shoulder blades and my young back like hell but it looked absolutely mesmerizing on stage. Each night, as we danced without fear of vertigo, I remember wondering if he would ever drop me. He never did.


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Letting Go


As we grow older, we learn to hold on tighter. We become experts at holding onto fear, guilt, worry, anger and cynicism.

Letting go sounds so easy. It sounds like opening a window and letting the curtain billow in the breeze. But it isn’t easy. It’s more like swimming up to the surface to breathe in, despite being pulled under by dark and slimy sea creatures. If it were easy to let go, we would not walk on this earth. We would float above it and glow with eternal buoyancy.

Holding on offers a strange comfort. It is what is expected. It is not unchartered territory – you’ve been here many times before. Keeping calm and carrying on is not as easy to navigate. Because most of the time ‘carrying on’ takes place without witness and all the effort that goes with it is under the surface.

We are expected to feel guilty for making mistakes. So we gather our mistakes in a guilt menagerie and stand back and admire their ugliness. When the anger builds up we let it brew till it boils over and sticks to the surface.  Cynicism is like the stray pet that arrives at your door unannounced and you just can’t say no to its big, droopy eyes. And fear? Fear is the worst because we learn to live with it so well that we develop its accent and soon forget our real voices.

We also hold onto hope. And just because ‘hope’ is a smiley-faced angel child in one syllable, we mustn’t be duped by it. Holding onto hope can be naïve and distract you from the reality.

I have an F minus in ‘letting go’. I’ve held onto the bruises on my heart for many years now. I carry them with me and even though they don’t fit well with certain company, I allow them to participate in the conversation from time to time. I also hold onto the fear manifested in my nightmares and I hold onto the guilt of a 1000 glasses of spilt milk.

Maybe it’s time to let go?

I read this quote the other day: “Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” It’s by Buddha. And I like it. Not just because Buddha mastered being buoyant and grounded at the same but because it doesn’t imply that we have to empty out our fears and worries like a chamber pot onto the street. It implies that ‘letting go’ is work in continuous progress. And perhaps it is less about letting go and more about deciding that today…we won’t be carrying the heavy load upon our shoulders.


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