For some people, the fear of what may or may not happen motivates them onward and upward. While I do experience fight or flight rushes, it’s not so much the fear that gets me going, but rather the conquering of the fear the moves me to bigger and better.
Take, for example, my fear when cooking my first live lobster. (Vegetarians & animal lovers- please look past the use of this animal to what I got from it all as the emotions translate to other situations, I promise.) When I first started the cooking preparation of said lobster, my mind said it would be fun and easy but actual execution included a racing heart, panic, physical fear, an emergency call to my friend, and a praying/whispering/singing/wishing noise coming from me until the process was complete. Dramatic? Yes. But aren’t we usually the dramatic ones in most situations that are just a string of untainted facts?
I went into my lobster cooking with a plan. I had the creature wait in my fridge a day, double-bagged, and since it wasn’t moving, I figured it may be slightly less fresh, but at least it was dead. Not the case. As most good things have, surprise!, the lobster was all sorts of ready to dance once I freed it of its bags. Instead of moving along and inserting the lobster into the boiling pot as I had prepared to do, I panicked. I screamed. I shrieked. I dropped the thing, made a gesture to pick it up again, and promptly jumped away with knees practically hitting my eyes.
Mind you, the lobster’s claws were rubber banded and it barely weighed 1 pound. Silly? Yes. But in that moment there was a very real danger sensed and fear infiltrated my bloodstream and started pumping through my entire body.
I left the lobster. I took some breaths, regrouped, but as I approached the doorway to the kitchen, I swore it was just around the corner and freaked out again. Seeing as how this was not working, I phoned a friend. Something like the following ensued:
“I’m trying to cook a lobster but it’s MOVING!”
“Oh no! Did you see that 80’s movie? With lobsters? From the 80’s? Where they’re trying to cook them? This reminds me of that.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It’s from the 80’s. They’re cooking lobsters for old people. . .”
“It’s still MOVING! I can’t do this. I’m leaving.”
“DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON IT!!! It’ll get you!”
“What?!?! Nooo! Ok! Is it behind me?” (insert screaming)
My friend did nothing to soothe my fears, but she did snap me into gear to not turn my back on the lobster. Yes, fear that it would eerily sneak up behind me and somehow attack me brought me back to face it, but fear didn’t cook the lobster.
With my friend on the phone, I quietly and delicately picked up the thing and put it in the boiling water. It made noise. I whisper-shrieked as I gave my friend the play-by-play of exactly how the lobster sounded and what position it was in. Soon enough, the noise gave way to the sound of bubbling water and the lifted lid showed the once black lobster was now red and ready.
I was still uncertain if my potential attacker was truly done for as I hung up the phone and gingerly took the creature out of the pot. No more wiggling, claws were now free but not moving, and my heart was still racing. I kept on. I laid the lobster on my plate, took a crack to make sure it was actually cooked, and finally my breath returned to normal.
The motivation I find in all of this is not in the gripping fear I was experiencing. I look back and am inspired by the triumph. I was scared the entire time. I just continued step by step. I had a surprising reaction. I called a friend. I stayed scared. I put the lobster in the pot, while hoping and half-squinting, and I uncomfortably waited as it boiled. I remained trepidatious when the cooking was complete, but even with that feeling I plated that lobster. I didn’t have to forget my fear or put on bravado to get it done, I just kept going. I knew what I wanted done, I was capable, and I just kept going.
In most times I’m afraid in my life the fear is just as real and the predator is just as conquerable. I have never awoken with a hungry bear growling in my face and threatening my life, but in my head, other situations feel just as scary. That’s ok. We may be scared of lobsters, spiders, not having enough money for rent, an outside reaction, uncertainty, or anything else. None of that has to stop us. We don’t even have to shut off the fear, we just have to keep on. Or fine, don’t; pick a new route. If I hadn’t faced cooking my lobster, it would have been interesting avoiding my kitchen or somehow re-caging the creature, but in the end I would have been fine.
We all have inspiring triumphs within us, we just have to give them a chance to take the lead. Next time something scares you, picture the steps you need to take and carry on. Boil the water, have the conversation, confront what’s there. Feel free to be scared. And be sure to take in the pride and inspiration when you make it through triumphantly.
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