This weekend, while running errands, I was confronted with one of my biggest fears.
(Yes, spiritual people like myself have fears - I’m still a human, regular person.)
That I would run into someone from my old life in Academia and I'd have to explain myself and what I was doing now and why it wasn't research. Or that someone from back then would email me something nasty or insult my intelligence.
Basically, that my old life would come back to haunt me in some terrible way and I’d get judged, shamed, or embarrassed by someone who I once respected and whom I had a once shared a close relationship.
It didn’t come true.
What happened instead:
While out shopping at Whole Foods, I nearly walked smack into my old research mentor. If I was paying even less attention, I would have hit her and her family with my cart.
I heard a loud gasp, and I swung around.
There she was - mouth hanging open.
This is someone whom I had known for 10 years, but when I left graduate school to be a shaman, she was teaching elsewhere and I didn’t reach out to tell her that I left or what I was doing. I lumped her in with everyone else who HAD shunned me, and assumed that she would too.
So, I just disappeared.
A few years later, I found myself living less than 15 minutes from where she was now teaching. And, still with this fear, I didn’t reach out.
Fast forward to this past Saturday, when I almost collided with her cart in the produce section of Whole Foods.
After we established what I was even doing in the same city as her, she immediately blurted out her acceptance of me.
Said that she thought that the fact that I was a shaman was really awesome and that she understood if I wanted to turn a new leaf and forget the past, but that she'd really like to meet up and have our kids play together.
She went on to tell me that she helped run a CSA, that the CSA had herbal medicine, and that they had chickens - putting my fears at ease and giving me proof that she really did accept my alternative life path.
She must have been able to see the sense of relief wash over my face.
I’d seriously misjudged. I was so afraid of facing even more rejection, that I just disappeared.
I let my fears take over and didn’t give her the chance to be accepting, like she wanted to be.
For years, I lived with this fear of having to explain myself to my old colleagues. Instead, in my first confrontation with this fear, what happened was the opposite.
Sure, there will be some who do not accept - and I’ve had my fair share of those.
But what I’ve learned from this experience, is that I can no longer let my past experiences turn into fears that prevent me from allowing others to be accepting and compassionate.
I let years go by without giving her the chance - years that I lost without having another supportive friend in my life. Years that I really, really could have used more support.
I was standing in my own way, clouded by fear, and had forgotten a core tenant of the human existence:
People are basically good.
You just have to give them the chance.
You never know what might happen if you let someone in and give them the chance to be supportive. Don’t let fear stop you.