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Living Away from Fear, Not Into It: An Unexpected Lesson in Courage

Not long ago, we stuck a for sale sign in our front yard, packed up the contents of our home for the last seven years, and decided to live away from fear instead of into it. 

We didn’t move across an ocean, a country, or even a state line. We moved fifteen minutes down the road, to a different town within the same county. But it felt huge and scary and uncertain, nonetheless.

It seems a small sacrifice for a big lesson, but here we are.

Fear: the Silent Partner

As a parent, I spend too many moments questioning my decisions, sometimes even living in fear of them. 

That consequence I doled out to my kid was too severe…or not enough. I should have given that dose of Tylenol…or maybe not. I don’t feed them enough vegetables, I feed them too many chicken nuggets, I don’t make them drink enough milk. They’re underweight, they’re overweight, they’re a pushover, they’re a bully. I let them have too much screen time, I don’t make them do enough homework. I just want to let them be kids, I want to raise them up into conscious adults.

When they’re grown, will they want to come home? Will they voluntarily vacation with us and come over for family dinners, and ask me to babysit their babies? 

So much of my parenting is loaded with the fear that I will somehow drive my kids away. Or send them into therapy. Or that I’ll lose them.

And that admission is one I’ve been nursing privately since they were in my womb. It’s a fragility that holds too much power; power that I have assigned to it, and that I am constantly overcoming. But it tends to rear its ugly head on the cusp of a decision. Instead of living away from fear, I lean into it.

So, when the topic of moving to a different house became the late-night discussion in hushed voices after the kids went to sleep, my stress level began to climb.

Seeking Sanity

People relocate all of the time. Necessity, convenience, employment or improvement are all common catalysts. But for our family, moving was a result of none of these forces. We were living in a home we loved, in a “nice” neighborhood, in a safe town. Our kids were settled in their schools, their friendships, and their routines. We didn’t need to move away to better our lives but for some reason, I still felt called to it.

living away from fear

We kept things to ourselves at first, saving space to mull it over. Didn’t mention it to the little listening pairs of ears, because we all know that once kids catch wind of change, the floodgate opens wide for questions that require answers; the kind of answers we’ve reasoned through with careful intention. There’s no hemming and hawing while you tell them you’re thinking of rocking their world.

We sat, stuck in the mud of our indecision. The decision to pack up and go was one that not many would understand. Did I really even understand it myself?

We prayed, we listened, we looked for signs, we sought advice from friends and family, and we prayed some more. I was expecting an epiphany. For clarity to smack me between the ears. But time in the holding zone ticked by steadily, never wavering, unlike us. We waffled back and forth multiple times a day, sometimes an hour. 

Decision Day

But finally, we reached a decision: we were going to leap, even if the longevity of our landing was uncertain; to live away from fear instead of letting fear make a decision for us.

We made an offer to the sellers, which they accepted despite that it was less than they wanted.

We listed our house, mentally giving ourselves a week to secure an offer before we backed out of the whole deal and pretended like it had never happened. There were two offers on the first day.

We told ourselves we would see how things played out with an appraisal and a home inspection, and there wasn’t a single glitch.

And even then, we questioned and doubted and worried.

Lessons from Childhood

As a child, my family moved three times in 10 years, all within the same town. My mom always had an itch for change, and living away from fear was her specialty. We moved from my parents’ bungalow of a starter home to a newly built two-story across the street from a golf course. My little sister and I thought we’d died and gone to heaven. We had window seats in our bedrooms, a separate playroom to house our Barbies, and a landing on our stairs we could jump from and land on the couch below. 

In all of my memories, it was pure happiness. There was a neighborhood pool down the street where we spent summer days. During the rest breaks, we would walk over to the gas station on the other side of the parking lot to buy Icees and bags of chips. With towels tied around our waists and wet feet squishing in our flip flops, we would run back to the pool just in time for the life guards to blow their whistles to signal we could get back into the water.

living away from fear

But I also have fleeting memories of my mom making her way up the stairs from the unfinished basement, eyes puffy from crying. Of quiet conversations behind closed doors. And another move a few short years later fueled by regret and her desire to find something else that felt like “home.” That house hadn’t been it for her. She missed what we’d moved away from in the first place.

Uniquely, my mom spent her time in the interim grieving what she’d given up only to discover years later that our first home was back on the market again. Before we knew it, we found ourselves right back where we had started. Back in that downtown bungalow, starting over in a neighborhood that felt familiar but foreign at the same time. But this time, her eyes were open: the what-ifs and curiosity of the past replaced by an appreciation for what she’d reclaimed.

An Unexpected Perspective

When I told my mom about our own conundrum, I think she saw in me a version of herself from long ago. She voiced her worry that moving would make me unhappy; that I would be reliving her mistakes. Downplaying her concern, I reassured her that we’d put quite a lot of thought into our decision. But I knew she had read my mind. Would taking a risk for something different make me regret losing the good thing I already had?

But she had also given me the gift of perspective; my childhood had been happy. I had not been damaged in any way. In fact, it made it clear that no matter how many times we relocated, we’d always had the constant of each other. As children, we saw the adventure in the journey, and we flourished despite a change of address.

The what-ifs are attached to any decision we make, no matter the size of it. Wondering what life would be like if we’d moved, or wondering what life would be like if we’d stayed. But my kids will be ok. Our family will be ok. 

Fear is a Liar

What is the cost of living in fear? Of never trying because you’re afraid you will fail? There are days when I let the fear win, knowing I should have taken a risk but didn’t. Usually, my failures are small in comparison. Like when I lie in bed at night rehashing the argument I had that morning with my 9-year-old about wearing a coat to school, wishing I had approached things differently. 

But I’m also trying to teach my children to live fearlessly. To take the power away from their fear and turn it into courage. And how can I preach that line to them if I’m not leading by example, at least some of the time?

living away from fear

Now I can see the floor again in the aftermath of the moving boxes. I’ve unpacked my dishes into my new kitchen cabinets, and we’re no longer eating on paper plates out of necessity. I’m sitting on the other side of the fear that once told me not to trust, and I’m still here and I’m still happy. My children are resilient. And it’s true, not everything is perfect. But not everything is always perfect anyway. Another fact of life.

So while I still question my decisions most days, I’m learning to trust myself, to put my faith in what’s bigger than me, and to remember that I don’t want to miss out on life by letting fear do the living for me.

If you’re looking for further inspiration, here is a great article by Dawn Miller about finding the courage to try new things.

Holly Johnson

A native to Northern Colorado and raised by a police officer and a flight attendant, Holly left home for her first year of college but returned to Colorado to receive her degree in elementary education. She met her husband while working at a café owned by his mom! After teaching for a number of years, Holly took a hiatus from education to raise her own kids. She and her husband live in Windsor with their fur baby, tenderhearted seven-year-old son and spunky three-year-old daughter. She values the vibrant community of women she is surrounded by, especially since becoming a mother. You can find Holly wake surfing or paddle boarding in the summer and skiing during the winter. Other hobbies include taking barre classes and catering to her sweet tooth. She hopes to bring some added humor to the day-to-day moments of motherhood and to be a voice for those, like herself, who must manage anxiety and the need for perfection in a demanding and imperfect world.

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