-The Shoes of the Fisherman, Morris West
Welcoming rejection in my home
At the very start of this relationship, before I had even admitted my feelings for the guy I liked, I was gripped with a fear of rejection. I was afraid that he wouldn’t feel the same way. And I know I’m not special in this. Everyone feels this sort of anxiety when they realize they like someone. It’s often disorienting, stressful, makes you want to bury your head in the sand and hide there forever and ever. But after days of feeling literally sick to my stomach, I decided enough was enough. I sat down in a quiet room and welcomed rejection into my home. That’s right, I welcomed him in my home.
I imagined rejection as a man knocking on my door. So instead of barring the door and the windows shut, I welcomed him in. I led him to my dining room table and asked him to sit and dine with me. I prepared a meal for him, and dessert too. I asked him if he’d like to take a walk through my home, if there was anything I had that he wanted to take from me. I asked him to spend the night. And I welcomed him to stay as long as he might want, and also to return whenever he felt the need. My door, I imagined, would always be open to him.
And I meant it. My fear and anxiety subsided quite a bit. I admitted to my guy that I liked him. And wonderfully enough, rejection didn’t visit my home at all. My feelings were returned, and this guy and I rolled into those typical lovey dovey feelings that every couple goes through at the beginning of a relationship.
After that, I had to accept other fears that popped up during the relationship, and I also had to deal with some fears that had nothing to do with the relationship. I dealt with fear of loss, fear of heartbreak, fear of “not being good enough.” And for all of these, I went through the same ritual. I managed to quell the fears somewhat with this practice of inviting them into my home. I was able to accept them all and live life anyway.
It’s not “all in your head.”
Up until this point, my fears hadn’t been realized. I feared rejection, I feared loss, I feared heartbreak and lost opportunity, but none of them entered my home at any point. I was never rejected, I never lost anything, I never experienced heartbreak. It was like I was afraid for nothing! And then out of nowhere, my boyfriend and I broke up, and they all came to me at once. Rejection, loss, and heartbreak tore through my home, claiming my possessions, demanding warm meals and a cozy bed. It was sudden. It was painful. It shook me to the core. I wondered and wondered how I let this happen and how I could be so stupid to trust this guy. I doubted everything that a week earlier I had believed in with the utmost conviction.
Pain is real. Rejection is real. Betrayal is real. Our fears aren’t for nothing. They aren’t just all in our head. But the beautiful thing is that even when we’re afraid, we still have a choice. We can choose to trust others or we can choose to walk alone. We can choose to embrace our fears, or ignore them, or reject them. We can choose to embrace pain, or ignore it, or reject it. But at the end of it all, after all of the good feelings and bad feelings alike, through the highs and lows, I feel certain that it’s better to accept fear, pain, rejection, betrayal, and the like than to ignore them. When you ignore them, they have power over you. They threaten you, torment you constantly. They never let you rest. They never let you think.
But when you accept your fears and the possibility of failure, most of your anxiety is replaced with peace. Not all of it, but a lot. And sure, your fears can come back to take what they claim is theirs. But until that moment, you can relax and enjoy your life as it is.
What I’ve taken away from all this
So this failed relationship has taught me two things: First, that those things we’re afraid of are very real. Rejection is very real. Loss is very real. And second, I have come to learn that the peace and power that come from accepting the possibility of my fears being realized is worth the debt that they might someday come to collect. A chance at love is worth the gamble. It’s worth the pain. And I’m certain that this lesson can be applied to other aspects of my life. I have a choice in everything. I can choose whether I want to embrace my fears or let them control me. Even when I lose, even when my fear rolls through my home like a tornado, I can stand by my choice and choose to keep living.