Kristin Armstrong on Choosing Love Over Fear
Armstrong writes about living more mindfully and creating your own narrative
By Kristin Armstrong
Artwork by Shaylin Wallace
There are dreams, plans, renderings, meetings and approval processes when we choose to build or remodel a home, yet most of us go about the architecture of our lives with much less deliberate intention.
We fill our hours, which become our days, which turn into our years (much by default), doing the next thing or doing things the way we’ve always done them. It’s why careers stall, relationships wither away, beloved hobbies are forgotten, health and vitality wane and bucket lists turn into f*cket lists. Passion that is not stoked becomes burnout. When we are busy thoughtlessly filling time, life can become strangely empty. We may look up and be surprised by what we see, or blindsided by what isn’t there.
I have been approaching the threshold of the second half of my life with great interest, reading books, taking notes, journaling, meditating and asking questions of people I admire who have already (brilliantly, intentionally) started a thriving Part Two. I’m learning so much. I probably should have started this quest at the quarter mark, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Perhaps it has taken me until now to form some better questions.
“I will choose what gets left back in Part One, and what gets to cross over with me into Part Two.”
A few common themes have bubbled to the surface of my inquiry. One is that pain is a catalyst. People who have walked through the fire of adversity are honed and transformed in a way that comfort can never replicate. The other component of that catalyst, perhaps the even more important part, is that people who navigate a painful season and figure out how to keep their hearts open are the most interesting, gorgeous, desirable people of all. The greatest tragedy or trauma is never your tragedy or your trauma, it’s what you do with your heart afterwards. Most people close. Some stay open, no matter what. It’s a choice, often made thousands of times a day.
Another theme is energy. We tend to think our treasures are time, relationships, health, success or possessions — and in some ways they are. But, at a deeper level, it’s all about energy, which is the essence of time, relationships, health, success and possessions. Our energy is our priceless resource, because what we choose to focus on is what expands. Where we put our attention is what becomes. People who know this are very wise with their energy. They meditate to expand and direct it, they focus it deliberately to create, they choose it by taking responsibility for what they think about and decide in advance how they want to feel. They realize that no one can hijack their energy without their consent, so they live in absolute peace and freedom. Sign. Me. Up.
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Another theme is fear. Most of the time, fear isn’t real. Fear is primal and real when it’s our amygdala warning us of imminent threat. It is very helpful when we need to avoid the dark alley with the serial killer hiding behind the trash bin. Most of the time our amygdala is more like the car alarm going off needlessly in broad daylight in the H-E-B parking lot. For some people, it goes off so often they tune it out, and live with the inflammatory hum of constant, underlying stress. There are so many things we don’t say, try, or allow ourselves to feel because we are afraid of failure. Thrivers in Part Two have made the decision to choose love instead of living in fear. They call failures “lessons” and refuse to regret unmade leaps. Recently I was discussing courage with Amber, my energy-healer-Reiki-goddess-friend. I shared my hesitation in reaching for something I really, really want. She said, “Kristin, remember, you cannot cross a chasm in two leaps.”
Finally, there is the theme of story, specifically the idea that how we tell our story actually becomes our story. This may sum up all of the above … open-heartedness, energy, and choosing love over fear. We can narrate our lives from the perspective of a victim or a badass. We can choose words that convey expansion, learning, compassion, abundance, redemption and empowerment. Or we can tell a small, sad, cautionary tale of loss, regret, mistakes, limitation, blame and abandonment. Now that I am acutely aware of this (because I listen to people tell me their stories all day long — we all do actually, whether we do it for a living or not), I will sometimes even stop myself mid-sentence when I’m talking to someone and do an extemporaneous rewrite. Actually, what I meant to say was that I …
I don’t even want a page of my second half to be turned before the ink dries unless I love my narrative.
I close this column as the last whisper of my 40s bids me farewell. And mark my words, I will fare well. I will choose what gets left back in Part One, and what gets to cross over with me into Part Two. I will keep the doors to my heart brazenly flung wide open, perhaps even take them off the hinges altogether. I will hone my energy and direct it with precision at what I want to think about, and how I want to feel. I will write my life story as a voluminous, epic adventure.
From this moment until I cross my final chasm, I will get a running start and leap into the waiting arms of Love.