ABC-Collage

No More Fear.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” ― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

You may have gathered this by now, but I’m an ideas person. On any given day I have a constant stream of them flowing through my head. Some I jot down, some I just sort of mull over. But most of these ideas never see the light of day. Why? Because of fear. Fear’s a very convincing liar, and whispers in my ear: “You know you can’t do it. You don’t have what it takes. Look at everyone else out there already doing what you want to do – and doing it way better. Just stay quiet. Stay small. It’s safer this way.” Fear assures me that if I go out on a limb, I’ll be rejected, humiliated, and will surely fail. Or, on the flip side, if by some miracle I actually succeed, fear tells me that it will be too much for me to handle and I’ll be revealed as a phony.

“So why try?” fear reasons. Why cause yourself unneccessary pain? Just focus on the things that keep life safe and comfortable: take the jobs that pay well, make sure the house stays spotless, clean out the pantry, answer some more emails, stay up on the to-do list. Stay in control. When the feeling that there’s more to life starts creeping in, just push it down. Eat something, drink something, watch TV, numb out.

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Here’s the thing: fear is deadly. It literally poisons us from the inside out. It keeps us paraylzed, so we never have a chance to see how big and beautiful and marvelous life can be when we step outside our comfort zone. This fear has been my constant companion for years, but especially as I’ve embarked on this cookbook journey. It took me 10 years to get started. (Granted, looking back those were valuable experience-building years, so no regrets. But still.) I remember having initial talks with a few close friends about this project last summer, and I remember feeling terrified that even they would laugh at me! Of course they didn’t – they were excited and encouraging and amazingly supportive. Which helped give me courage to keep pursuing my dream.

Author Steven Pressfield says in his excellent book The War of Art that “the more scared we are of a work or a calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” There’s literally a spiritual battle going on, with strong resistance pushing against the ideas that most need to be shared with the world. The resistance is there to keep our mouths shut, to keep our visions dormant. It’s only when we get intentional – and literally punch fear in the face – that we can start walking into our callings.

So let me tell you a story of how – with lots of prayer and support from friends (and a decent amount of chocolate-coated courage) – I faced my fear this past week. Since my shoot with Nate at Drift Studio last October, I’ve had an idea of having a dinner party there in celebration of the upcoming cookbook. I envisioned a long table, beautifully set, with rustic flower arrangements, and big platters of seasonal food served family-style. I dreamed of inviting editors and writers from some of my favorite magazines in the city. I’ve been mulling over this vision for awhile, but there were a few (big) problems: the space only has a table that seats 6 and no real kitchen. The cost of renting tables, chairs, all the glassware, plates, linens, and a kitchen, is astronomical. Plus the cost of food and wine and kitchen help. It all felt overwhelming. But the even bigger fear was: what if I invited all these editors and writers and they didn’t come?

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But something amazing happened. I talked to ABC Carpet & Home (one of my all-time favorite stores and a big collaborator on the cookbook) about the dinner party idea and they loved it. They said they’d love to co-host and that they’d provide the table, chairs, and all tableware. (What what?!) We picked a date, Nathan at Drift graciously said we could use his space, and my good friend and stylist Jenn Elliott Blake said she’d fly in from Seattle to style the event! I planned a spring menu, my sommelier friend Jean-Luc Le Du is doing the wine pairings, and all that was left was to invite the guests. I dragged my feet on this one (again: fear!) but finally put a list together last week. Fear tried to talk me out of some of the invitees (who do you think you are inviting them?!) but I refused to engage. This is my party…I’ll invite who I want! Ha.

The invites went out yesterday morning. I was so nervous I couldn’t eat (which never happens to me). I sipped coffee and tried not to think about people opening their invites at work. Soon enough, the yes’es started rolling in: New York Times, Wallpaper, F&W, Refinery 29, Yahoo Food, TIME, and several blogs I love. I nearly burst into tears from shock and amazement. As I thanked God for his goodness, a thought came into my mind: rather than viewing this as an event where I have to “perform” and everything has to be perfect – what if it was just another chance to love people? To give the guests a taste of what it’s like to gather around the yellow table? What if my goal was to make sure that every single person left feeling cared for and nourished, feeling like they had tapped into something authentic and beautiful and true. A wave of peace came over me once I shifted my perspective – off myself and onto the bigger vision.

What are you most afraid of? Do you have a dream that’s been burning in your heart, but you feel too afraid to take that first step? Enough is enough. It’s time to face your fear. Refuse to believe the lies that you’re not enough, and that your idea isn’t worth pursuing. Your story matters. You matter. Take that first step…it’s scary, but so, so worth it.

P.S. If you liked this post, you might like “Dreaming’s Easy…Now What?” and “The Most Powerful 3-Letter Word.”

P.S.S. Something else worth reading: Jon Acuff’s bestselling book Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters. I haven’t read it, but the title is awesome.

(Food photos in the collage by Signe Birck + a few few from my iPhone; prop photos by Elise Inman.)

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