Lately I’ve been thinking about how to stop flinching. Which brings me to the apricot empanaditas that I made for Christmas.
Christmas Eve afternoon, I was happily working in my kitchen, preparing to host the next day’s family dinner. Making the apricot tarts was one of those fun, time-consuming recipes that was only possible during the holiday season, and I was enjoying the process.
I prepared and chilled the dough, and rolled it out onto my counter. I used a tiny biscuit cutter to make decorative little circles, and began to spread the apricot filling over them. It’s then I realized that I was flinching.
I was hurrying. Hurrying through the simple process of spreading delicious cooked filling onto the dough rounds.
Since reading Julien Smith’s book, The Flinch I have become more aware of this low-level fear that can sneak into daily life. Not fear that an Alaskan grizzly was going to smash through the casement windows and reach his big paw in for a treat. Nothing life-threatening. I wasn’t afraid of burning the pastries, because I hadn’t even put them in the oven yet. I wasn’t afraid that people would spit them out in disgust or that my domestic skills would be called into question. Not yet.
I was hurrying because I was afraid I was doing it wrong. Was I putting in too much filling? The recipe warned that if you used too much filling, it could seep out the edges! Or not enough filling? Would my guests bite into a bit of pastry and have no filling at all? What would they think of me if there was not enough filling? Would they frown at me? What if I ran out of filling? What if I had filling left over?
I didn’t consciously think all these thoughts while filling the tarts. But I was hurrying, aware on some level that I was making a mistake, or about to make a mistake, somehow. I was flinching at the very process I enjoyed just a few minutes earlier.
Julien Smith explains that the flinch – that “fight or flight” response – served us well when we were actually being chased by a bear. In survival mode, everything else falls away, and the flinch serves to heighten our awareness to the urgency of the situation.
The problem comes when we start flinching at every little thing, because flinching can prevent you from fulfilling your dream, your art, your life purpose. It’s so much easier to keep barreling headlong down the same, known, boring path than it is to face your fears.
Here’s a list of ways I’ve observed myself flinching.
- Saying “I hate it when…” which is nothing more than dread, a sneaky form of fear.
- Thinking ahead to guess the next pose that the yoga instructor is about to announce, which is one that I CANNOT DO, and trying to figure out how I will conveniently have to go to the bathroom instead. Or pick the lint off my mat. Or massage a cramp in my foot.
- Rushing when I don’t really have to.
- Reading a work email about a new urgent project and sighing over it. (Really, what has sighing ever done for us?)
- Staying up too late at night, which causes me to oversleep and miss my writing time.
- Pizza, which is akin to giving up entirely.
- Not starting a project because I’m afraid of failure.
Julien Smith says that The Flinch is such an important work that he’s made it free to everyone. You can get it free here as a Kindle download.
Nike said Just do it.
TV evangelist Joyce Meyer says Do it afraid.
I say, read Julien Smith’s life-changing book, and see what happens.
“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson