Courage Is Fear That Has Said Its Prayers

Tim Ferriss is my favorite podcast host. Podcasts entertain and inform me as I travel down the highways. Several days ago I listened to Ferriss’ interview with author Anne Lamott. Lamott quoted Dorothy Bernard, actress of the silent movie era who said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” 

Several friends stated that I was courageous to set out on my journey after disposing of my home, my automobile, and many other possessions, and leaving the familiar, secure environment of Memphis where I’d spent most of my 68 years. After Sarla passed away, an abyss opened up at my feet. I didn’t feel courageous. I felt displaced. The abyss was deeper than a redecoration could cure, or a new home, a new partner, or a shiny new recreational vehicle.

I had a hunch that a malleable road map would place me in a classroom where I might become teachable. I needed to lean in to being afloat. I had no clue, no owner’s manual about how to proceed. I would fill my tank and step on the gas. Though I don’t formally pray, I bowed to the intention to be led through the darkness of fear towards a brighter place. The intention became the spark that ignited the flint inside of me. 

Lamott gave examples of F-E-A-R as an acronym. One is “Future Events Already Ruined.” I considered that I screwed up by signing up for this nomadic test drive in the first place. I was overwhelmed by the size of my rig when I first came face to face with it. My anxiety flared at being behind the wheel for the first several thousand miles of driving. That fear manifested as an accident waiting to happen. My brakes would fail when driving down a mountainous descent, the rig would go over a cliff, and then smash into a tree. Shouldn’t I be driving a Smart Car instead of a 24 foot rig that gets 13 miles per gallon? I despaired about the dead end of coveting the narrower, shorter rigs of others that seemed so much more practical and maneuverable.

Lamott, an addict who cites teachings from the AA literature, also described another example of F-E-A-R as an acronym for “false evidence appearing real.” Though my chest was puffed large, inside I was afraid of the specter of uncertainty about where I was going, of the potential for aimlessness. I painted a picture of this suspense in a number of false ways. I was abandoning friends and family, I was cutting my own throat. I was abdicating responsibility. I would become a stranger on unfamiliar turf. I would run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. My dog, Lola would die.

I settled into being my own priority. My parents raised their three children to be socially conscious, to be attentive to the needs and interests of others. The manifestation of this lesson was to not ask what I wanted, but to ask how I could orient my life towards service. Though this parental guidance had merit, turning my attention towards claiming what I wanted has been a discipline. At times it has felt more selfish than courageous. Identifying and satisfying my own desires is self serving, but the interplay between self care and service to others is huge. 

Lamott speaks of spiritual fitness. In my world, it’s when fear and anxiety abate. After almost three months on the road I no longer identify as an uncertainty junkie. Instead, I feel comfortably clueless about so many things, especially about the path in front of me. Not knowing isn’t a death sentence. The textbook of my spiritual fitness class is writing itself as the path unfolds. One of its key elements is the restoration of my sense of humor. Laughter is medicine. Letting the road rise to meet me is important, but it’s not exclusively serious. Lamott describes laughter as “carbonated holiness.”

Writing this blog is my way of making my world more spacious, where boundaries created by fear begin to dissolve. It’s my courage, my fear saying its prayers.


Published by jmlewisjr

Hello. This is Jimmy Lewis. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee. My golden doodle, Lola and I are leaving on a North American tour in May, 2021. We'll be traveling in a 2021 Jayco Melbourne 24L motorhome. We have neither time constraints nor exact destination specifications. We'll spend May in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and then head north through New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont. If Canadians resume the practice of putting out a welcome mat for Americans, then we'll cross the border.  The seed for this journey began after my wife, Sarla passed away in May, 2020. Sarla was a yogi. An early yoga teacher of hers implored her to "Have what you need, and use what you have." As I prepare to close on the sale of our home on April 30, 2021, I'm deciding what I need based on the likelihood of using what I have. I give some things away without a flicker of feeling. When more meaningful items like the piano I inherited from my parents leave the premises, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend for the last time. Sarla's death lessened my attachment to the home we had enjoyed for 15 years and life as I knew it. I didn't need and couldn't possibly use a house that could satisfy the needs of a family with four children. I'll no longer experience residence, a concept identified with staying in a specified place, as I've heretofore known it. Life will never be the same, nor do I want to attempt to shape my future into a likeness of what I once knew.   I've set my sights on adventure. I want to be challenged by not knowing who or what I'll meet on the road. The outdoors is one of my default antidotes for stress. Other than my rig, I won't have an indoors base. Whereas others might opt to downsize so that they have the stability of a landing spot, I won't be able to go "home" as I've known it. I'm jazzed about the prospect of being at the whim of the muse, to go where my finger lands on turning pages of the Rand McNally atlas. My dog, Lola is indifferent even though I've been talking to her about the journey every day. She looks quizzically at me when I enthusiastically say we're hitting the road together. I'm confident that she'll do well. We've previously driven together to and from a destination 12 hours from home. She curiously gazed out the window and occasionally snoozed in the passenger seat. She didn't express displeasure about the podcasts and music selection that I chose to entertain and inform me while driving. This trip isn't driven by personal goals. Will I learn more about myself? Will I take advantage of the opportunity to reflect? Will I be lonely? Will I be uneasy? I'm motivated by a curiosity to follow the questions.

3 thoughts on “Courage Is Fear That Has Said Its Prayers

  1. Jimmy it was a pleasure to meet you and Lola. This blog is very well written and thought provoking. Please have safe travels on you journey.


    1. Hey Bob, I just read this comment of yours today. Thanks for your compliment. I’m on my last day in Finland, near where you and Sally stayed at Tettegouchie. I’m glad we bumped into one another. Jimmy


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