Dear Fear, I am breaking up with you. It’s over. Seriously. I’m done. Pack up your self-defeating attitude and go. Thanks, Elin
For years too many to count I have been riding shotgun to this thing called FEAR.
Don’t get me wrong I am not afraid to use my voice, that’s a fear I thankfully overcame years ago…
I have a tendency to be preoccupied with the countless things that might or could go wrong–especially where anyone I love is concerned.
“The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside of us while we live.” -Norman Cousins
You probably know somebody like me. Who knows, maybe you are a person like me.
I have to think that the universe was having fun with me when it sent me children that would grow up to enjoy adrenaline seeking sports. Surfing, rock climbing, wake boarding-just to list a few. Safe to say (haha) that I will never get accustomed to logging onto Facebook only to find pictures of my son that give me vertigo just by looking at them.
People like me worry about things that might happen. We machinate over things that haven’t happened. And worse? We worry about things that probably never will happen. Ever. Those things frighten us. They sometimes even stomp through our dreams. But no one, and I repeat no one, really wants to hear about my dreams.
But that’s not where it ends.
The other thing that happens to people like me, people who have fear driving them around as if they were a mere passenger in their own bloody life. We stop doing things. Cool things. Fun things. And we do this because we are petrified that it could end us. Clearly, my issues have not affected my kids…yet.
I still remember Max saying, “But that’s your problem, not mine, Mommy.” in response to my telling him I was worried he would hurt himself with the knife he was using to cut an apple. Talk about out of the mouths of babes. It was my problem. He actually cut the apple expertly. I watched, ready to pounce if something went wrong, but it didn’t. He happily cut up his apple, looked at me with an enormous grin and said, “See that? I did it. I told you all that worry was your problem.”
It wasn’t always this way.
When I was younger fear didn’t have the upper hand. In fact, I did things I now consider brave. I rode horses. Swam in Long Island Sound. Body surfed in the Atlantic and the Pacific. I could land a flip (front and back) on a trampoline. Took a trapeze class. Rode in a hot air balloon. I even took a ride in a glider plane. I dirt biked on trails. Swam in lakes. Jumped off a few cliffs. Skinny dipped. Pool hopped. Hiked mountains. Rock climbed. Skied. Hitchhiked. Traveled alone, in a jungle, in Guatemala. And, believe it or not, sometimes I was even reckless.
I would never have predicted that fear would call my shots.
There isn’t one experience that I can point to that stands out. A moment in time, that when I look back over my shoulder at it I can point my finger and say, “That’s where fear came from.”
I once read that FEAR stands for, “False Evidence Appearing Real.” True. But there’s more to it.
Fear stems from lack of control. Lack of control can be described in countless ways but the one best to illustrate my overall point happened twelve years ago. The experience sadly has stayed with me since and an epiphany has me on the road to change that.
Twelve years ago I nearly drowned.
It was one of those gorgeous October evenings, hot from a Santa Ana, and my son Max and I had gone to the beach. I remember looking up to see the ocean lit up with the last hours of orange and pink light, and Max, far from the water’s edge, was surrounded by dolphins. As I ran toward the water, I thought how wonderful it would be if I could join him before the dolphins left. But as I headed toward him I was pummeled by a set of waves. After being thrown around in the surf like a rag doll, I literally crawled from the water to the sand.
It was awful. After, the only thing I could focus on was how lucky it was that my child hadn’t had to watch me drown.
That single experience, less than 5 minutes of gut-wrenching struggle, emotionally paralyzed me. Since that time I have been in the water once, it was very hot and there wasn’t a wave in site.
The other day it hit me, I have let that one experience define how I view swimming in the ocean. That one horrific incident where I thought I was going to drown usurped all the years that came before it when body surfing was something that I loved.
For goodness sake, I survived domestic violence and I didn’t let that define me. So why? Why have I allowed my fears to mount? Why have I allowed worry to suck away my time? I really honestly don’t know. But I do know this….
So that’s it. I surrender. Needless self-imposed worry has sucked enough potential living out of me.
It may take a while to swim in the ocean without fear, but I sure as hell plan to try. But the other day I got my toes wet. And it made my heart beat wild. Maybe I won’t conquer all of my fears, but getting my feet wet is a start. In so many ways I feel as if what I am really doing is learning how to swim. Or fly. Whatever it is…I celebrate the change.
What about you, has fear or worry influenced decisions in your life? What did you do to overcome it?