Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Facing Down Fears

Sometimes I am amazed at the number of fears and neuroses I've developed over the years. Today I find myself at midlife displaying a distinctly hesitating step when moving into new areas. Why is that? Has life taught me to be cautious or this just a lack of belief in myself? These are questions I'm willing to ask myself.

I won't say that I haven't ever taken a risk. At age 41, I learned to swim. Let me tell you - I was terrified when I went for my first lesson, and I was pretty well convinced that there was no way that my 19-year-old instructor was going to get me to pick my feet up off of the bottom of the pool. Yet she did, and I was floating by the end of lesson 1. Within a couple of weeks, I was swimming the length of the pool. I never quite got past my issues with the deep end of the pool by the time we moved away and had no more access to the pool, but I was swimming and enjoying myself.

It was also a big risk in going back to school. I was fairly sure that I was too long out of school and too dumb (where do I get these things??) to succeed. At age 44, I graduated magna cum laude.

You see, life keeps teaching me that I can do these things, that I can succeed at the things that matter to me. And yet I still stockpile fears like grenades in an ammo dump. Is it a female thing? Is it just the product of my upbringing? Or is it just me? Regardless of the answer, I know that I have a few more fears to face down.

I have to get over my fear of going out in the weather. Like many people I've had a few bad falls in the winter, so I've developed this fear of going out when it might be a little slippery. I feel it's a realistic fear, but it also stops me from getting out sometimes.

I have to get over my fear of my own health stopping me from doing things. Very often I need a rest at the end of my work day, even though I work from home. With school fast approaching (in 2 weeks!), I will have a couple of days a week in which I will have no time for a rest break.

And I have to get over my fear of each new activity causing me pain. I spent most of Sunday in pain this weekend because of raking the leaves. Ugh! But I'm not going to stop living just to avoid pain. What doesn't kill me...you know? I know quite a few people who become very reclusive (more so even than me!) when illness and pain strikes. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that so many people in our culture want us to put on a good face and pretend nothing is wrong. It's very hard to do when you really don't feel well. Sad, yes?

When I read back over this, I realize that I've already faced so many fears, what am I worried about? What's the worst that can happen? The answer is - nothing I can't handle!

The one secret for me - and it may not work for you - is not to think too much about the thing I fear, not to over-analyze it, but to just close my eyes and take the plunge, like taking that first step out of the door of an airplane, feeling the updraft of the wind on my face and the secure weight of the parachute pack at my back.

Yeah. But I won't be jumping out of any perfectly good airplanes anytime soon!

Peace - D

[photo credit]


Maggie May said...

I think you are pretty good at facing your fears.
I personally don't like the thought of falling & breaking something at my age, but that fear doesn't stop me going out as I have to work.
You are brilliant at learning to swim, something I have never conquered.
Pain is horrible. but you have to learn how much exercise your body can take and ration it out accordingly.
I am sure you will be OK! You are strong as I am sure you already know.

Jo said...

I don't think you are much different from the rest of us. We all have fears, so don't feel bad. I detest flying, and it stops me from going to so many wonderful places! I'm not crazy about walking on ice and snow either, and I have had a couple of bad falls this winter already.

I used to have a friend whose motto was "Don't let fear and common sense hold you back". I always laughed when he said it, but there is some truth to it.

It seems to me that you put your fears behind you and forge ahead! Swimming lessons at 41 ... how many people would do that!

Sarah said...

wow. This was exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks so much for writing it.


Akelamalu said...

We are never to old to learn if we set our minds to it. Overcoming fear is the only stumbling block isn't it? I know how you feel about going out when the weather is bad - I was always terrified of falling until I had my knee operation now it doesn't bother me too much. :)

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

My fear is that I'll get so set in my ways that I'll refuse to move outside my own little reality that I've created for myself.

I hope that fear never comes true. :)

Good on you for conquering yours!

Daryl said...

Just sitting down and writing this shows how aware you are and awareness is the beginning of change ... I wont be jumping out of any airplanes either but I am envious of your going back to school ..that is very brave!

Cloudia said...

This little essay moves from one reality to another, and brings the reader along. Just excellent. And authentic. And well-written. And effective for Me. You changed my own balance of fear/faith here now today.
Thanks for sharing this.
You will prosper & be even more than you now are. Of these I'm certain, friend. Warm Aloha-

San said...

You are accomplishing so much, Doris! And you are navigating these new territories beautifully.

I am impressed by the return to school and the swimming. One involves emotional courage, the other physical courage.

Happy New Year to you.

Moannie said...

Good on you girl, you are brave and fearless when you set your mind to something and you are never too old. Though I agree that going out in bad weather is something you should not contemplate.

RiverPoet said...

Lordy, I'm on a tight schedule tonight, but I just want to say to ALL of my commenters - You're AWESOME! I love you all, and I know that you, too - will be facing down your own fears.

We're stronger than they are!

Peace - D

the walking man said...

RP...I don't think we fear the act as much as the possible result.If we were to stop ourselves from acting because of what might happen then we refuse to grow; and that my dear you have never done.

I went to college for the first time at like age 46 and I quickly learned to major in that one true class that matters...napping. I am a world class napper now. Any old empty couch or chair suffices until the pain wakes me. Then back to it.

I remember standing on the 02 level of the U.S.S. Myles C. Fox DD829 scared shitless about jumping into 12000 feet of water...had i never jumped I'd not have another story to tell eh?

Just Jump is the motto of the day God has the end result covered.

RiverPoet said...

Mark - What an appropriate and welcome motto. You are absolutely right. And I, for one, am glad you lived to tell the story.

Peace - D

Burgh Baby said...

You got it right--there is nothing you can't handle.

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Hi Doris,
I can totally relate to your post... I too have had many fears over the years and have found it hard to overcome some of them.
Although in the last few years I feel that I have become stronger and find it easier to face them head-on.
I think the secret is not to dwell too much on how frightening they can seem...
All the best dear friend and I hope you're feeling a bit better X

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

This was absolutely delicious and I found myself shaking my head right there with you.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

There is good pain and bad pain, and sometimes it is hard to differentiate between the two. And sometimes not. :) I hope the reward is worth it in most cases.

Jay said...

I SO recognise where you are right now. This is exactly the position that Johnny Depp helped to rescue me from - and the reason my blog is called The Depp Effect. It has happened that way for many fearful, lacking-in-confidence middle-aged (though not exclusively middle-aged) ladies.

But you know what? You seem to have plenty of courage, to me. Remember: you cannot call yourself brave, unless you are first afraid. ;)

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...


Beverley Anne said...

Fear both drives us on and stops us in our tracks. I had a fear of going up in small aeroplanes (2-seater to 6-seater) but did it. I wouldn't say I no longer have fear but it is minimal - whereas my daughter rang me from Switzerland today and told me she was going paragliding - why didn't she tell me after the event? Now I fear what she is doing. I wonder if fear is related to our ability to actually control the situation. Just a thought!