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