Have you ever mentioned something you did, or want to do to someone, only to have them respond “I couldn’t do that!” Isn’t that a silly response? Of course you can do it. You just don’t want to badly enough.
I was born a fearful person. My father has video of my sister (a year younger) jumping down a step and me waiting for Mom to hold my hand so I could follow her. As a child I had to go back and get my Mom to walk me to school because I was afraid of a squirrel that was “looking at me”. I still hate squirrels. They’re furry rats with creepy eyes that I find scary. People laugh at me but many of them are afraid of spiders. Seriously? At least you can just step on those!
My fear of bees was so intense that it made blackberry picking terrifying. The buzzing deer flies sounded like bees, which made me so scared I’d feel like vomiting. Exposure to honey bees in a hive while helping a sister in law with fencing finally cured me of that. Her impatience with my “silliness” embarrassed me to the point that I was determined to overcome it. That was the key. I KNEW it was silly. I KNEW the fear was irrational. It took awhile but eventually my head convinced my heart and I can now tolerate buzzing bees with NO FEAR!
Heights are not as easy to deal with. I had such an intense case of acrophobia that I had to get my sister to hold my hand so I could walk an eight foot length of 2″ X 6″ inch board to enter the house we were building. I would climb over several partitions rather than walk a board only 4′ off the ground across the top. I didn’t like elevators. I would scream if someone ELSE got too close to a cliff edge. I had to hold another persons hand to walk over a suspension bridge in a nearby park, and my stomach churned to the point that I was nauseated.
Yet today I jumped out of an air plane.
I’m often amazed when people tell me I’m brave. Who ME? You’ve got to be kidding! Yes, I love to travel. Now that my kids are grown and I’m reasonably financially stable, I DO it. Does it scare me? YES! The few days before I go somewhere, I panic. I pack and unpack, worry myself sick about what will happen at home while I’m gone or that my family can’t survive without me there. I think about all the terrible things that can happen to me in the place I’m visiting, worry that my paper work is not in order and above all, I worry about about getting in an accident or stuck in traffic on the way to the airport.
So why, then, would I DO such things? Because I’ve learned that in facing my fears and not giving in, I really LIVE. If I give in to fear, I don’t do anything. Once I’m in the airport and on my way, I relax. That’s when the excitement kicks in and I realize I’m free. Travelling gives me a sense of freedom that I’ve never experienced before. I can be just me and not have to play a role. I’m not a business owner, committee member, wife, mother, grandma….etc. I’m just Jodi. I can throw away all my preconceived ideas of what a country is like and just learn. Meeting new people of different ethnic groups in their own space is fascinating. The feeling of getting lost in a strange city where you don’t even speak the language is exhilarating. The first few times it happened, it was terrifying but I’ve learned that fear is not reality. Getting lost is a great way to really see a place. Having a deep conversation with a complete stranger is WAY more fun than small talk with acquaintances or colleagues. Watching a documentary can’t replace the thrill of seeing a lion, elephant or giant tortoise in the wild, the wonderment of seeing ancient ruins up close and personally, the smell of an erupting volcano, a path through a eucalyptus grove or the rain forest, the euphoria of watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu, the thrill of swimming with wild dolphins or sea lions and the feeling of accomplishment in hiking a mountain or walking the camino.
So, when my daughter said she was considering going sky diving, I said “I’m coming too!” I’m pretty sure she was thinking “who are you and what have you done with my mother?” She knows how hard I tried to conceal fear when any of my kids did “scary” things. I never wanted to inflict my fear on them or let it stop them from experiencing whatever it was they wanted to try. She’s the one who made me try horse back riding (NO THANKS!) and zip lining.
Honestly? This time I wasn’t even scared. I listened carefully to the instructions and when it came time to jump, there was no time for fear. Justin, the instructor and guy on my back, just jumped and I ….. enjoyed. Just under a minute of free falling through the sky from 15,000′ is the ultimate in freedom. You feel like you’re floating, flying way above the clouds. Then there’s the weird misty feeling as you float through a cloud and see nothing but whiteness. When the parachute comes out there’s a bit of a tug and you can breathe easier. Justin spun us around and I witnessed the Thousand Islands and Rideau canal system from above. It was beautiful! Once I could see my grand kids on the ground I could even smile and wave. The landing was easy and when the parachute fell on top of us I could hear 3 year old Chloe laughing in excitement. What a rush! Once my feet were firmly on the ground, the realization of what I had just done kicked in. My legs shook. My heart pounded. That’s okay. I DID it, enjoyed it and was exhilarated!
The point in all this is that if a big chicken like me can do these things, certainly you can. Don’t let fear stop you. Stop over thinking. That’s still my mantra when something scares me “Don’t over think. Stop thinking and just DO it!” It’s okay to be cautious, prepared and keep safety in mind but never let fear stop you from doing something that piques your curiosity and opens your mind.
I still suffer from acrophobia but I don’t let it stop me. My stomach still drops and the nausea kicks in if I have to climb a ladder, cross a rope bridge or even just go down a steep hill. Oh well. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, right?