Monday, March 4, 2013

Lessons in Fear

Ever seem to have a recurring "theme" show up in your life.  They stay for a while, until you've accomplished/learned what it is you've needed to and then the next "theme" starts.  Almost like selecting "random" on your screen saver settings.  You just never know what image or pattern is going to emerge next!

It seems the theme for me at the moment is, "Fear: Facing It, Acknowledging It, Pushing Past It".  Notice, I didn't have an "overcoming" part in there.  In my mind, "Overcome" conjures images of great battles that are fought and then won.  The enemy defeated and rendered powerless.  I cannot say that of myself in relation to fear.

I use to think of fear as being something that should be "overcome".  My many attempts to overcome fear left me feeling even more powerless and weak.  Each failure cementing the fear more solidly within my heart and mind.  Like a big old playground bully, it would taunt me, shame me, pester me.  Mercilessly shouting out lists of things that I could never accomplish, be or do.  Like many who are bullied, I accepted It's daily appearance in my life and simply saw it as "Life According to Me."  Then something changed.  Nothing really big, just something small.  I found myself questioning the taunting tirades.  Not all at once, but simple, small statements.  One at a time. As I have written at length, it started with taking horseback riding lessons as an adult.  There was lots to push past.  I was very obese when I started.  When was the last time you saw a rotund rider jumping fences or doing dressage?  I was almost forty years of age.  My forty year old, substantial body found the optimal rider position very unnatural and would scream it's protest after every lesson.  The first lesson was the most mortifying.  Five minutes into it, my thighs were VISIBLY shaking!  I could see the instructor question the wisdom of her decision to let me take lessons.  I chose to ignore, what in my opinion, was a disapproving look and surprised her by showing up the following week for my second lesson.  Wanting to get my legs stronger and my body in better shape, I had started exercising three times a week.  A month later, my legs were much stronger, I had lost a fair amount of weight and was generally beginning to feel better about myself.  There was just this little problem with my heels.  You see in riding, it's very important to keep your heels down.  Once again, my body started rebelling, and my right ankle in particular.  It would begin hurting and sometimes be so stiff it was almost impossible to get my heels down.  My trainer spoke to me about my exercise routine and as she continued speaking, it began to feel to me like she was trying to discourage my exercise routine.  I was saddened.  Discouraged.  Normally at this point, I would let Fear's argument win out.  You're too old to be doing this.  And exercising is messing up your riding.  You're never going to be good enough and never going to succeed!  You're making a fool of yourself!   Instead, I decided to continue with both my exercise routine and my riding.  I found exercises that would help increase the flexibility in my ankles and added them to my little circuit.  My ankles still would hurt every now and then, but they were staying down, and I was getting stronger.  Then winter came with it's icy wind that froze your marrow and hurt your teeth? Huh?  That can't be right?!  I did what every mature adult does in situations like those.  I ignored the pain.  Tried to keep my mouth closed on cold morning riding lessons or hacks and hoped it would get better.  It didn't.  So finally, I had to face my next fear and head off to the dentist.  God was kind to me and had the perfect "set-up" arranged.  The young lady that use to babysit for me was working as a dental assistant for a local dentist in town.  When I had mentioned in a FB status that my mouth was hurting, she immediately responded with a "Come see us!"  I "uhmmed" and "aaaahed" and finally gave in.  The initial consult revealed things were far worse than I had imagined.  I would need a crown and a couple of fillings.  All I heard was ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching interspersed with screams and cries echoing from a medieval torture chamber.  I squared my shoulders and took it one little step and alteration at a time.  My courage was rewarded by discovering my friend's employer to be a very competent, knowledgeable and gentle dentist!  Visits to dentist have become something I look forward to now and not something I run away from. And no, I did not end up in unspeakable pain, mouth forever ruined and me relegated to hide from all polite society.  I also did not embarrass myself by screaming like a banshee either!

My daughter had her own little face off with fear the other day.  She was having her little riding lesson. She was doing well until, while practising a jump, she lost her stirrup.  I could see the I want to get off and never do this again look flash briefly across her little face.  I walked over to her, to make sure she was okay, and to make sure she knew how very proud I was that she had not lost her seat on her pony during all that.  I encouraged her to give it another go.  She looked at me and her trainer doubtfully, but urged her pony forward and redid the jump.  This time she looked like a pro!  On the way home we were talking about her lesson.  She told me that she had been scared, but when she got it right the next time over, she felt so proud of herself.  I explained to her that being brave doesn't mean you're not scared.  It means you are scared, but you choose to push past that feeling and complete the task regardless.

I've used these little lessons in Fear to help me in other aspects in my life.  I've decided not to focus on "overcoming" fear.  I choose instead, to push past it and work through it.  I am still aware of it's taunts.  I still feel it's presence depending on the situation, but I look it squarely in the eye and then push past it.  No longer do I allow it to immobilize me.  Or silence me.  I choose not to allow it to dismiss me or minimize me.  I see it.  I feel it, and then I move through it.

There will be many more battles fought against this bully, but as long as I continue to move on, it's ability to get the better of me, diminishes.

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