A Few Thoughts About Fear

Everyone is afraid of something.  It doesn’t matter how brave you think you are, there will always be something that makes you shudder.  Maybe you have no problem climbing a mountain, but cannot bear to go to the dentist.  The very idea of that drill boring into your teeth makes you want to run for cover.  Or perhaps you think nothing of working deep beneath the earth’s surface, but the sight of blood makes you faint.  It happens.

In a children’s book called The Bus Ride, by Marianne Dubuc, the author shows us how danger is an inherent part of life. It’s about a little girl who takes her very first bus ride alone to visit her grandmother, and finds herself helping to scare off a thief. The story reminds us all that whenever we venture out alone, there’s going to be an element of risk involved.  I find this idea surprisingly comforting.  There’s no ideology attached to it, no waiting for the stars to be aligned before you make a move.  And yet, it takes practice to give up control, and perhaps a little faith.  Faith in the self.

But where does faith come from?  I’m really not sure.  Maybe it takes practice to believe in the self.  Buckminster Fuller says if we want to change our reality, we need to build a new model.  In other words, we have to change how we think about something. This makes a lot of sense to me.

I remember a number of years ago wanting to visit my family in England after an absence of over two decades.  I was scared because I’d have to travel home alone.  But I wanted to go so badly I knew that I’d have to do it anyway.  This seems to be key to me.  I have to want something badly enough to be able to deal with the fear.  Anyway, I did go to England and nothing bad happened to me.  When I told my son that all went well because the universe supported my choice he said, “I find it interesting that you give credit to the universe when all goes well, but blame yourself when it doesn’t.  Isn’t it possible that you had something to do with the fact that all did go well?”  Interesting.

This new perspective of myself was enlightening.  Maybe I’m more capable than I think I am.  Just because I have a hearing loss which makes me self-conscious at times, doesn’t mean I can’t do things for myself.  Sure there were times I had to ask for help, but I did it and I arrived safely wherever I needed to be.   And that’s what counts. One of the stumbling blocks I have about driving alone is I’m afraid that I won’t be able to manage if something goes wrong.  Clearly, I need to rethink this notion.

When I turned fifty, I thought about getting my nose pierced. I was sure it would hurt a whole lot more than when I got my ears pierced. I talked about it, and I asked others who had gotten it done, but still I hesitated.  One of my co-workers challenged me by saying, “Instead of talking about it all the time, why don’t you just do it.” That was the catalyst I needed to make it a reality.  I got my nose pierced, and guess what?  It wasn’t so bad at all.  This is a message I need to transfer to driving long distances alone:  JUST DO IT.  Sure it will be scary.  My palms will probably sweat. I’ll most likely lose sleep the night before my trip, and my heart will be in my throat, and I’ll get that tightness in the pit of my stomach.  But guess what?  It won’t kill me.

If I don’t overcome my fear, it will always be in front of me.  It has been my experience that everything we don’t do because we’re afraid, it has a way of turning up again and again until we are ready to say yes.  If I can overcome my fear of going to university – and my fear was immense – I know I can overcome my fear of driving long distances on the highway.

I keep using the term, “overcome fear”, and that’s wrong.  We don’t overcome fear, we find ways to work through it.  A girlfriend of mine who often drives long distances alone says that she feels safe by having a cell phone along when she’s traveling.  She also listens to books on tape to keep her company.  I think I’d add food and water to that list, and I’ve even consider taking self-defence classes to feel safe as a woman traveling alone. I’ve had women friends say having a GPS is a blessing when they get lost.  All of these things are definitely within my reach.

Categories: Memoir

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