In The Driver’s Seat – Notes on Driving Alone.
It seems to me that I am surrounded by fearless people. I have friends who travel across the country and across the world, alone. Even an elderly friend drives across the country alone without a cell phone. I always try to travel with a companion or not at all; cell phone or no cell phone. But in doing this, I am missing so many opportunities. I know this, and yet I live in fear that something bad might happen if things don’t go as planned. But the truth is, unexpected things can and do happen all the time. Such is the nature of life. Should I stop traveling altogether because I’m afraid? Not exactly a good position to be in when I plan to have a book out next year and need to travel if I want to market it.
Fear, I’m told, is a human condition. On the outside, it may seem like we are the only one who is afraid, but the reality is, everyone is fearful sometimes. While it is nice to know we’re not alone in our fear, it doesn’t exactly help us to overcome it. What we need are strategies. To that end, I did a bit of reading on the subject and would like to share what resonates with me.*
First we must recognize that which we fear: In my case I am most uncomfortable traveling on my own for fear that something bad might happen to me. What has contributed to this fear? Is it that in my youth I learned early on that the world isn’t a safe place? When something terrible happens that takes years to overcome, I tend to think twice about putting myself in a position that might involve a repeat episode. In this, I feel justified in my caution. Yet my caution has kept doors shut on my personal growth, as well as my professional growth as a writer.
Whatever you focus on grows worse: To continue to allow myself be held back by my fear of venturing forward on my own, contributes to a cycle of fear. If I continue to feel justified in my belief that the world isn’t a safe place, then it will continue to be so. “But the world isn’t a safe place,” you might say. You only have to read the papers to know that bad things happen to good people all the time. Yet despite this, people continue to take courage in hand, and reach for something better. Take the refugee crisis in Syria for example. They knew the risks involved, yet did it anyway. And the reward will be a better life for themselves and their children. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but it will happen. So how did they come to the conclusion? Maybe they took a look at what was happening around them and decided, “I can go on living in fear, or I can risk everything to end it.”
How to overcome fear: To start with I need to be kind to myself. It’s not helpful to keep beating myself up for being what I consider weak. If it was a friend who was afraid of something I’d be all compassion and search for way to help them. First I’d tell them to trust themselves and their abilities. If something does go wrong, I know they’re perfectly capable of coping. Then I’d tell them to develop some strategies to help to overcome their fear. For me that would be having a GPS, a cell phone, food, water, and perhaps to break up the trip if it’s a long one. Two shorts trips sounds better than one long one. I also need to be highly motivated if I’m to travel by myself. It has to be something I want to do so badly that not doing it would be disappointment in the extreme.
Just do it: I am tired of the same old story. Gillian wants to do this, or she wants to do that, but she’s afraid. She is justified in her fear, so nothing changes. Gillian therefore becomes her fear.
Enough. It’s time to just get up and do it. The fear won’t go away until I face it one step at a time. I remember that once upon a time I was nervous driving the 20 minutes to Tilbury when I was young. Then it was an hour to Windsor. In later years I made the 3 hour drive to St. Catharines alone. Now I am about to embark on a 6-7 hour journey to the French River for a 4 day writing workshop. I knew it was time to face my fear and just do it rather than waiting until the next time there is something I really want to do. I will be breaking the journey up with an overnight visit with a friend on the way. The writing workshop is in one of my favourite locations in the world. I get to go canoeing again. And I will be connecting with other writers. And whenever I visit the French River, something wonderful always happens. You only have to read my post about my vacation there this past summer to know the truth of this. It’s time to sit with my fear instead of hiding from it. Fear is a part of the human condition. Yes, we all want to feel safe and secure, but how far will that get us? I don’t want to miss out on any more opportunities because I’m afraid. How about you?
Resource: *The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. – Pema Chodron.