Many so called experts recommend confronting your fears or at least desensitizing to them in order to overcome them. Either way, directly confronting and taking the proverbial bull by the horns or gradually desensitizing requires getting at least a little snuggly with the object of fear.
Fear and anxiety are hallmarks of my existence, but I have chosen to go the direct confrontation route lately. I guess perhaps I feel too old to gradually wade into the shallow end of the fear pool and desensitize my body to the cold water slowly. Naw, better to dive in to the deep end of those dark waters where the sharks swim in tight circles, waiting to devour me.
Last October I shared in my post, Fear of Flying, that I rode the zip line, facing my fear of heights. I felt very emboldened and encouraged by my successful little ride, but I am still afraid of heights. So, this past weekend I tried again. I rode the Sky Trail through the Redwoods with my children.
The view was incredible up there, but I did not enjoy the ride as much as I enjoyed the zip line last fall. My boys teased me a bit on the way up, threatening to sway the little cage, but they graciously offered to walk the steep mile down off the mountain rather than see me ride back down in the little death cage.
I assured them that I could do it, and I did. I managed to smile, and I forced myself to peer out of the plexi-glass and look down, way down, at the ground below.
The more I face that fear, I figure the easier it will get. Some day I might actually enjoy being suspended in mid-air by a small cable.
Before I married R, I frequently threw my three babies in the car and took off on weekend adventures. We started out without a destination in mind but rather enjoyed exploring our beautiful state, letting the road take us where it would.
I also always looked forward to attending seminars at the other end of the state because it meant I would rent a nice car to drive up, and I’d enjoy room service for two days.
It has been nearly twenty years now though since I’ve enjoyed that kind of freedom. R didn’t even like me driving to a neighboring town for groceries. When I mentioned going he either accused me of having a boyfriend over there or feigned concern about me driving alone on the interstate freeway with all of the kids. He would, rightfully, say that our cars weren’t in good enough condition to make it, and he worried about me breaking down. Looking back, I’m quite certain that is why he always made sure I drove clunkers. They kept me at home.
Last weekend I absolutely had to rent a car for our trip up north. My car is a total junker and could NOT make it. While in the past I’d never thought anything about renting a vehicle, I suddenly was filled with anxiety over it. I felt nervous signing and initialling that long pink form. I questioned my decision regarding which insurance to purchase for it. I doubted my ability to drive a new, fancy car. I fumbled with the controls and felt like I’d just received my license.
By the time I returned the vehicle though, I was comfortable being back in that saddle. I sauntered in to the return station, confidently informing them of a star in the windshield that they hadn’t pointed out to me on Friday and asking for a reimbursement for the extra gas I’d put in it.
And, I was saddened to turn it in. I had become comfortable in that heated leather seat, gripping the heated steering wheel, gliding along the curves of the coastal highway.
On the way up to our initial destination I got lost and began to panic. How late would I be? What if I used up too much gas and couldn’t afford to get home? What if I took a turn to a “bad section” of an unfamiliar town? I took a deep breath and stopped in a strange town to ask for directions. Turned out, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
My boys asked to eat at a restaurant on the way home, offering to pay if I would stop. I was afraid of these strange people in this strange town and afraid of not being able to find my way back to the highway. But, I stopped in spite of the late hour.
We waited fifteen minutes to be seated. Then, we waited an hour for our food. I finally flagged down a waiter and explained that we were hours from home and needed to leave. I said that if our meal was more than five minutes from coming out we were leaving. The size of my kahunas surprised me! He left the table, and our waitress immediately returned with our food. We were given one free meal for our inconvenience.
Exhausted, I drove in the silent, dark still of the night until my eyes burned. By the time we stopped for the night, in a strange town right on the highway, I was feeling fearless. I told the boys to sit in the car with the little two while I got the room and took bags up. As I pulled our duffle bags from the trunk of the expensive, sleek car I noticed a hooligan slowly walking through the parking lot toward the highway, staring at me. I stared at him with a slight grin on my face. He must have thought I was a bit crazy with that half grin accompanying my tightened eyes. My eyes were just squinting from exhaustion though, and the smile was because I was thinking, “I’ll bet I’m broker than you are, Young Man! Don’t let the car fool you!” He would have felt slighted if he’d mugged me. Little did he know, I’d just used the last of my money to get that room and only had $14.61 to my name!
The next day we traveled south again, along the curve of the coastline, and my daughter begged to stop and play in the sand. I decided to pull in at the beach my husband and I had taken the children to six years ago. I was unprepared for my response. Of all of the events and activities that pushed me outside my comfort zone that weekend, visiting that familiar beach was the worst. It triggered me. I began to see hot pink auras on the outer rim of my right field of vision and sensed disorientation and an unbalanced equilibrium. We needed to leave. I could not push through this one.
We were short on time and money, without printed directions and without a satellite connection in many remote places along our journey. But, we went along for the ride. We drove; we ate; we played; and I confronted my fears. I would say I conquered my fears. All but one. The beach and the memories of being there with R overcame me.
However, we enjoyed the trip so much that I have determined to find a way to go again. And, I’m going to go back to that beach again. If I trigger to it next time, I’ll find a way to go back a third time. I’m going to confront that fear until its gone. Just like all the rest of those things that haunt me and cause me unnecessary anxiety.
I am determined. One day I will be fearless.