Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fear is not simple

Confession time: as a child, I never learned how to do a number of things, including riding a bike. 

My grandma was always afraid that something horrible would happen to me if I did something she deemed unsafe. So, not only did I never learn how to ride a bike, but I never swam, took the bus, or went for a boat ride, among other things. Pretty sheltered childhood, huh? Don't worry, I did lots of other things for entertainment: read books, watched TV, shopped.

Now, I married an outdoorsman. He likes to hunt, to fish, to ride his bike. And, of course, he wants to raise our daughter to enjoy the same things. It is either that, or teach her to like the activities I like, like shopping - which is what I'm trying to avoid. (Books will be high on my priority list, though.)

After she was born, I knew I had a choice: I could continue on with my life as it is, being afraid of everything, and losing time with my family, or I could suck it up and face my fears. 

My in-laws bought me a bike for my birthday. Of course they knew I didn't know how to ride, but the hope was I would learn before the baby did. So, I tried it. Night after night, I hopped on and tried to balance. Once I could balance, I tried to pedal. Once I could pedal, I tried to do both. And I failed. I failed over and over again, to the point where I thought I wasn't ever going to learn. It was too late.

And then, one night, I did it. It just happened. I don't even know how, but it did. And I felt free - free from my fears of riding and free from the fear of not being able to participate in these events with my family.

A few days later, my husband went fishing with his parents while the baby and I got a muffin at the local coffee shop. Then, he texted me.

Can we pick you up and take you for a boat ride?


We will go for a quick ride and then get lunch.

I took a deep breath. I didn't know how to swim. I had never done this! I was scared. And then I texted him back. I didn't say yes but I said "OK". 

Now or never. And then I panicked.

I drove out to the dock praying quietly that I wouldn't drown or throw up. I got in the boat, shaking, and put on my life jacket. I played with my hair, something I do when I'm very nervous. Off we went.

It was awesome. It was so relaxing and beautiful and fun.

I didn't drown. I didn't throw up. I couldn't believe how many years I had wasted with fear.

I realized that day that living a simple life means letting go. Letting go of spending money, of routines you think are necessary, and of expectations, sure. But letting go of fear is huge. Fear holds you back from so many experiences and events in your life. It is a weight that drags you down. An anchor, if you will. Nothing is simple if you are afraid and worried all the time.

I accomplished two big things in the course of one week. Two things that I had spent 28 years avoiding, afraid of doing. And with the simple choice of saying yes and trying, two things that have opened my life up to more joy and possibilities for the future. Isn't that what I'm trying to achieve? 

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