Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Holy Sh*t! Overcoming fear...or outright terror

I wouldn't say that I was the bravest kid on any of the blocks I've lived on, but my curiosity often won out over my initial trepidation and I'd eventually pick up worms, jump off the top of the playground, hang upside down, and set up bike tricks with over-turned trash cans and boards of wood. My siblings and I even created 'taxis' with our bikes and would tie a jump rope to the back and have someone on roller-blades flying along behind. Adolescence and young adulthood brought more adventures. I'm here to tell these stories, which is fairly amazing as I reflect back. I'm sure most of you can relate :)

So, to put it bluntly - what the fuck happened? A quick parade through recent phone calls, lunches out, and Facebook posts seems to point to a lot of us feeling that 4-letter word (which I consider worse than the one I just used above)....fear. The sick brick of gooey black feeling sitting in the stomach, raising the heart rate, and then, the jittery nerves that make you want to do something, Anything but you don't know where to start. The two travel together it seems. Fear + Anxiety = 4-ever, carved into a tree somewhere.

What's the deal? When did we start worrying about jobs and/or living our dreams? When did start settling for less because we were AFRAID of asking and acting as though we wanted more?

I think we shut down more of our true selves, our core...and we let ego, the maniac it is, take the driver's seat. It's time for a Chinese fire drill - kick the ego out from behind the wheel and let the soul out of the passenger's seat.

A recent ski trip was the catalyst behind this writing. I hadn't been on skis in over two years and I started with the bunny slope. A bit of nervousness there as I practiced making it down the hill without smashing over little kids. Then I was coaxed over to the ski lift for the beginner's area. The first time I finished, I thought "I survived!" followed by "let's do it again!" and after a few times of enjoying the hills and gaining a bit more control, I heard a small voice saying, "hmm, I wonder what the black diamond slope is like"...

It doesn't look like much until you get up there...

Here are some tips that have helped me:

  1. Breathing
  2. Remembering the acronym: F.E.A.R. is False Evidence Appearing Real
  3. Assess the True risk and take precautions - check your safety equipment before you mountain bike, zip-line, ride a rollercoaster, or ski down a mountain
  4. Trust that the universe is conspiring to help you with your job, relationship, or whatever is getting you down
  5. When you make the leap and take action, remember what it feels like when you've accomplished what moments before seemed impossible.
Sunset over the black diamond's steep slope

I felt equal amounts excitement and certainty of my impending death as I got into line for the ski lift to the top of the mountain (okay, a very large hill). Holding onto the rail and not looking down was key. Next was getting off the ski lift and looking over what I was just about to do...drops, bumps, ice. For some reason, all I could think about was how Cher's husband, Sonny Bono, was in the news years ago for dying while skiing. I looked at my ski partner-in-crime and almost said the words "I can't do this," as the kids and teenagers were racing past me to embark on the downward plane. The skyline was beautiful and I coached myself to think about the way down in terms of sections and decided not to look too far ahead - to just focus on the 20-30 feet ahead. I did well and was flying down the mountain (partly because I wasn't good at stopping/slowing down and partly a desire to get to the bottom and feel safer a.s.a.p.). In the end, I skied the slope three times and each subsequent time was only 10% less terrifying than the first, but I did it. I felt the fear and did it anyway. I was proud of myself and realized that most of my fears are only in my mind and that, if I had listened to the ego's convincing voice, I never would have left the bunny slope.

Next time, I'll get a helmet. You never know what crazies are out there :)

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