Many find it hard to believe that I am a person who historically has been riddled with fear. I was the kid that most parents would dread to raise. I was afraid of the dark, of dogs, of escalator’s, fish in a lake, and let’s not forget birds. God how I hate them, even now I hate them with a passion; if you can name it, I was afraid of it. I was especially afraid of heights; One likely could instantly kill me if I was placed on a rooftop, in a cage, with a bird. My two greatest physical fears: birds and heights. I get palpitation’s, and sweaty palms just thinking about it.
Aside from the irrational physical fears, I was also afraid to speak up, to ask for help, to upset someone, or god-forbid disappoint. I lived a giant chunk of my life in fear of “something.” Really, everything.
I actually laugh and stare at people in disbelief when they think I am “fearless.” I have been referred to as a bad-ass, a fearless leader even. This is comical to me even still.
Somewhere along the path of my crazy convoluted life, this began to change, slowly. I began to take chances. To step-out of my comfort zone and to test the “what-if’s.” What if the thing that I am afraid of, does not actually kill me? I began to push myself to find the answers to those questions. I am not sure what I thought all these things would do to me, but I needed to face it.
It started I think, after my grandmother passed in 2004. I lost the person who aside from my children, was the most important person in my life. I was 28 years old. I watched her pass from this world, into the next one September evening. I had never seen a person die before that day. I recall walking out of her room, my Aunt saw me in the hallway and I said to her “how am I going to tell the kids?” I lost it. I lost it to the point that I could not physically stand, my 28 year old self, mother of three, crumpled into a fetal position. It was something that I could not resist; a power that took over my body and all reasoning. I gathered my composure, stood up and marched forward. I had to go home and tell my three children that their beloved great-grandmother, only 65 years young, had died. I had to do this. I was their mother. I was afraid. It was a fear that I had no choice but to face.
My world spiraled out of control it seemed after that fateful day. Something inside me flipped. A switch I suppose. I looked death directly in the face, taking the very person that meant the most to me. I had no control. I also realized it was nothing to fear. Slowly, the fears began to release. I began to take chances. I began to use my voice in a way I had not in years. My self-confidence, self- worth, my whole existence even was so wrapped up in my surroundings. What I was supposed to do, how I was to look, what my role in life was; EVERYTHING it seemed. It got worse before it got better, way worse.
There is a song by Katy Perry called Roar. Think what you may about her, but that song. It was so pivotal for me at one point in time. The opening line that says, “I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath; scared to rock the boat and make a mess; so I sat quietly, agreed politely.” I had forgot I had a choice, and stood for nothing; this was my reality.
Remember those things that I mentioned above that I needed to challenge, the chances I began to take? Not all those chances came out as expected. I made some very unwise and selfish decisions during that time. I still carry that with me to this day. Some things in this life just cannot be undone. That is ok. I had to understand that it is ok to make mistakes. They are still there. I deal with them when they arise, and move forward.
That was 15 years ago. I have faced so many of those fears. I will swim in lakes now (after a few beers or wine). I took a position as a transport nurse that forced me to fly in a helicopter; I have sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon, crawling out beyond the safety barrier simply because I could. I am now 43. I am no longer “young.” I have wrinkles, my butt sags more than I would like and daily I observe the young woman that I once was slowly fading into a mature, middle-aged woman. I do not fear this. I embrace it.
In this life you meet people, many times by chance that change your life forever. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I am a firm believer that while things are labeled as “chance” there is no such thing. I believe that each moment, each encounter is anything but chance. The chance, in my book is what do you do with the moment? Do you fear, dismiss or face the “unknown” and say screw it….. and embrace the “chance.”
Do I have regrets in this life, absolutely? Do I let them define me? I do not. If I did, I would be missing out on this amazing life and all of the wonderful people and experiences in it. My life is a better place, and I am a better person because of this. I have learned that it is ok to want something, to even go so far as to be a bit “selfish” and go for it. 15 years ago, I did not do so well at sorting these things out but now, I think I do a much better job of doing this.
The past year, especially the last few months have opened my eyes and heart to even more. A year of self-discovery, if I may. It is so easy to let people, circumstances and life in general beat us into submission and fear. We can lose sight of the confidence we once had. It is almost as if we place our entire worth in those forces that surround us. This could not be a bigger lie. You, I, we are not defined by those things; rather by what we allow. I had feared for so long the very things that have ultimately brought me the most joy and fulfillment. Taking chances is a good thing indeed. I will continue to pursue every day, living my life on the edge……..except with birds, I will never like them, nor embrace them. Ever.