I’ve been sick for the past week or so. I’m not good at being sick. I get impatient with myself and my inability to do what I want to do, and I try to push too hard and end up sicker for longer because I won’t accept limitations.
I get really frustrated with my fears, too. I am afraid of drowning, due to an unfortunate incident with a boogie board and some big waves at the Del Mar beach when I was very young. I decided I couldn’t stand to be afraid, so I learned to swim well and then I learned to SCUBA dive. It turned out that I was afraid of the ocean even when I knew how to swim, so diving in the ocean was very hard for me to get through, but I did, eventually.
I’m afraid of heights. I’ve discovered, though, that I’m afraid of heights between about six and thirty feet up. Above that, as far as I can tell, some part of my brain figures I’m dead anyway, so who cares? I fly, and I love it. I got up on a ladder yesterday in the snow to get a branch out from on top of a cable in the backyard. I was overbalanced a few times, but I’ve been working through this particular fear enough that I could steady my breathing and finish what needed to be done.
My first reaction to fear is the sensible one. Don’t do whatever you are afraid of. There are reasons for most fears. Spiders, snakes, and scorpions, to name three.
After that first reaction, though, I generally get angry. Why should I let my fears limit me? I understand that sometimes I will have physical limitations and if I work hard I may be able to overcome those. Mental limitations, though, really tick me off.
I am afraid of standing in front of a mirror and dancing. I’m a klutz. I was in ballet for several years growing up and was told I just didn’t have the body for it. My shoulders are wider than many men’s, and while “petite” is a good word for my height, even in perfect shape I am not a tiny person. So why am I belly dancing? Because I was afraid. Because I still am, sometimes. Because I stand up next to others in my class who are poised and comfortable and absolutely stunning, and I challenge myself to learn, dance, and not fall over a veil (again). I’m learning, slowly, how to choreograph. I like moving to music. I may never be awesome at it, but I am getting pretty good. My hands don’t hurt from zill drills anymore. I’m getting better at isolations. I’m even learning some of the harder moves, and I don’t look bad doing them. I balanced a sword on my head, and danced with it, and didn’t drop it.
When I was fairly young, I was fascinated by Nelson Mandela. He said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” That quote still resonates with me.
I’m still learning to be brave. My braveries are small things, like cooking without a recipe or dancing in front of a mirror or an audience, or even flying, but I am learning to overcome fear where I find it, however hard that can be at times. There are also still things I am afraid of that I have not faced. I may eventually learn to face them, too.
What are you afraid of?