I have faced fear in many forms. I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night and wandered through the dark house in pursuit of something that went bump and woke me from my dreams. I’ve free-climbed at Joshua Tree National Park only to get to the top, look down, and wonder how in the world I was going to get back to the ground. I’ve found myself dangerously close to deadly animals, from hearing bears sniffing at the edge of my tent in the Sierra to finding my hand inches from a Black Widow to pulling a friend away an instant before he stepped on a rattlesnake. I’ve stood at the top of Mt. Whitney and looked down. I’ve been unemployed with bills due. I’ve spent time in a waiting room while a loved one underwent surgery, uncertain of the outcome. I’ve felt the power and rage of a surging snow-melt river pulling me towards rapids intent upon breaking me.
I have known fear.
My heart has pulsed at rates that hurt.
My body has been poisoned by floods of adrenaline.
My mind has played through more worst-case scenarios than I can remember.
More than I care to, anyway.
I am not an adrenaline junkie. I haven’t actively sought out these situations and I’ve never liked how they made me feel. I’ve never liked the resulting comedown and hangover. I’ve never liked the visions my imagination produces to accompany each near death experience.
However, the fear of fear has never kept me from an adventure.
It was my choice to look down when I reached the top of Mt. Whitney. It was my choice to enter the Kings River in early season after the good winter that turned it even deadlier than normal. It was my choice to place myself into those situations where I could encounter bears, buffalo, snakes, coyotes, mountain lions, and on and on. I have refused to allow my life to be curbed by the negative what-ifs and potential consequences of danger gone wrong.
Obviously, not all of my fearful situations were within my control, and I never enter an adventure un-prepared. (“Be prepared” is the Boy Scout Motto, and I am an Eagle Scout after all.) But, by refusing to let fear dictate what I do, I’ve lived a life of grand adventure.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” – Batty (Rutger Hauer): Blade Runner
Why is it, then, when I can I stand at one of the highest points in the world and look down despite my fear of heights, that I let my fear of change rule so much of the rest of my life?
I’ve wanted to publish one of my novels for many years… but it isn’t “ready,” and once I self-publish I can never then submit it to a traditional publishing house, and what will that mean for my career, and what if nobody likes it, and I’m afraid of the answers to those two questions.
I’ve wanted to move my family out of our condo and into a house for many years… but that would mean more housework, more responsibility, and much higher bills, and I’m afraid of what that change would do to our way of living, our standard of living.
I’ve wanted to leave California for many years… but I’m comfortable here, my job is here, and there is so much than can go wrong in a move. I don’t want to fall prey to the grass is greener syndrome and I’m afraid of what that major change will mean for me and my family if something were to go wrong.
How can I stand against fear in some aspects of my life so rigidly, and bend to it so easily in others?
I’m a rock.
I’m a blade of grass.