Fear: Part One - The Edge
Fuck Everything and Run or...
Face Everything and Recover.
These days, I am learning to embrace the kinder, gentler option. So begins my blog series on fear. When I sat down this week to formulate what was to be a single blog post, I sensed instead that I could write an entire book about this proposition. Paragraphs were twisting and turning, weaving through my archived sorrows and missed opportunities; a result of mostly irrational panic.
In early 2017, the dutiful team at Facebook sent me a video recap of my life in 2016.
It was boring. Anticlimactic.
Besides the active lives of my children, my own stitched together images lacked depth. Most of the slideshow was simply me looking sassy in one of my cherished hats. Or, feeling particularly sober and grateful; selfies for the most part. While I am very thankful for my stash of stylish caps, as well as my early recovery, I was left pondering why I hadn't "done more" in the previous year.
I vowed to make 2017 a year of more experiences. Adventures with a pre-requisite to face fear. The list has been long for the past 30 years. Knives, clowns, illness and death, and edges.
This summer I have had two opportunities to stand at an edge and find growth. The anxiety I have felt for most of my life is definitely the result of self imposed fear. Nothing has ever happened to me in a negative manner at some precipice and I can assure you has zero to do with heights.
It has everything to do with loss of control.
I am afraid I will jump.
That sounds like a round trip pass on the crazy train, I know.
I can't explain it. Since I can remember, I have been nearly incapacitated on or near an edge. Even enclosed, like the Sears Tower in Chicago or the rotating restaurant in Toronto. As a child I sought safety while clinging to my parents for support, peering around their side to get a glimpse of the "beautiful view" as they described it. For shit's sake, just GET ME DOWN before I jump. I had this constant inner battle of thinking "what if I lose my mind and jump." Who thinks that way? Hence, feeling insane along with terrified.
My dad once playfully called me a "candy ass," while I was basically crawling across a narrow rope bridge in Zion National Park. In his good-natured way, chuckling to himself as his “baby” was about to die or at the very least hurl.
As part of my AA program, I have had to take inventories of my fears. Talk about an emotional life dissection. It took me four months to complete this first upheaval of everyone I had harmed, had hurt me, or who I still had a resentment toward. I still complete these inventories, often on a daily basis; keeping myself right-sized.
Newsflash: fear is at the root of nearly all of my problems. It manifests as low self-worth, resentment, anger, jealousy, anxiety, and paralysis of my basic executive function. If my emotional fears are not addressed in a healthy manner, the resulting behaviors leave me stupefied to conduct myself as a functioning member of society and will eventually lead to another drink or drug.
In June for my 3 year soberversary, I enlisted my two daughters and a few amazing friends to zip line our way through Big Sky, Montana. We suited up in gear, half heartedly listened to the safety (death) precautions, and made the ascent up the first of three platforms. I expeditiously became a tree hugger as I entered the seemingly miniscule platform. Situated at the very tip of the tremendous tree it became increasingly precarious in the wind as each new person arrived.
My youngest daughter's humor guided me through the anticipation of the jump. While members of my recovery family huddled together and also offered encouragement, and a healthy dose of expected sarcasm.
I was the first in line. I checked my safety gear a bazillion times and heaved myself off the edge.
I survived. It was exhilarating. Liberating.
More recently I was invited to explore part of the Continental Divide in Homestake, Montana. My companion and experienced guide through the woods was a man who climbs a rock face like nobody's business. Seriously epic skills, accompanied by knowledge of the topography and how to keep a novice safe.
We came upon a view that included a huge rock, jutting out from the side of a mountain. While I admired it from afar, I had no idea that I was about to be face to face with said rock. We wandered our way through the terrain to the location of this beauty.
I hunkered down at the base of that damn thing realizing my very real desire to go to the top. Yet allowing outmoded fears bottom me out. Reminiscent of a youthful time I chose to forego a roller coaster ride and sat in regret for four hours in the car on the long trek home.
He patiently waited at the top.
I sat in my thoughts, concluding that I have rarely trusted myself. I have lived without intention for most of my life. What if I could be "intent" on making that climb with deliberate steps? Clear my mind of anything but the motivation to overcome? Consider the rewards at the top? Find the "courage to change the things I can." Live in the moment, perhaps?
He held out his hand and said the serenity prayer to remind me of my courage.
It was breathtaking. The experience. The view. The new feelings of accomplishment and confidence. Doing so with some semblance of grace
instead of panic.
1. If I do not continue to face my fears, life will be stagnant. I am just getting started.
2. What are my fears? Break them down. What is really holding me back? Old ideas? False self dialog? My addiction lying to me in my own voice?
3. Often times I have to accept the outreached hand and realize that I don't have to face life or fears on my own.
4. Not all fears are created equal. I may have a fear standing on the edge of a large rock or structure, which until recently, seemed insurmountable. However, I have no issue with public speaking. To someone else, this task could be equally as terrifying. I cannot continue to judge my insides by the outward appearance of others. We are all facing something overwhelming.
5. I need to live with intent. Each and every day. To the best of my ability.
Every step I took in the woods that day, was one of being in the moment. I realize by being present, I wasn't sitting in fear of what might (probably would not) happen. My intention was to take in the wonder around me, unaware of what was waiting at the next curve or boulder.
Hmm...sounds a little like life.