A year ago if you’d have asked me what my fears were, I’m not sure I could have given you an answer. A real rational fear? Me? I sometimes have to talk myself into doing what is sensible, as I don’t have natural fear to keep me from doing something unwise.
I grew up in the country and was naturally curious and adventurous, climbing trees and jumping across large boulders.
When I was 19 I had a serious head-on collision on a winding mountain road. As soon as I was out of the hospital, I was behind the wheel driving the same road so I wouldn’t be afraid of driving again. At the age of 22 I crossed the country by myself, sometimes by bus, sometimes walking, sometimes taking rides with strangers. (This really was common in the 60’s) I have leaned over Glacier Point above Yosemite Valley without fear. I’ve walked around Manhattan by myself and gone to the top of the Empire State Building. I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of hang gliding and flown in a glider just for fun. No fear.
About a year ago, I slipped while walking, just strolling on the sidewalk near my home. One second I was looking at some flowers and the next moment my nose was on the concrete. I didn’t see it coming, I simply tripped on a rise in the cement. I didn’t break anything, but I ripped my shirt and bruised and scraped my arm. The harm that was done was not to the outside of my body, but to the inside.
I became afraid of falling again. I often walk up the stairs at work, seven flights. I walk down them slowly and deliberately, because I am afraid of falling, and up them carefully for the same reason. In the last year, while hiking, I have slipped several times on loose dirt or steep inclines.
A couple of weeks ago, near the waterfalls at Penasquitos Canyon, I was climbing on some rocks, trying to keep my balance, and I caught myself in an awkward stance. I realized at that moment that I had lost my confidence. I continued to notice I was walking like I was afraid. I was hiking like I was afraid. I was climbing like I was afraid. The fear of falling owned me.
While walking up Cowles Mountain and over to Pyles Peak about a week ago, I caught myself doing the same thing, walking like I was afraid of falling, taking slow deliberate steps over rocks and breaks in the trail. I continued thinking about this over the next several days.
The other day while walking up Cowles Mountain by myself, I decided to stop this new bad habit. I’d had enough. I know I might fall again. Nevertheless, I am going to be less careful. I am going to imagine myself confident and just go for it: step higher; plant my feet down with assurance. I might actually fall and slip and break my left ankle (which I was told 40 years ago could be fatal because of my osteomyelitis–I don’t know if this is still true). But I am going to do it. Once the decision was made, I put it in practice. I started walking down a steep part of the trail with new vigor. I visualized myself confident and strong. I leaped down a few of the carved-out step, as if I were a child having fun, not worrying about the consequences. I must have looked a little silly jumping and leaping and almost laughing and sort of sliding around. But I didn’t care. I don’t care.
I know, yes I know that this is a little reckless at my age. I know my employers won’t like it if I call in sick with a broken bone. It is not a responsible way to act this close to retirement. But . . . it is what I have to do to challenge this fear of falling . . . and say bye bye to it.
Now fear of falling . . .in love? That’s different. And for another day.
What are your fears, past or present. How have they affected your life? How did you overcome them?
I’ll let you know if I break any bones (unless I break both wrists); meanwhile, I am leaping!