I just bought some brand new hiking boots and in a few days, I am heading to the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains on a little camping and hiking adventure.
I am going alone.
Why? Because I’m terrified, paralyzed by the fear of dying, or being mauled by wild animals in the woods or of mountain men sneaking up on me and chasing me through the wilderness. The past few nights I lay in bed imagining these and all sorts of scenarios from the discomfort of being too cold or too hot to my being hopelessly lost in the darkness, dehydrated and starving.
But all this fear is what is driving me to go, it’s my motivation to push myself out of my comfort zone and beyond my own self-imposed mental limits. I hate fear. It is an ugly, paralyzing word.
Turns out, the older and more settled I am, the more afraid I become of losing everything. Sometimes when I find myself on top of the world, wallowing in happiness, dark ugly thoughts creep in like an early morning fog overshadowing my sunshine, reminding me how bad things can happen and change life in an instant.
A little over a year ago when we first moved from our peaceful suburban neighborhood in the sticks of Virginia to the touristy college town of St. Augustine, every noise outside of my window had me bolting out of bead, my heart thumping in my chest convinced someone was breaking in. Startled awake in fear each night became part of me, like some big ugly mole that just appeared out of nowhere.
Storms here were torrential and terrifying with rain so heavy I couldn’t see past my hood and I’d become so afraid of driving in them, I wouldn’t leave town if there was even one sketchy-looking cloud in the sky. I became a huge ball of nervous anxiety. Fear had taken over and I had let it win.
But then, I decided to take a trip alone to Italy where I was forced to face an insane amount of fears, from not being able to communicate, to being forced to ride along mountainy cliff-hugging roads, certain death was not far off. The experience knocked my piddly little fears from back home right out of me, like chicken soup does a cold. When I returned to St. Augustine, I was fearless and happier than ever.
Since Italy, I’ve not been afraid to drive in Florida storms or of the imaginary would-be St. Augustine burglars, I am however terrified of the mountains and everything relating to them. I eye them suspiciously as I do the ocean, preferring to marvel at their splendor from a safe distance. I’ve made peace with my fear of the ocean, content to sit on the edge, knowing one day I will face that hurtle, but not yet, I’m not ready. I’ve come a long way, allowing my children to swim and surf in the deep blue vastness, knowing full well what lurks beneath the surface.
For now, I will tackle my fear of the mountains and hike the trails and sleep alone in the wilderness. I will force myself to not be afraid, little by little, day by day. I can do this and I know somehow this trip will change me, whether for good or bad, I will be different when I return….