“He who fears to suffer, suffers from fear.” ~ French Proverb
I suffer from fear. It’s an affliction that impacts me when I walk into an unknown situation or a situation that will physically and or mentally challenge me. Symptoms include: rapid beating of the heart, trembling knees, the urge to use the restroom, sweaty palms, furrowed eyebrows with wrinkling of forehead, a storm of what-ifs, physical paralysis of the feet, negative self-talk, irrational thoughts, staying indoors, and excuses followed by justifications.
Fear first made its presence around the time I became aware of the dark. I’m sure I cried until I was comforted by someone (my beloved grandma) who had experienced the darkness without harm. The dark sometimes scares me, but I no longer cry when it does. I’ve now become the someone who comforts my daughters when they cry for fear of the dark.
Fear became most evident in Middle School. I was afraid of the intangible thoughts that may have formed in the minds of other adolescents. I was afraid of how I looked, dressed, and thought. Fortunately, I met other adolescents who shared this same fear, and we found ways to deal with it: jokes, self-expression, acceptance, focusing on school work, commiserating. They were all great coping mechanisms to make meaning of those confusing teen age years, but the battle of fighting a storm of fears greater than the courage within us was taxing. I’m hoping these coping mechanisms will help me support my daughters when they commence to cross the bridge of adolescence.
My Freshman and Sophomore years in high school were still plagued with fear, but I learned to tame them with the power of self belief and positive thinking. Going to church also really helped me. Participating in Youth Group, church plays, and connecting with others who believed in a source mightier than the arbitrary expectations imposed by society made the path in front of me less arduous. Because of fear, I chose friends who didn’t exhibit self-destructing behavior. Thus, I avoided situations that required me to stand up to peer pressure. In that instance, fear served to my advantage, because I never had to worry about having friends who enticed me with choices that may have led to a path of perdition (and of course, I’m terrified of perdition).
You’d think that at the age of 37, I would have learned to master fear. The thing is, fear sometimes spreads to your body so quick, your mind doesn’t register its presence until all the symptoms begin to appear. Running, and most recently, Crossfit, have been my antidote to battling fears. Exercising has helped me stepped outside the cozy comfort zone so many of us prefer to stay in.
Today I decided to look fear in the eyes. I registered for what will be my next big goal: 26.2. This will not be my first marathon. In fact, it will be my fourth. This one, however, will be different. The goal for the previous four marathons was just to finish. There was no ambition. My training runs were weak and I was not really committed to the work it required to doing my best. For this particular marathon, I don’t just want to cross the finish line for the sake of crossing the finish line. The goal is to run a 4:20 marathon. That’s a totally doable goal for many, but it’s a challenge for me. For the next seven months, I will be training by myself. I’ll have to endure running in cold weather (which I really, really, really dislike), running in extremely windy conditions (I live in a valley and there’s constant wind), running in the dark, running before sunrise, and running when I won’t feel like running. In other words, this goal will hurt. It will make me want to give up and question whether the physical, mental, and emotional anguish will be worth it. But on May 10, 2015, I will cross the 26.2 finish line looking fear in the eyes and I will fear no more.