Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Melt the Fear

As our lovely, fragrant, tender month of May falls closer to June, a sense of freedom is in our hearts and on our minds.  We are letting go and slipping into a more relaxed way of living.  If I could go back in time and talk to myself, I would train myself to stop engaging with life like a bull, crashing into problems head-on, with force, determination and exertion.  I would tell myself to relax and breathe more.

I would teach myself to find that lovely balance between work and play, and then keep on that path.  I would remind myself that it's good to be a hard working person, but that excesses in work lead to excesses in laziness and periods of apathy.

This morning I'm a little bereft, having just finished a deliciously satisfying memoir that I planned to read pool-side this summer.  It never made it into to the bag of towels and swim goggles. As soon as it was available at the library, I chomped it up in the course of three days.  If you like stories of struggle that empower and inspire the survivor in you, you'll love Cheryl Strayed and her story of hiking the Pacific Coast Trail.  Wild is a tale that grips. Even if you're not a hiker or a back country enthusiast, the story of her solo journey is intensely powerful.  Most importantly, what Strayed has to say about fear on the trail and how she handled it is something I need to learn.

I have an embarrassing problem.  After our experience on the Appalachian Trail, I have not gone back to the wilderness.  Sure, I've been on an abundance of local hikes in our well traveled woods, stepping around poisonous snakes and facing loose and aggressive dogs, but I still have yet to put on my big pack and return to the glorious mountains.  This is a serious disappointment to my husband, who loved our AT trip so much that even after travelling the world,  he counts our experience in Shenandoah as his number one favorite experience away from home. 

Instead of getting right back on the trail and facing my fear of being mauled or having to perform first aid on a mauled husband, I came home, sat comfortably at my computer screen for several years, gained ten pounds, and savored the bliss and comfort of home and society.  Since that experience, I don't take living in our home and community for granted.  I appreciate the sound of traffic.  I appreciate businesses and schools and churches and neighbors and the sight of people everywhere.  The seventeen bears on the trail and the repeated rush of adrenaline and panic that made me choke, but which I worked through, were life changing.  Of course I've learned, from everyone who hasn't had my particular experience, how utterly foolish it was of me to be afraid of the gentle black bears.  Most people speak of them as if they are large kittens, and compare them to their much more aggressive cousins, the Grizzlies.

I know that in order to grow beyond this limiting fear, I need to get back on the trail.  I live in a place where the mountains are a few hours from home.  We could be taking weekend trips and exploring this beautiful land often.  In fact, we have just reserved a delightfully quaint and charming cabin near Asheville and are planning a hike in the fall.  We are looking forward to the sweeping views atop the balds and the way it feels to spend entire days outdoors.  Elliot and Ozzie will be with us this time.  I have to face my problem.  There's not going to be any way to avoid my fear.

Some people say that instead of fear, I should just have faith.

Which I do, of course.  Which is what got me through the first time around.

But this time, instead of charging into my problem head-on, like a bull,  I want to first develop trust and understanding in the process that can bring a person out of fear and into liberated success.  The preparations I need to do all relate to the psychological aspects of trail energy. I need to learn how to anticipate and work though the intensity of my feelings in the wilderness.  Among the life of the wild, my aliveness feels amplified ten fold.  My senses are heightened to an extent that I literally vibrate inside. I want to just keep walking and feel gentle and light and free inside, minus adrenaline rushes.  Maybe that will not happen for me.  Maybe it's not supposed to feel like waking in the park.  Maybe that would be missing the entire point of the adventure.

I'm nearly reaching the end of my fitness goal, and as I work to shed the last few pounds, another goal rises to the surface.  I need to melt fear like pounds.

***P.S.  French Horn practice is going well!  I was able to reconnect with my high school band teacher, who is delighted to know I am still playing music:)

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