I Rock

Stability. We need stability. We need stable ground to walk on, we need stable ground to build our homes on, solid footing to set the foundation upon. We need stability in our lives, too. We are all looking for something in our life, as solid as the earth, to root into. Something solid to build from. Even those of us who crave excitement, experiences and spontaneity require stability in our lives as an anchor point. When a bird takes flight, supported only by the current of the air, they light upon something that will support them. When a bird builds a nest, it chooses a place it is certain will support the weight of the nest, the nesting partner, the eggs, and, eventually, the fledglings. We are no different, we need something supportive to light upon, to nest upon, something we are certain is secure, stable and sound, and this is in a metaphorical sense as much as a tangible sense.

Do you recall the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake near San Francisco in October 1989? Perhaps not. But I felt that earthquake over eighty miles away in Sacramento. So much more destruction occurred to buildings in one area than in others, not because of the magnitude of the quake, but because that area of the city was developed on fill, on ground that was not as solid as it would seem. The very ground that supported the buildings in that area of destruction pretty much just turned to Jell-O. The buildings that were constructed on actual earth fared much better. An illustration of how important it is to have a solid base before you build, whether building buildings or building a life

The mistake people tend to make, the mistake most people make without exception, is that we try to anchor to something, or someone, that cannot or will not offer us the stability we desire. None of us are immune from this shortcoming, myself included. And I know better, I know so much better, and yet, here I am.

Sometimes, to understand stability, we have to have the rug pulled out from beneath us. In the past five years I have lost my home. Two, actually. I’ve ended my marriage of over twenty years. Both of my children have grown and left home. My father passed away. My life, still, is extremely uncertain and lacks any sense of permanence in almost every respect.  And with nearly every conversation I’ve had in the past week with family, friends and those I allow close to me, permanence seems even more illusive. And I am fine. Through all of this, I have learned that you need to find an inner strength as your anchor, to provide you with stability, because no one and no thing will ever provide you the solid ground you need to support yourself through life. Everything in your life can, and likely will, change, and not always for the better. And I’m a glass half full type of girl, but this is reality. The inner strength you draw from may be the only solid ground, the only rock, you can ever light upon after having to take flight. I am my own rock.

So, you need to find, within yourself, your own rock to cling to, to land upon, to build from. No matter what happens, then, you have that solid footing, and no one can take it from you. And still, we tend to want to find other rocks, rocks outside of ourselves. Knowing this, and having done, I think, an exemplary job drawing from my inner strength through it all, I still find myself groping for other rocks in an attempt to secure stability. This is a facet of human nature, and of self, that I struggle to understand, that I vow I will never again fall victim to, and, yet, here I am again. But I am my own rock.

Have you ever crossed a fast running, cold mountain stream during snowmelt? You seek to leave the solid pathway on which you stand and find a way across a tumultuous stream on uncertain footing before finally reaching solid ground on the other side. Perhaps there is a felled tree or a log fashioned into a bridge. It may be narrow, or wet and slippery, or not anchored well on one side or the other, but it provides something solid by which you may be able to cross the cold, rushing water. If not a log crossing, there may be a series of boulders in the water that you can use as stepping-stones to cross the raging waters. Personally, I prefer rock crossings to log crossings, any day. But even rock crossings are not without peril, often the rocks themselves are not solidly anchored in the streambed and wobble and topple when you put your weight on them. You learn to stand on the shore, from the highest vantage point your can find, and look for rocks that are large enough and solid enough to support your weight for a period of time, until you can progress to the next rock. You learn to step, apply some weight to ascertain the stability of the rock, then, if satisfied, you shift your entire weight onto it, landing safely for a moment, before identifying the next rock to step to, again, testing it first.

And, so it is with life. We may have that solid rock within from which we derive the strength and the power to get us through the challenges life will present us. Think of the challenges life presents like crossing a stream, having to step away from the solid ground, your internal rock of strength, and venture across a carefully chosen and perilous path, before you are again able to stand upon your own, solid rock. Some of us seek to cross these streams, some raging rivers, some babbling brooks. Others of us find our path in life puts us in a position where we have to cross the creek. Either way, the water must be crossed in order to continue on. Look for the right rocks to provide you a safe crossing, back to your own, strong internal rock of strength. Be your own rock.

What is your rock, your internal rock of strength? The type of rock that will anchor you in the worst of storms, one you can cling to when the waves are crashing hard and fast, one you can sit on as the flood waters rise, one you can use as a wind break in a storm, one you can bask in the sun on after a cold night. Your internal rock is made up of many things; things you can draw from in your journey through life. Your internal rock is made up of things you use for strength; your values, your guiding principles, your faith, your hope, your independence, your integrity, your commitment to self, your self-confidence, your motivation. You decide, but at a minimum, at the core of your rock, you need to know your values and your guiding principles, the rest will follow, the rest will just make your rock larger, providing you more solid ground to stand on. Be your own rock.

With such a formidable base to stand on, then, why do we seek to cling to other rocks? Again, a facet of human nature, or self, that I wish I understood. I have just caught myself jumping onto wobbly rocks in a perilous stream and wondering why I felt so off balance. Now that I have tested the rocks in the center of the stream, and I know they are not solid, I must decide whether to continue across this stream, or retreat to safety where I will cling, again, to my core, the solid rock within. I am my own rock.

What are your wobbly rocks? Have you identified them, or perhaps they will take you by surprise. Relationships? Career? Material possessions? Any of these can seem to provide you with the security and stability, the strength you need, and without warning, each and every one of these may wobble and spill you into the stream.

Relationships. How many friends have I heard tell me the same story? It’s like reading a book written by a very popular and prolific fiction author, it’s basically the same plot, the same story line, with a different geographical setting and slightly different characters. The story remains the same, like a template or a boilerplate.  “He cheated on me.” “She came home one day, handed me divorce papers and said it was over.” “I do love you, I’m just not sure I can do this.” “You’re great, it’s just me. “I just suck at relationships.” Sometimes after a month, or maybe thirty years, and we are always taken by surprise. Or are we? We didn’t see it coming. Or did we? The rock wobbled and ploink, in the cold water we go, to be swept downstream by the current, looking for something else, or someone else to grab on to. I’m not saying we should go through life lonely, that we should not dare to enter relationships, for there is much joy that comes from the loving another. But, in relationships, never anchor yourself to that other person to the point where you rely on them to fulfill you, to make you happy, or to support you. Don’t cling to that other person because you can’t imagine life without them, because you may have to some day. Be your own rock.

Career. Layoffs, downsizing, bankruptcy, consolidations and other business failures, rapidly advancing technologies, regulatory requirements.  In my career as an auditor I have to assess the risk of any or all of these, and a million more, as they pertain to the businesses I am auditing. If you think your position within a company is going to provide you with the strength and stability you require throughout life, you have been very, very, very lucky, and perhaps a bit ignorant, up to this point. Your career should be rewarding and fulfilling, but it should never be your cornerstone, your bedrock, because one little conference call, one little form letter, one little pink piece of paper and the rock has toppled and ploink, you’re in the cold, cold stream sputtering for breath. Be your own rock.

Material possessions. No matter how large or small, expensive or affordable, material possessions can never, ever provide us with the security we require. A turn in events, in the economy for example, can put you in peril of losing that which we most often identify as our most solid base; our house. Perhaps you seek self-expression and identity with the car you drive, or the clothes and shoes you wear, the boat, the motorcycle, the RV, the vacation home. All are great, but certainly are not the foundation on which your life should be based. One poorly timed lane merge, one freakish storm, one shorted wire can find you flailing your arms as you slip from that rock and ploink, into the river, swimming against the current to the shore for safety. Be your own rock.

Do you remember the story of the three little pigs? They had to go out into the world and build their own homes. The first pig built their home out of straw, the second out of sticks and the third from bricks, or stone. The first two pigs looked for the easiest building materials they could find, materials that would require the least amount of effort, and in both cases, their houses toppled. The third pig was very selective in his building material and applied considerably more effort in erecting his house. And it withstood. Build your house from stone. Be your own rock. And like the little pigs, when the unthinkable happens, you are safe and secure and you may even be able to provide strength and stability, temporarily, to those you know who are in need.

I was an Assistant Scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop for many years, the only woman leader for most of the time. I was on a backpacking trek with a group of boys and men in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We were training for an upcoming ten-day trek in New Mexico. I was new to backpacking, though I had hiked for many years. I was managing quite well though I had packed more in my pack than I needed, weighing it down much more than necessary, and I, myself, weighed about forty pounds more than I do now. I was able to keep up with the boys, the men were hiking behind me a good quarter mile, so I was pleased. It wasn’t cardio or endurance that was my issue, it was balance. We found a flat piece of ground to sleep on our second night out, it was across a stream and there was not a makeshift bridge made of a log, nor were there any rocks to use as stepping stones in order to cross. We were going to have to leap across the stream. The boys all bounded across without any trouble, leaping off of a large boulder on one side and landing on the bank on the other. My turn came. I stepped up onto the boulder and my full and over-packed pack shifted ever so slightly. In slow, slow, slow motion, I lost my balance. I was in a war with gravity for what seemed a full minute, I could feel the pack pulling me backwards and no matter how I tried to correct myself, I could feel myself tip further and further off center. In a second that seemed to last for hours, I was on my back, on my backpack, wedged helplessly between two boulders. Three men pulled me, and my pack, upright. I suffered no injuries other than a sound blow to my pride. I was relieved of my backpack and easily leapt across the creek, my pack was tossed across safely thereafter. I laughed the whole thing off, of course, and from this I started “the turtle club”, an exclusive club that only awarded membership to people who fell in some unceremonious and embarrassing manner. We ended up with several members over the course of the months that followed. So, I guess the lesson here is to be very careful when you select a rock to leap from, make sure you are well balanced, perhaps lighten your load, and be certain you aren’t overestimating your ability to land safely on the other side. Be your own rock.

I was also a Girl Scout leader for many, many years. My girls did not just sell cookies and burden their parents’ refrigerators with tacky arts and crafts projects, my girls hiked and biked and snowboarded and rode roller coasters and camped. And rock climbed. Some of the girls were attending the local council’s rock climbing camp and one of the activities was going to be rappelling into a cavern, which was a little troubling to a couple of girls, my daughter included. We were fortunate enough to have a very experienced rock climber among the group of parents involved with the troop and he volunteered to teach us to rappel down a cliff in a remote canyon in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I have always been a little nervous about heights and took advantage of this opportunity to confront my trepidation. If you have never rappelled off of a cliff, you should, with the proper instruction, supervision and equipment, of course. There is nothing quite like taking that first step off the ledge, walking backwards, focusing on the rope, the knot and the anchor as you descend. Will it hold? In rappelling, you hold your own rope, you lower yourself down at your own pace, you hold your fate in your own hands. And, really, life is no different. You hold your fate in your own hands and every day, you are stepping backwards off the cliff, rope in hand. And as you step bravely off that ledge, remember, your feet are solidly planted on rock, it is stable, and that’s all we want, that’s all we need. Be your own rock.

Let’s rock and roll, then. You absolutely need to build your own solid core, your internal rock, consisting of your core values and your guiding principles. Spend some time identifying these, like the third of the three little pigs and his wise and careful selection of building materials. Read books on the topic if you need guidance, but identifying your core values and guiding principles is the first, most critical step. In identifying your core values you are likely to determine that certain traits or characteristics are important to you, for example, health, fitness, independence, self-confidence. Add these to your rock, embody them, and draw from the strength they provide. Once you have your solid internal rock, nurture it, never let it crumble against the tide, against the current. That rock, that base, becomes your vantage point for identifying stones to test, to step upon, to cross any streams you may encounter.

Once we have identified our core values and our guiding principles, once we have that solid rock deep within, we are more capable of handling whatever the world throws at us. That rock, that base, will always be there. With a solid base, our own touchstone, if you will, we can actually explore options in life that we may never have had the courage or confidence to attempt before. Remember, that with every new experience, every new adventure, every fear faced, we become stronger, wiser and more confident. Our rock is fortified. I am my own rock. I rock. Be your own rock. Rock on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victim

We are all victims, if not right now, at some point in our lives. Our survival depends on what we do about being victimized.

By survival, I mean our ability, as individuals, to live a life of endless hope and opportunity, to seek fulfillment. A life without limitations where all things are possible. For, without hope, opportunity, and fulfillment, we are limited to a life barely worth living, to merely existing.

Often, I hear people discuss how they were victimized. They lament the situation, retell the story, and, sadly, offer it as an excuse for some limiting behavior. To me, this is more tragic than whatever they suffered when they were victimized.

I firmly believe, and I have said many times before, we are only limited by ourselves. Overcoming our limitations offers us the opportunities life has to offer us. Living with our self-imposed limitations imprisons us from a life we were meant to have.

If we are all victims, why do some of us succumb to victimization more than others? I think many people truly don’t realize that they, alone, hold the power to overcome.

It is your choice, and that’s all there is to it.

If you are in a situation where you continue to be victimized, get out. There is always a way, and, again, only you are in control of whether you stay in that situation, or not. I have a friend, who after many years of abuse at the hands of her husband, after years and years of encouragement from her friends and family, left. She took her kids and went to a shelter, pressed charges, testified against the man she took vows with, and built herself a new life. She left the home she and her husband had built, she left a life with mutual friends, a neighborhood where her children had a school and friends. And she started over. It was hard, admittedly, it took courage, bravery, strength. There were tears, there was guilt, initially. And then, there was freedom, freedom from abuse, from pain, from shame, from fear, from victimization.

To this day, she never uses her past abuse, her past victimization as an excuse for anything. Nor do her children. She took advantage of work training programs that were available to her, she relied on the encouragement of her family and friends, she accepted charity when offered. Now she has a great, steady job with good benefits and retirement. Her children have grown into strong, well-adjusted, independent people. She recently bought her own home and has a long term relationship with a wonderful man who treats her like a goddess. This was all by choice. Hers. Alone. She took control, she walked away and took control of her life, of herself. Her abuser is powerless against her. He is broken. She is whole.

Whether you were a victim of abuse, neglect, or even bullying, as a child, as a spouse or in a close relationship, at work, or at the hands of a complete stranger, whether you were a victim of a violent crime, psychological abuse or identity theft, as a victim, you have been deprived of control over some situation. You remain a victim for as long as you allow yourself to be ashamed, afraid, hurt, scared or angry. Notice the words “allow yourself”. You are in control, you only need to realize it, then exert it.

Again, we have all been victimized in some way, at some point in our lives, and in being victimized, someone has exerted their power and control over us. Don’t you dare let them keep it. Notice the words “let them”. It is your choice. Take control, take back that control. By taking measures to overcome the abuse, violence, neglect, mistreatment, or the situation you were taken advantage in, you regain the power. Your power. And that is your first step to becoming whole, to being healed. To being limitless.

By playing the victim, by coveting your victimization, focussing on it, retelling it, you are first of all, constantly reliving it. You are never free of it and, you are allowing that person to maintain power and control over you. Many forms of victimization are demonstrations of power, and only you can revoke that power from them by reclaiming it for yourself. Then you can draw on that power, your power, to heal yourself.

We all have tremendous capability for strength, courage, bravery and healing, whether physical, emotional or psychological. The key to recovery is within you, find a way to tap into that strength, courage, bravery and healing power. Empower yourself, whether you do so by educating yourself, finding a support group, a therapist, or a sympathetic friend that encourages your reclamation of power.

But you have to make the decision and follow through. This is the hardest step, but once you walk out that door with your suitcase, once you turn your back, pick yourself up, brush yourself off and take that first step, the battle is won. You’ll find, once you take that first step, there’s a world ready to greet you, to help you, just ask. You need only take the first step, and your power is restored and it can be put to use fitting the pieces back together, the way they belong.

If you choose to hang on to your victimization, you are really only victimizing yourself. We are capable of overcoming, of moving beyond. To choose otherwise is just that, to choose. Why would you choose to be a victim at your own hands?

Fear This

Go on, what are you afraid of? I mean that, go on. Is fear preventing you from “going on”, going on with new experiences, going on with new adventures, going on with new relationships, going on with life? Is fear crippling you from learning, growing, accomplishing and experiencing life to it’s fullest?

Fear of failure is probably the biggest, personal fear most of us face. And the stupidest. We must fail occasionally, in order to learn. How many times did you fail while learning to ride a bike? Every time you fell off your bike was a failure. And yet you stuck with it, learned the nuances of balancing and keeping up your momentum and you succeeded. That success required those failures as a mechanism of learning. The worst failure, though, would be never learning to ride a bike for fear of falling off.

In failing to face your fear of failure, you are, in fact, failing.

Where does fear stem from? As I see it, there are two sources for fear, both equally devastating. Self-preservation. And ignorance. If we look at common fears we all tend to possess, perhaps we can begin to identify it’s grasp on our lives and take steps to remedy fear’s grip on us.

An example. When we are in a relationship, one of our biggest fears is being unable to preserve the relationship. We fear the end of the relationship. We fear change in the relationship. Fear of “being dumped” can, in fact, destroy a relationship. Dwelling on the possibility, the fear, of being left affects your attitude and your actions. This, of course, can impact the health and longevity of the relationship. So much so, that you are much more likely to be dumped as a result of acting out over your fear of being dumped. Think of the insecurities that build when you dwell on the possibility of being dumped. Those insecurities change your attitude, your perception of what is happening with the relationship. Often you act out on false suspicions, develop unrealistic expectations, and set yourself up for disappointment when those unrealistic expectations aren’t met. Be grateful for and fully enjoy every day you are together as though it were a gift. It is. This fosters an environment of gratitude and appreciation which is conducive to a lasting relationship. Learn to identify and then banish fear from your relationships.

I encounter a lot of people who marvel at my bravery for traveling, usually alone, to cities around the nation, for work. They usually cite something they’ve heard on the news that justifies their trepidation. Crime, bedbugs, the flu, the aftermath of a hurricane, gangs, the homeless, food poisoning, identity theft. Keep in mind that media news sensationalizes everything as a means to their survival. The media news is a business, and they rely on you to watch regularly. They secure your loyalty by feeding your fears. It really isn’t that bad out there. The media intentionally breeds fear, be cognizant of that. Consider this; network news is vying for your attention, for your business. The networks are in competition with one another. It is all about selling advertising during their time slot, revenue validates them, ensures their survival. You are the consumer, you can choose to buy their news, or not. By making you fearful, you are more likely to return to their high dollar advertising time slot to view all the sensational things that are happening everywhere. I’m not suggesting avoiding the news, to be ignorant and uninformed. I do recommend alternative sources for the news, if not solely, then in conjunction with what you see on TV, as corroborative evidence. Remember what sells on TV; violence, scandal, betrayal, conspiracy, uncertainty. These are the themes, the topics, that are considered in “newsworthiness” because they will generate a great deal of emotion in the consumer (viewer), which increases the likelihood of building an audience of routine consumers (viewers). We look to the media as our savior, keeping us from evil, warning us of danger, protecting us from harm – real, imagined or sensationalized. The result, a fearful audience, captive in their homes, staring in disbelief at “the news”.

While we’re on the topic of television, let’s discuss programming. How many crime drama shows are there on the air now? How many different flavors of CSI are there? CSI; coming to a town near you! Every geographic region has their own CSI series, it seems. There a number of crime “reality” shows, now, too, crime that seems more real than regular programming. Folks, it’s all entertainment. Crime happens, but certainly not to the extent or frequency that the entertainment industry leads you to believe. We watch television crime shows so much, again, based on advertising dollars, we have created a demand for more and more crime shows. What impact must this have on the average viewer; hours and hours each week, watching the dramatic portrayal of heinous crimes. Even if only flipping through channels, we will only see crime shows, news, or, thankfully, sports, and occasionally, American Idol.

Based on our media conditioning, we have become fearful of people, of society, because there seems to be so many bad people out there. Statistically speaking, there are very few really bad people, per capita. A lot of violent crime, again, statistically, happens in the home and is perpetrated by someone you know and trust. Are you fearful of your family? Your friends? Of course not! So you have even less reason to be afraid of people out in society because, statistically, they are less likely to harm you. But I don’t want to breed fear, again, I just want to try to illuminate how silly it is to modify your behavior, to limit your life experiences, based on what you watch on television.

If anything makes me apoplectic , it’s the “they” factor. They will shoot you, they will rob you, they will crash into your car on purpose, they will rape you, they will poison you by not washing their hands. They will give you the flu. Who are they? They are few and far between. Again, statistically, there are very few bad people, per capita. What does that mean? No one is likely to pounce on you when you walk down a sidewalk. And for those “bad people” out there, they are relying on the ignorance and stupidity of their victims. Just conquer them with knowledge and common sense. The real “they” you should pay attention to are the people who are warning you about “them”. They are feeding off of your fears to sell advertising time. They will scare you into becoming a phobic, shivering, mess, huddled safely inside your house, watching them live scripted, fake lives on TV. I especially like the innocuous “they said”. I like my sources cited and referenced, thank you, so I can do my own independent research and decide whether I want to take their advice. Or not. What authority or expertise do they have to advise you to change, alter, or modify your behavior, to potentially limit the experiences in life that could bring you growth or reward or satisfaction? Have you even considered that question? Better to experience what life has to offer and assume a little risk than to sit on your hands, rocking back and forth, while watching an intentionally scary, false world on television.

Many great people can be quoted on fear:

We have nothing to fear but fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Do one thing every day that scares you – Eleanor Roosevelt

You gain strength, courage and confidence by each experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind – Dale Carnegie

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood – Marie Curie

Do not fear death so much but rather the inadequate life – Bertlot Brecht

Peace is that state in which fear of any kind is unknown – Joh Buchan

Where fear is, happiness is not – Seneca

If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been – Robert H. Schuller

They can conquer who believe they can. He has not learned the first lesson in life who does not every day surmount a fear – Ralph Waldo Emerson

He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat – Napoleon I

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. – Plato

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality. – Lucius Annaeus Sennca

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. – Dale Carnegie

What we fear comes to pass more speedily than what we hope – Publilius Syrus

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is – German Proverb

How do you suppose these great people became great? By facing their fears head on and overcoming them.

What great person, responsible for influencing millions, for making history, ever sat at home, watching a false world, wide-eyed in terror? Step out of your comfort zone, pick a fear, step out of the house and march right through that fear. Be persistent for more significant fears.

If you subscribe to “The Secret”, or are knowledgable about quantum physics, you know that fear represents considerable energy. The law of attraction is a law of energy. Energy attracts a result, energy attracts a like energy. Fear energy, if you think about it, then, will attract that which you fear. Now, be scared of that! You truly do have nothing to fear, but fear itself. Quantum physics supports that.

Fearless does not mean foolish. Being afraid to step in front of speeding semi is a good thing. There is a definite difference between fearless and senseless. Use common sense, tackle common fears. Fear is a natural instinct designed to preserve us from harm. Fear is designed to make us pause before proceeding so that we may take into consideration our actions so as to avoid harm. Consider your actions, then proceed with common sense. Wait until the speeding semi passes, you can then safely cross the street.

Irrational fear is the fear we want to conquer. It is irrational to think that if you walk down a city street you will certainly be mugged. Yes, you do stand a chance of being mugged. You also stand a chance of being a victim of a home invasion robbery while sitting watching CSI on TV. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, we are at risk for something extraordinary, something freakishly unlikely, happening.

Life can be lived so cautiously as to really not qualify as living. Inhaling and exhaling, eating and deficating, sleeping and waking, performing mundane daily tasks in exchange for a miserly pay and occupying spare time watching other people, fake people, actors, again, being paid based on the advertising revenue their show generates, live out their exciting, dangerous, fearful, completely scripted lives on television, is not living. And for the record, reality TV isn’t real, in reality.

You are only limited by your fear. There are handicapable people who exceed the limitations of their handicap because they choose not to be limited. Any person’s greatest handicap is their own limitations, usually based on fear. Fear of failure, fear of effort, fear of change. Get. Over. It.

If you practice a religion, have you given thought to whether your fear may actually prevent you from eternal life? That’s a scary thought!

We are meant to contribute to society in some meaningful way, whether you practice a religion, or not. We just are. What is your contribution? You may have to step outside of your safe, little routine to find a way to contribute. Name one person you think contributes to society in some meaningful way; a teacher, a preacher, a youth leader, a soldier, an advocate, a scientist. There isn’t a teacher, a preacher, a youth leader, a soldier, an advocate, a scientist on the face of the planet that didn’t have to conquer some fear, usually many, often on a daily basis. What are you doing? What fear is limiting you from contributing? Get. Over. It.

The bible says, I don’t know where, but somewhere, regarding the way to heaven; the path is wide, the gate is narrow. Now pretend for a moment you had to choose who could enter through the narrow gate. Would you choose the good and holy person who spent their life cautiously living, existing? Or would you choose the person who went out and boldly and fearlessly made a difference, who contributed in some tangible, measurable, meaningful way? Would you admit the person who made a wholesome home, raised their children well, performed their daily tasks to satisfaction and prayed at every meal? Or, given the limited seating, would you choose the person who raised their own kids and volunteered to lead a youth group? Who performed their daily tasks to satisfaction and took on additional tasks within the community to further good? Would you admit the person who prayed before every meal, or the soul who lived an extraordinary life, by example, who touched the lives of many and spread good will across the lands? I think I’d want to be the doer of extraordinary things, just to safely squeeze through that blessed gate.

The question should never be “what have you done?”, the question should be “what else can you do?” There is always more. More to contribute, more to learn, more to do, all requiring facing and overcoming some self-imposed limitation, overcoming some fear, whether trivial or numbing.

Fear is also the catalyst for great evil, for great harm. Genocide often has fear as it’s basis. The endangerment or extinction of many species resulted out of fear. Fear, out of ignorance, intolerance or self-righteousness, and unrestrained, is something to truly fear! And conquer.

Take a moment and write down some fears you have. Fear of heights, fear of public speaking, fear of large dogs, fear of large crowds, fear of driving in large cities. Think of as many things as you can and write them down. They may not come to you all at once, but when you encounter something, in real life or on TV, and you think “that would scare me”, add it to your list. Now, pick something off the list and think of a way to overcome it. Fear of public speaking? Start small, maybe join a book club or a Bible study, where, at some point, you’ll have to say something, out loud, to a small group of people. Then take it up a notch. Volunteer to read scripture at church during the service. Read aloud to children at a school. Take an acting class at the community college, or a public speaking class, speech and debate class. Join an organization like Toastmasters. Many highly compensated motivational speakers had fears of speaking publicly at some point in time. Many, believe it or not, overcame debilitating conditions like chronic stuttering. The only limitation was their self-imposed limitation, “I can’t do that, I’m afraid of speaking in front of large groups of people.” Once you cleanse yourself of those limitations, you have tremendous power to conquer fear and overcome perceived limitations.

Start to pay attention to your vocabulary. How often do you say something that translates to “I’m afraid” or “I’m scared”. Make note of what prompted that reaction and find a way to address it, meet it, conquer it.

“I admire those high heeled shoes, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to walk in them. I’m afraid I’ll trip and fall and make a fool of myself.” The alternative; never buy shoes you admire and likely trip and fall wearing completely flat-soled shoes. At least if you trip and fall wearing some fabulous high heels, people will understand how it happened!

I’m afraid of snakes. But not really. Rather, I say, “I don’t like snakes”. I have had many experiences involving snakes, yet, touch wood, I have never been harmed.

I think my earliest memory of being afraid of snakes came from my early childhood. As a child I had asthma. I don’t any more, and I have my opinions on those kinds of limitations, too. But, nonetheless, before I was old enough to take care of myself, I was treated for asthma. One of the treatments was a bronchiodialator or a steroid, or a combination, I think, but it had hallucinogenic qualities, at least for me. I remember sitting on my pillow, screaming in terror, and every wrinkle in my bedding appeared like a twisting, slithering snake. The pleats in my curtains were writhing snakes, dangling from their tails. Everywhere I looked, the common appointments in my bedroom had become animated snakes. My poor mother.

I once had a rattlesnake come trick or treating on Halloween. I had been living in the country where I knew there were snakes, yet, saw none. We had no trick or treaters on Halloween out in the country, so when I moved back into town, into a nice apartment complex, we were excited at the prospect of having trick or treaters. We had candy on hand and had even decorated. My (adult) daughter and her boyfriend were visiting and were manning the door while I moved some items from my car into the garage. I remember hearing the doorbell ring and the ritual “trick or treat” followed by the commotion of children obtaining candy and moving on to the next door. The ruckus didn’t diminish as I’d expected, I could still hear voices and exclamations. My daughter’s boyfriend (now husband) is an Eagle Scout, a wrestler, now in the Navy, by no means a wimp. But as the commotion continued and I began to hear my name interjected, I thought, perhaps, I should venture into the house to see what was up. My daughter and her boyfriend were across the room from the front door, pointing in that direction “there’s a rattlesnake in the house.” I peered toward the front door, and, indeed, there was a small snake there. Luckily for us, not the snake, it’s tail was caught in the closed door and it could not advance further into the house. Now, this particular Halloween fell on a Sunday night, meaning no agencies would be available to come to our rescue. I wondered what to do and did what anyone would do; I grabbed my phone, took a picture and posted it to facebook with a snarky comment about trick or treaters these days. Then I Googled it to confirm that it was indeed a rattlesnake. Finally, I called the County Animal Services agency and listened patiently to the recorded message. They did advise, that if it were an emergency involving an “animal” that one could call the sheriffs dispatch. First, is a snake technically an animal? Second, if the snake cannot advance further into my domicile, is it really an emergency? I chanced that it was, on both counts. I called the sheriffs dispatch. I prefaced my story with “I don’t know if this is an emergency, but …” They sounded far more panicked than I , and said they’d patch me right through to the fire department. The fire department answered, and again, prefaced with “I don’t know if this is really an emergency, but …”, to which I was met with an urgent reply “We’ll send someone right over.” Not a minute later, the biggest hook and ladder engine pulled up in front of my garage door and I had what looked like about thirty firefighters in my entry hall. So, I got out my phone, took a picture and posted it to facebook with a snarky comment about trick or treaters these days. The somewhat anticlimactic ending? They plucked the snake off the floor with a claw contraption like you’d use to pick up trash without having to bend down. They plunked the little snake into a PVC tube, capped at one end, fit a cap on the other end and left, presumably to free the snake in a more appropriate location. I was a little concerned that other snakes may have entered my house, unbeknownst, any time the door had been opened, so we all exercised some caution within the house, and when entering and exiting through the front door for quite some time thereafter. I no longer live there. Not on account of fear, the rent went up.

Not long after that, I was driving up the onramp to the highway near my home. There are a lot of open fields and new construction in the area, so I’m sure there are lots of field mice and other critters snakes like to feed on. And there are many hawks and other birds of prey that, in turn, like to feed on snakes. One such bird was flapping slowly towards the highway as I approached about the same spot. In it’s talons was a live snake, squirming violently, trying to free itself. I watched, and in the slowest motion imaginable, as the bird and I continued in a trajectory that would likely end up with the bird over my car within a few seconds, I saw the snake drop from the bird’s claws and spiral slowly towards the ground. The thoughts that raced through my consciousness; what if the snake lands on my car, what if the snake lands on my windshield, what if the snake lands on my roof, what if my sunroof was open? The snake landed on the shoulder of the road right next to my car. Ugh! I don’t drive with my sunroof wide open anymore. Ever. That’s not fear, that’s practicality.

When I tell folks about the snake in the house, depending on my whereabouts, a common response I get is, “why didn’t you shoot it?” I’ve shot a snake before, and it didn’t go well. But, more importantly, what would’ve happened to the tile floor had I shot the snake in the entry hall? I wouldn’t have gotten my deposit back, I’m fairly certain. So, I did shoot a snake in the wild, and even that I now regret. We were camping in a very remote forested area. We had been hiking down into the canyon our campsite overlooked, and upon our return, we spotted a snake in the dining tent. The snake spotted us and began a very surreal, and I would think physically impossible climb up one of the tent poles towards the ceiling of the screened tent. Horrified, I did something, intentionally, that startled the snake and made it drop back to the ground where it belonged, inside the tent where it did not. The screened tent had no floor, just a narrow flap along the perimeter. The snake, probably a good three feet long, stretched itself out, hiding completely beneath this very narrow flap, which, in my mind, qualified this snake as more of a serpent than a snake. We flushed it out of hiding with some long handled implement we happened to have nearby. I took the shotgun, I figured I’d have better luck with it than a nine millimeter pistol, and fired. Some part of the shot hit the snake, and in incredible slow motion, the snake spun through the air amidst the dirt and debris the shot kicked up. Twirling, whirling, spinning, up, up, up, then hanging for a moment, then down, down, down and “FWAP”, right on top of our brand new tent. Serpent blood and guts everywhere. And in the weeks and months after that, we were overrun with mice and rodents of all shapes and sizes. That snake had a job, and I appreciate that now.

So, snakes. I’m not afraid, just mindful. I don’t let it control my life; I camp, I hike, I backpack, I rock climb. I enter and exit my house from the front door. I enjoy myself, and I take the proper precautions to avoid an encounter with snakes. I don’t live in the jungle, so I know that snakes are not out there actively hunting me. They, in fact, are more afraid of me than I am of them. Their attacks are in self defense, for self-preservation, instinctual and never unprovoked. Snakes, are, in fact good. They control the rodent population, which keeps many diseases from spreading out of control. They are part of the balance of nature, part of the design, part of the plan. I respect that. I respect them. Caution is appropriate where snakes may be, fear is not. Caution results in seeking to avoid. Fear results in one of two things; refraining from pleasurable activities on the chance of an encounter or, the senseless and needless eradication of the threat.

So, go on. What are you afraid of? You have nothing to fear, but fear itself, and you, and only you, have the power to overcome that, as well.