OVERCOMING FEARS – ONE AT A TIME
(PHOBIAS ARE MERELY STUMBLING BLOCKS ON OUR PERSONAL PATHWAYS TO SUCCESS!)
Today was an absolutely GORGEOUS Fall day, complete with a clear sky of surreal blue color, light breeze wafting through the trees, & just the perfect hint of cool Autumn air teasing us out of Summer’s sultry stupor. Late afternoon, when I finally took a break from phone calls & paperwork, it was almost pretty enough outside to make me forget about the personal & professional disappointments I’d encountered earlier in the day. I ran my errands for business, then stopped by the local Greenway for a walk.
The trees hanging over the waterway were dappled with the day’s fading rays of sunlight when I set out for a few minutes of stress relief, so I quickened my pace in order that I might exit the park prior to sunset. There is just something about getting your cardio on that makes one feel a tad less stressed out, and I was feeling at peace as I finished my exercise for the day. I looked up and I noticed the Evening star, bright & shining just a short distance from a new crescent moon that was about as large as any new moon I have ever seen. It seemed as if I could just reach up & take hold of it. Always looking for a reason to be optimistic, it held my attention as I set out to run some personal errands, and I began to reflect on the meaning of new beginnings.
I reminisced about how, a little over a year earlier, faced with a major life change, I decided to conquer one of my three lifelong fears, which is the Fear of Falling. I have had that fear ever since I was a little girl, and I was able to face it nose to nose when I rappelled off of the top of a 12 story building as a participant in a charitable fundraiser.
I did a video which shows the process I went through to overcome that very real fear, in hopes that it might provide someone, somewhere, someday, a little inspiration. You can view that video here:http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KgLfwRnhp3Q
In addition to that fear, though I adore the water, I have a fear of being BENEATH the water. It was my intention to tackle that fear this past summer by taking scuba lessons, but alas, summer is gone, and somehow I never got around to that. So my mind wandered to that other fear, the one that causes me to cringe, feel nauseous, and has, at times, caused me some small amount of embarrassment. That fear, is almost a full blown phobia – it is the fear of rodents. Brought on by an adult with a deranged sense of humor who used to chase me with them when I was a very little girl, I decided that I did not care if I ever conquered that particular fear. I declared to all that would listen that it was my intention to go to my grave without ever having touched one of those nasty little critters. But looking up at the hopeful moon in the Autumnal night sky, I decided it was time that I practiced what I preached, and set off to find a way to get over a fear that has literally paralyzed me for my entire life. I drove to a local chain pet store, found the rodent cages, & stood there staring at them.
This was a feat in and of itself, because ordinarily I would never even set foot on those aisles. When a nice young man named Leo asked me if he could assist me in any way, I told him that he would think I was crazy if I told him how he could help me. In answer to his quizzical expression at my unusual reply to his rote question, I explained that I had gotten a divorce last year after 26 years of marriage, and I was determined to conquer all of my fears. Glancing at his name badge, I exclaimed, “I need for you to help me, Leo!” I told him that I wanted to hold this “cute” little gerbil. “Oh, no, you need a more sedate one than that”, he solemnly informed me. “Wait here – I will be right back to help you, as soon as I go catch some fish for these other people. ” As I stood there waiting on Leo to get the other customers their fish out of the tank, I began to get cold feet. I thought how silly I was being by asking this young man to help me do this. But when a little boy whose head barely towered above me kneecap ran right up to the glass cage of the ugliest little rodent in the house and animatedly proclaimed to me, “I just LOVE those little mice!”, I decided the time had indeed arrived for me to conquer this fear.
Still waiting on Leo to come back, I started to pace. I could feel the heat rising on my neck, and my tummy started to feel a tad bit nauseous when another young man named Antonio walked up and offered me assistance. When I explained what Leo was going to help me do, I asked Antonio if he would take a picture of me holding one of them, IF I could gather the courage to actually do it. “I am old enough to be your mother, and I hope to lick this fear once and for all, I told him.” He asked my age, and courteously said, “Oh, you do not look that old, AT ALL!” While I knew he was only trying to be polite, it nonetheless made me feel a bit more relaxed. He was so encouraging, and he was like my own personal cheerleader, egging me on, and telling me that I could do this. Finally, Leo came back, and there was some debate between my two new friends as to exactly which rodent I should attempt to handle. Unfortunately, they both agreed that the one I had been intent on petting was not the best choice, so they started me out with a guinea pig.
As Leo held him, I petted his fur, noting that it was soft like a bunny’s, and trying to ignore the comments that rabbits are rodent-like. I have always liked bunnies, you see, and so touching them has never been an issue. Finally, I held the thing, and I was amazed that the earth did not open up and swallow me whole, the critter did not bite me, and I actually thought he was kind of cute!
Next, it was on to a rodent that had a long, slinky black tail and beady, blood colored red eyes. Leo scooped him up in the plastic thing that served as his bed, and I asked if I could just hold the plastic thing, which I did. They two young men tried to get me to allow the vermin to crawl all over my hands and arms, but I would hear nothing of that. All of a sudden, my worst fear was realized when the bony little fellow made a big leap out of the plastic container in an attempt to break out of jail and escape. Apparently, work release was not for him! Thankfully, Leo’s quick reflexes caused him to catch the rodent in mid-air.
I was most appreciative of this, because thoughts of him running right up my pants leg were flooding my mind. About that time, Antonio chided me for not holding the little thing in my hands. I reminded him that I DID hold him in that plastic thing, but he assured me, “That does not count!” Taking a deep breath and praying that I would not pass out or hyperventilate, I said to Leo, “Oh, just give me the thing right now before I run out of here!” And he did!
That little gray thing was so bony, and his tiny claws were digging into my hands. He squirmed and wiggled and tried to get away. I am not sure which one of us had a heart that was beating faster, but I am sure that he did not like me any more than I liked him. But I held onto him long enough for Leo to take some pictures on my phone.
At the end I remember the fearful feeling vanished, and was replaced by a victorious feeling instead. Similar to the time I rappelled off of the top of that building. After Leo put him back in his bed for the night, he began opening another cage, and said, “Now, it is time for this one!!!” I gasped as I looked down and saw a HUGE rat! Leo laughed and told me that he was only joking, that not even he liked to handle that one, and whenever a customer makes me take him out, he always washes his hands afterwards. Which made me wonder about potential diseases. Even thought the sign said that they were “Vet checked”, do the veterinarians there REALLY examine those pesky little rodents???
I immediately spread hand sanitizer all over my hands, just for safekeeping. Then I both thanked and hugged my helpers. I am sure I was probably the talk of the store after I left. I sat in the parking lot, and texted my kids what I had done. Thankfully I have the photos, or else no one will probably believe I actually did that. After all, I once locked myself in my study when my son chased me with a plastic toy that I THOUGHT was a rodent; I stood atop a chair and screamed when someone thrust a gerbil in my face at an adult Sunday School party; and I was the laughingstock of a restaurant in New Orleans recently when a mouse ran under my chair.
But I DID IT! I faced my fear in the face, then I kicked it in the butt!! I left with a wonderful feeling of self satisfaction. And while I doubt I will be looking to hold any rodents any time in the near future, at least I now know that my imagination about them was much worse than the reality, Isn’t it that way with most things?
Now, where can I take scuba lessons? I challenge you, no matter what your age or fear, to go out and face it! You will be glad that you did so! As for me? I will be the lady decked out in a wet suit, holding a rodent in one hand, and a rappelling rope in the other, as I scoot down the side of a cliff!
The day I went over the edge of that building, I had a team of professionals supporting me, as well as a crowd of about fifty onlookers consisting of my family, friends, colleagues & acquaintances who all came out to encourage me. But the night I went into the pet store, I only had myself, the store employees (who I KNOW think I belong in the Looney Bin). But BOTH times, I had God standing right beside me, & that was enough. “I can do ALL things through Christ, who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13