I recently read a blog post from one of my mentors, Terry DeMeo, http://www.thewayfinderpost.com/life-begins-at-the-edge-of-your-comfort-zone/, as seen on the Wayfinder Post. This blog was about reclaiming courage over fear of heights, which I can relate to and this brought me to a related thought about where these fears come from, how they affect us and affect other people in our lives as well.
When I was thinking about my own fear of heights, I began to unravel the origin of my fear. I noticed where it came from and why and how holding onto that fear also taught others to fear too, namely my children.
When I was a girl, I was fearless. I was in high motion all of the time. I drove my mother crazy with my restlessness. When I was about nine I remember going to visit my twin, boy cousins in Long Island NY for Thanksgiving. I grew up in Vermont, where at home it was already wintery cold and snowy in November, so it was much milder and playing outside was fun in New York. My cousins lived near a playground that we could run through the woods to get to. On this playground there was this tall, wide wall. I did not know what it was, but in retrospect I imagine it was a handball court. The wall seemed incredibly high and I was challenged to climb up it and to jump off. I remember being afraid, but more afraid of not keeping up with the boys, so I did it and jumped. To this day I remember hitting my jaw on my knee when I landed, but did not complain. I loved being admired by the boys. I always had tested myself. I remember climbing trees at home and going up as high as possible and not being very afraid at all. I was not afraid of high places.
Fast forward to having my children. I remember that after my children were born, I was somehow very afraid of ladders, roofs, flying and when we took our children to national parks, like Yellowstone and looked over the edges of river gorges, I was terrified. I was afraid for me and for my children falling over the edges. I had really developed a fear of heights.
Fast forward to one of my children being in a difficult situation as a young adult. This precious person in my life had developed such deep fears, not about heights, but about failing, living and generally had lost herself to the point that at times I was afraid I would lose her. I became overcome with anxiety and fear myself. I began living in constant “fight or flight” and had lost myself as well. I was living each moment in worry and fear. I took into my heart all she told me and believed every word of her “story” as being true. She was believing all the worst and I was believing her. My fears had taken over my life. I knew that I could not continue this way. I was not helping her and was not living my life. I didn’t know how to change things.
I had been listening to a variety of self-help books as I walked alone, trying to change my thinking. I listened to Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, and then Martha Beck. Martha’s books added a new dimension. I had been listening to them all secretly thinking I could come up with the right words to say to my daughter that would make the difference to her and somehow crack the code to her misery. My using the right words seemed to work for me when I tried to get my parents back together in my twenties, so why not now? What I heard from Martha that hit me was that I needed to heal myself, put on my own oxygen mask before I could help anyone else. I knew that I had tried everything else, other than healing myself so this might be my answer. I enrolled in Martha’s coaching school, still secretly thinking that if I could help other people, I could help my daughter, which was always my mission. Being in coach training taught me many things and one was that by starting with living your own best life, you are an example to others on how to live theirs. I noticed that as soon as I began to take care of myself again it seemed to give my daughter permission to move forward as well. I did not think I had let her see how worried I had been about her, but obviously her intuition told her I was and this contributed to her being stuck. I began to do things with friends again and stopped living in the little box I had created with fear and began living my life. It was VERY hard for me to do this, but I knew in my soul that it was what I must do.
I am healing and my daughter is too. I realize now that my fear was getting in the way of that healing.
Now, back to my fear of heights. Last summer my husband, brother-in-law, daughter and I went out west to a wild place (wild as in unspoiled wilderness) on horseback to camp on the ground in grizzly bear territory. It is a wilderness area east of Yellowstone National Park and west of Cody WY. I was with my daughter who I had spent so much time worrying about and we were traveling terrain that was not for the faint of heart, let alone those who fear heights. We are not horseback riders back home and had done one trail ride before going out as practice. Our horses were on their first trip on this trail for the year, so they were not practiced at it either and rather out of shape. We were hearing a lot of deep wheezing as they worked their way up the mountain. We were on extremely narrow trails where with one false move you could plummet to your death. I was looking down, taking in the beauty and strangely had no fear. The person I had so worried about was by my side (well, just behind me) and I realized that the fear of my own death paled compared to my fear of losing her had been and I was simply allowing myself to enjoy the view and to absorb the experience. I was at the head of the group, just behind the wrangler leading the way, and did not know how things looked from behind, but my family took a picture of me on my horse as we were looping around one of the tight switchbacks. They didn’t tell me until we were back that they were really afraid because my horse tended to like walking on the very edge of the cliff and in the picture he was just on the edge. I had rather enjoyed the experience.
Another thing I have learned that I want to share with you as I close is something you would hear incessantly if you were my client, and this is, “What is best for you is best for everyone.” When we live our lives doing what is best for ourselves even if others disagree, it is not only right for us but allows others to do what is best for them. We are teaching others to stand in their own strength and setting boundaries that always enrich our relationships. Doing this is not always easy because of pressure from our loved ones and other relationships, and it is not always the easiest choice, but time will prove it is the best thing.
I have a wish list, but I don’t beat myself up over it because all things have happened as they should have, but I wish I had learned all of these things when my children were young. Some people know these things innately, but people who are sensitive, empathic, or harmed as children have to learn these lessons. I am so glad to be where I am now and honestly, nothing really scares me. Fear and worry are a waste of our precious life. Live boldly! You have nothing to fear.