Facing My Fears

By Ferida Wolff

Not long ago I went up in a hot air balloon. It doesn’t sound like such a remarkable feat. All it does is go up in one place and come down in another. Except that I am afraid of heights so the going up was problematic. I imagined falling out and breaking bones I couldn’t even pronounce – if I lived through the experience. It turned out to be pretty tame and incredibly beautiful, but until the balloon landed safely and my feet were back on the ground I was a wreck.

I find myself doing things like that lately – things that I would never have considered when I was younger.

I love the beach but am not a great swimmer. This, no doubt, is due to the swimming lessons my mother enrolled me in when I was nine. The instructor decided that I would conquer my fear of the pool by her pushing me in. It knocked the wind out of me and set me up for being nervous in any water, especially in an unfamiliar sea. So in light of this reluctance, what do I do? I go snorkeling in tropical seas where there are sharks and eels and large fish with grimaces that scare the “bejeebies” out of me.

This seems to be a pattern I have embraced, as I am growing older. I challenge myself to be as bold as I can be, to look fear in the face and smile.

I had spent so many years being afraid of so many things that I figure it’s about time I started working through my fears. My children are grown and safe in their own families. There are fewer years ahead than behind me, and I intend to explore as much of them as I can. This doesn’t mean I plan to go bungee jumping any time soon. I have enough stuff to work around without giving myself a guaranteed heart attack, though I did go zip lining recently. I forced myself to keep my eyes open as I slid down the cables from station to station. I thought I had overcome it all until I was confronted with the Tarzan Swing at the end. The guide hooked me up and gave me an encouraging push off the platform into the open air. I swung back and forth, screaming the whole way. When I finally landed I was hoarse but exhilarated. I was scared but I did it!

As I brave the physical challenges I see I am also more able to deal with the subtle ones. I find it’s okay to share my opinions, now. Maybe I’ll be disagreed with but that makes the conversation all the more interesting. I don’t have to worry about being right all the time or the best at everything. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get it perfect the first time when learning a new skill – eventually I will.

At this time of my life fear has become an amber caution light rather than a red stop light. The balloon ride showed me that I can be careful and adventurous at the same time. So if mountain trekking and riding the rapids call, I probably will do it. If expressing my feelings seems appropriate, I will do that, too. My stomach may do flip-flops but my heart will soar.

About this writer

  • Ferida Wolff Ferida Wolff is author of 17 books for children and three essay books for adults. A frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, she also writes for newspapers and magazines, online at www.grandparents.com and is a columnist for www.seniorwomen.com. Her website is www.feridawolff.com, and her newest book is Missed Perceptions: Challenge Your Thoughts Change Your Thinking (Pranava Books 2009).

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2 Responses to “Facing My Fears”

  1. Terrific article, Ferida! Good for you.

  2. Rose Ann Sinay says:

    You’re living life to its fullest! Congratulations. Inspiring story.

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