Sometimes You Have to Fight Fear

Sometimes you have to fight fear, let it know who’s boss.

Trip of a Lifetime

Almost three years ago, in November 2017, I was in New South Wales, Australia. I wanted to study Reiki from Frans Stiene and at the time his next Reiki I class was in his home base, the Blue Mountains north of Sydney.

It was my first time in Australia and I enjoyed every minute of my short time there. The class lasted a weekend, but I was allowed an extra day to overcome the jet lag from my fourteen hour flight. Wandering around the beautifully landscaped grounds of the International House of Reiki Tomah Retreat, there were new garden vignettes at every turn. Most noteworthy, an adult tree house rose near a garden with camellias blooming just beyond. Next I found a small pond with koi. Wandering farther, I found a labyrinth of low growing shrubs. As I walked the circle, I wondered what the weekend would bring.

Unexpected Hospitality

The class far exceeded my expectations. And what fun to be the only American with eight Australians from all over the continent. Sunday arrived sooner than expected and we started thinking about heading home. Luckily, one of the other Reiki students lived in Sydney and she not only let me ride along, she delivered me directly to the front desk of my downtown 5-star, glass wonder Sydney hotel. That’s real Australian hospitality!

Modern Splendor

Similarly, the glass exterior was repeated in the room design. The bathroom was almost like one of those scenes in a carnival house of mirrors, where you think it’s the way out only to find, once again, you took a wrong turn. The difference was this hotel was elegant, warm and inviting. Something about the bathtub drew me to it. Maybe it was the marble tile edge, or the reflection of the soothing turquoise green plexiglas by the sink. I thought, what a nice way to relax before venturing out to find an evening meal.

In contrast, the prefab tub and shower combination at home was not at all inviting. But the non-slip coating on the tub floor and the rounded edge were just what I needed to hoist my plus-size body out of an Epson Salt bath I’d had a few months prior.

What Could Go Wrong?

I gently lowered myself into the warm water. The lovely scent of the bath gel and the softness of the washcloth reminded me what 5-star quality feels like. My arthritic knees were soothed and soon my toes were wrinkled as the water cooled. I reached forward and was surprised how easy it was to reach the drain release.

“What’s different here?” I asked myself.

I proceeded to turn my body sideways in order to get to my knees, which is the only way I can get out of the tub at home. But I couldn’t turn. The tub was too small and I was too big. Uh-oh. I sat upright as fear swept over me.

“I can’t get out,” I murmured.

“Okay, okay. Just relax.”

I took three cleansing breaths. That felt better. How about throwing my leg over the edge onto the floor? I tried, but I didn’t have enough strength to overcome the weight of my ample butt and I slipped right back in.

As I sat there, naked, damp, getting cold, all I could imagine was the shame of being found by the cleaning lady the next day. There it was, the look of disgust on her face. That’s when I started to get angry with myself.

“Dammit, there has to be some way I can get myself out of here.”

Will This Never End?

Sometimes you have to fight fear. Certainly the slight adrenaline rush of my anger helped me. I tried to get purchase behind me on the marble edge of the tub. My butt was off the bottom of the tub, my feet pressed against the end by the drain. I slipped. I got more angry. Through sheer will, I managed to find the strength to get up far enough to scoot one foot beneath me, pain searing through my knee. I fumbled myself into a partially upright position and managed to throw my left leg over the edge and onto the floor.

I lay crumpled on the floor weeping with relief. As I crawled to my knees, I lay my forearm over the toilet, gripping the side and was finally upright. I toweled off and pulled the plush bathrobe around myself, covering my nakedness, still trembling.

Finally Over

Exhausted, I found the menu and ordered room service; hamburger, fries and a Diet Coke. As I took my first bite, I closed my eyes, savored the texture, aroma, and charbroiled flavor of the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten.

Sated, I walked to my window and watched the lights come on as darkness descended. Right below me, across the street was Sydney’s Town Hall, a beautiful, historic Victorian building dwarfed by the towering modern skyscrapers.

“I know how you feel, old friend. But we endure, don’t we.”

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Taking a Leap of Faith

Have you ever found yourself taking a leap of faith? Or is safety in the shadows more your style? As I have spent more energy and time getting to the essence of my life, journaling, meditating, living in the moment, and listening to my heart, I find I’ve stepped out of the shadows and into the light. Two weeks ago, I spent four days on a woman’s retreat in the Poconos. It was my first visit to the area and I looked forward to a little fall color in addition to the companionship of like minded women.

Highlights of the retreat

Of course, the food was amazing. We had two participants sharing kitchen duty that included a professional chef. The lodge was laid out to accommodate all seventeen of us comfortably. We met with our three leaders from Inner Soul Retreats in the great room for morning restorative yoga, instruction and discussion, and many energy changing techniques designed to open our hearts to the possibilities each of us sought.

A few of us spent an hour hiking along one of the trails in hopes of seeing a waterfall. The dry summer nixed that idea. Instead we came upon the zip line we had heard about. For me, the idea of experiencing a zip line had never been considered due to my lifelong fear of heights. Earlier, when a roommate described her experience on a particularly long zip line in Hawaii, my fear was amplified.

Overcoming a lifelong fear

Imagine my surprise when after a technique shared with four other women, I lost all fear of the idea of the zip line! As the facilitators left to inquire about members of our group taking the tandem zip line plunge, I was right there with my cash, ready to signup.

It never occurred to me I’d need to hike up to the zip line platform. I suppose since all the blood was rushing to my leg muscles as I navigated the steep climb, I didn’t think about the jumping off part. Standing in line, two by two, held a little anxiety, but watching the freedom of letting go exhibited by the young group in front of us helped. I also saw I could hold onto the strap connecting my harness to the metal trolley.

Finally the time had come. We received our instructions again, “The safety line is off. You can sit now. Okay, lift your feet!”

I was actually zip lining, suspended in midair above the rocky terrain, holding onto dear life, my fingers clutching the strap, my eyes wide open taking it all in. Suddenly we connected with the bungee breaking system. Wow, that was startling. I hung in my harness as my partner was first directed to climb the movable staircase enabling the attendant to disconnect her contraption. As I walked up the stairs, I imagined this is how Pinocchio must have felt.

The Second Trip

My companion had opted for a single ride and was busy getting out of her harness. I started my climb up the trail with much more anticipation than my first time. Soon the rest of the second-timers joined me in line for the platform. Now my fear was gone replaced by excitement. I couldn’t wait to go again. This time I planned to let go and dance like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.

As my feet left the safety of the platform, my spirit rose and I released my grip. My gyrations probably looked hilarious, but I felt alive and truly free for the first time in my life. Even the braking at the end was fun.

The Effect of Conquering Fear

What was my takeaway from the zip line? Taking a leap of faith I literally stepped into uncharted territory. By conquering one fear, it was so much easier to step into my life. Now my confidence soars and I know I can do anything. There are no limits.


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How I Worked Through Anxiety at 1 am

I had a rough night last night. I’m at my husband’s hunting camp in Middle Georgia. We have a nice roomy travel trailer. The weather is nice, mid-80’s and then 50’s at night, comfortable sleeping weather. So why did I wake up just past midnight with leg cramps and extreme restlessness?

Taking the youngest dog, 15 month-old Sugar, for her middle-of-the-night stroll, gave me relief from the cramps, but the restlessness was just as bad when I returned to our queen-size trailer bed. No, it was something else bothering me.

I learned long ago sleep would elude me until I felt I’d accomplished a task I had put off or faced the fear staring me in the face.

Asking Myself the Hard Quesitons

”What is it?” I asked myself. “Why am I so uncomfortable here?” Having three dogs that need walking several times a day keeps me active, perhaps too active, explaining the leg cramps. But what else is nagging me?

The memory of a panic attack in a mummy sleeping bag, inside a dome tent thirty years ago, held the answer. My claustrophobia had reared it’s ugly head. But I don’t have issues with crowded elevators or long airplane flights, well, no pressing issues.

Taking the Initiative to Find Answers

In the dark, laying in bed, I reach for my iPhone and Googled ‘claustrophobia’. There are a couple types, but the fear of being trapped seems to fit my situation. At home, I can’t even allow the folded comforter at the foot of the bed to weigh down my feet in bed. I have to push it over the railing of the four poster bed. And sleeping with dogs is not my thing. As long as Sugar is near the center of the foot of the bed, I’m okay, but don’t get between me and the edge where I swing my legs over to get up. Don’t do that!

Reading further about the cause of claustrophobia, it can usually be traced back to some childhood trauma where the sufferer was put in a dark closet or box, or just felt confined and unable to get out. I rack my brain to remember anything like that in my own past and there it is.

Making the Connection

When I was about 9, my sister and I were playing at her friend’s house. There was a rope swing hanging from a chinaberry tree. It was along the embankment leading down to a railroad track. We had lifted up a railroad tie to see is any cool bugs were lurking beneath. The tie had sunk into soft red clay that now was hard, leaving behind a perfect, narrow trough.

As I swung out, I let go with the intention of landing on my feet, knees bent to soften the impact. But somehow I landed on my butt, legs extended out, straight into the trough. The wind was knocked out of me and I panicked, trapped in the hard clay. My sister and her friend came to my rescue, pulling me out.

Realizing the source of my anxiety, helped me understand situations where I feel uncomfortable:

    • A preference eating on the open porch rather than our usual location at the bar off the kitchen, the upper cabinet over my head
    • Feeling closed in unless the blinds are open during the day, no valence or draperies on my windows, ever
    • Choosing seats on trains, buses, or automobiles where I can look out both sides or even better, three sides
    • Always preferring outside to inside, even if it’s cold, rainy, or hot

Learning How to Make My Life Better

Thinking about all this calmed me considerably and I was able to fall asleep. Even better, this morning I opened all the blinds, shared my insights with my husband and now I feel like I’ve opened a window where I can breathe into myself. It’s another brick removed from the wall of protection I’ve created.

Sugar Among the Posies