Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Biggest Fear???

I had a pretty sheltered upbringing. As a young kid, most of my time was spent studying, playing piano, playing with a few girlfriends, doing various art projects, helping around the house or fishing, which my dad enjoyed. I was discouraged from doing much sports or anything that might be considered dangerous or physically uncomfortable, especially since I started wearing glasses in 4th grade. We were constantly battling bugs and germs by washing things, cleaning things, closing things, spraying things and wrapping things. On family vacations or outings, we never drove more than a couple hours, never went on an airplane, never went camping and never saw snow. One time we stayed in some rustic cabins that had no electricity after a certain time at night, my mom couldn't stand it and so we soon went to another place that was more "civilized."

It's no wonder I grew up with a lot of fears. And I know my sister, Jade Lady, has a lot of them too.

On my own in college, however, I lucked out to meet friends and boyfriends who were very different from me. I got to do a lot of things my parents would never have condoned (so I didn't tell them :-): skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, windsurfing and skydiving. Looking at that list alone, you might have thought I was quite the adventurous type -- HA!

The truth is I didn't want to miss out on activities my friends were doing and would be talking about so I went along to be part of the group. And I was always glad I did, even though I wasn't very good at doing most of that stuff. In the case of boyfriends, well, I also didn't want them to find someone else to go with since I'm the jealous type >:)

Now, so many years later, though, I have very fond memories of all of those adventures. I don't have an inner passion to go off and do those things on my own, but I am willing to do them with others if the opportunity arises. What I do have from those experiences, however, is a drive to not to let my many fears stop me from doing "risky" or uncomfortable things, something that I definitely did not get from my parents.

1. Running outdoors, even though I've been nearly attacked twice and know that a serial rapist who preys on joggers/walkers in my area has never been caught. What worked/works for me: 6 years of martial arts training, always carry pepper spray and a cell phone, wear a rear view mirror on sunglasses (most attacks have been from behind), constant awareness of my surroundings, various running routes and times, running with others.

2. Swimming, despite lots of struggles with form, frequent headaches & nauseousness, boredom swimming laps, no masters group to train with, and a huge fear of gators & sharks in open water. What worked/works for me: Swim lessons from 3 different instructors until I found a stroke that worked for me (took me about 2 years but I now finally like swimming!), silicon swim cap, better fitting and tinted goggles, SwiMP3 player (thanks to SimplyStu!), book of swim workouts, and swimming at least 2-3 times a week. In open water, I close my eyes most of the time except to sight (better I not see any creatures if they happen to be there). If the water is rough, I use ear plugs and take ginger pills and motion sickness medicine (Bonine).

3. Riding a bike on roads, though initially terrified of cars hitting me, getting yelled at by drivers and having had a beer bottle thrown at me once while out riding. What worked/works for me: Wearing a rear view mirror on sunglasses (seeing vehicles coming up from behind and not having to turn my head as much when going across traffic is a big comfort to me!), wearing BRIGHT colored jerseys, riding with a more experienced rider (my husband) and occasionally in a group. As far as rude drivers, I usually don't let them get to me and, in fact, I often smile and wave at them instead to make them think I mistook their nastiness for friendliness.

Because my biggest fear now is missing out on things that might make my life more enjoyable or give me an opportunity to better myself. And more rewarding to me than crossing a finish line, achieving a certain goal race time, getting a medal or a label is just the fact that I'm out there, still. I haven't let myself get in the way of becoming a triathlete.

What are some things you've done to manage or overcome your fears and struggles? What drives you to do things that may be against your better judgment or unnatural for you?


Eileen said...

What a great post! I love how inspirational you can be while being down-to-earth. :-)

Eileen (Jim Reed's niece)

Rural Girl said...

You are truly an inspiration! I agree with you completely. The things I have been most proud of in my life were the things I was most afraid of.

jen said...

Great post. I can relate- I am also a "risk-averse" person as my husband says.

Getting into triathlon has forced me into a lot of scary new situations (open water swimming, cycling on the roads, etc) but I'm slowing getting used to it and starting to really love it. For me, what has worked is just keeping at it. I sometimes want to give up and go back to my comfort zone (running!) but I keep putting myself out there and every day it gets less scary and more fun. :)

DaveP said...

To have a second marriage fail.

Luckily, I married you and you have put up with all my crap for the last 14 years (Our anniversary is on the 30th). I'm looking forward to the next 50


Comm's said...

I wish believe would actually believe your final comment about missing out on things in life. People deny themselves so much pleasure because of fear and insecurity.

Truly one of the best post I have read all week. And you looked stunning in your red dress.

MarathonChris said...

Great post, Shirley (and great response Dave). Truly something to think on!

You hit it on the head - fear is definitely the limiting factor in our lives and the thing that holds us back. Overcoming it is the sweetest victory of all!

akshaye said...

Great post.. and happy anniversary in advance to both of you!

Its all about preparing for your risks. The best part is - if you told yourself that these are things you would be doing 10-15 years, you would have never believed it!

BreeWee said...

Oh my gosh! This is the best post I have read of yours (and you have a lot of good ones!)

What an inspiration...

I don't think you ever miss a thing! You appreciate life and challenge yourself daily!

Susan said...

Sometimes I just say to myself "You can not live in fear. Now just go do it." Sometimes I just hae to give my own self a talking-to. That, plus encouragement from others, helps a lot!

peter said...

Besides being afraid of getting jnjured (I'm careful, I do take some risks but I try to be prudent about them), I'm not afraid of things, I'm afraid of failure. That's why when I started running at 48 it transformed me. I didn't let my fear of not keeping the weight off paralyze me. I stopped letting the fear of embarassing myself, not fulfilling my friends' expectations (oh, he's fast, he'll do such and such time), not meeting my goals or succumbing to fatigue or doubt hold me back. Now I go out there and try (having put in the work of some training). Usually it works out in some way, although usually not completely. Sometimes it doesn't at all and I re-assess. I do 40 races a year and practically every week I put my fears to the side, again.

Thanks for sharing those 3rd eyes. That might be really good for running on my trail where the bikers sometimes seem to delight in scaring the bejeezuz out of us poor plodding runners. Good post. And your sister does have a point about those mountain lions. When I was running in Boulder recently with my realtor friend, he was talking about big cats being seen on the front range near settlements, particualrlyin secluded areas where trails are. He told a story of a hs wrestler out for a run in Evergreen who was fatally attacked. I couldn't find the story in Google, but it is a concern to runners out there. Do they stop running on the trails though? Naw, they just stop telling their wives (who don't run but would worry about them or force them to stop) about the sightings.

ShirleyPerly said...

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Peter, you mentioned a biggie: Fear of Failure. That used to stop me from even trying new things or trying to improve on things I wasn't very good at. Now all it seems I do is try to improve on things I suck at ;-)

Cliff said...

Hmm..swimming is my fear. I also fear of going too hard too fast and blowing myself up.

For swimming, I find where the border where my fear is and keep pressing on it.

Example, I never think I can swim more than 10 laps. So i swim 10 laps and add a lap. Next time, add a few more.

I can afraid of swimming in contact with others. I swim close to someone. Then I keep swimming in contact with them.

Smithposts said...

As always, a very inspirational post! I think I am going to back to the pool to work on that multi-layered fear.

CewTwo said...

You are full of it! Great posts that is!

My biggest fears are heights and dogs (yes, I know I have a dog - How do you think I learned to deal with it?)

Heights? 1. Stay away from the edge! 2. Don't go way up there.

Jeeping has led to some wonderful heart thumping and presence of mind dilemnas, but it is a form of real excitement for me!

I have head other fears, but have dealt with them (in one form or another) and they no longer apply.

Did I mention fear of marathon distances?

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice post! It's great to just get out there and try new things, whatever your comfort level!...

Stef said...

I read this post a couple of days ago and have been thinking of what to put down.

Fear of failure. Yup. That's the one for me. And boy did I pick a sport that made me face that fear! Especially in the water, but also on the road, and just in general.

Last year (my first season) I fell prey to the mindset that, because my times were slow, I was a failure. I had a couple of DNS (in key races) last year because I was simply afraid that I couldn't make it, or I would be too slow . . . quite simply, that I would fail.

I feel fortunate that I had the wherewithal to pull myself out of that because I really do love the sport and what it has done for my confidence level. This season is totally different and I look at my times now from a new perspective.

I really like this post and the thoughts that it provoked. Thanks.

RBR said...

Fear of failure and embarrassment in public kept me from trying anything like this for all of my adult life until age 35.

Then after an illness, fear of regrets. Regrets at looking back at a life filled with work and little else.

Thanks for the reminder!

lizzie lee said...

My mom is pretty much like yours... I remember once we went for a weekend to a nice house in the beach. When we arrived there was no water. First thing in the morning: we packed and went back to the concrete jungle....

How do I get in VRR?

IrishBlue said...

What a great philosophy for life. It reminds me of one of my favorite sayings "Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable."
~ Sydney J. Harris

You will have few regrets and many, many triumphs!

triguyjt said...

Very inspiring post sherley...

You really go for it ..every day..

thats the way to live!!!

Have a great day

Jade Lady said...

We talked a lot on the phone about this post - sorry my original comment got lost in the ether.

First, I really use my gut feelings when it comes to making decisions - things that don't feel right get tossed. Sometimes, I have second thoughts - sometimes I think I see "signs"...and I follow them - yeah, strange, but true.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable things I've gone thru recently is swimming. I think of your words, and words that I tell my own daughter when she tries to write her small alphabet. Keep practicing - be patient. Get out there. So, that's what I'm doing.

Fear of failure for me is hard, hard hard. I don't like to do something I'm not confident about. Sometimes, I have the strength to get past it, sometimes not. It depends on the day of the month ;-)

My trouble is that I'm too results oriented, I think. I don't enjoy the journey as much as I should. I keep focusing on the end result. I keep looking at the glass as HALF-FULL. Seeing the Team Hoyt story makes me realize that even more. That is one of the most heart-felt stories I've seen - thank you again for posting that on