I’m sure it’s no accident that my most recent and difficult encounter with fear also brought the greatest reward. It happened as I was writing “How I Won the West: A Journey of Discovery” and realized that the tone of my book was becoming more of a memoir than the travel book I had envisioned. It was terrifying, even to think of disclosing certain things about myself ‒ like FEAR. Although I had admitted it to myself and was quite comfortable in dealing with fear, I hadn’t actually talked about it. And putting it onto the pages of a book for people to read was, for me, the worse kind of fear.
But how else could I describe my first drive to the top of a high mountain without telling my readers that I couldn’t provide any details about the view on the way up because my eyes never left the yellow lines in the highway.
And, how could I write about the walk from my mountaintop lodge in the middle of a dark forest to the café at the bottom without revealing that I carried a flashlight in one hand and a canister of pepper spray in the other.
I anguished over my dilemma for months before accepting the fact that in order to be authentic, there was no choice but to continue writing what was determined to be a travel memoir.
From baby steps to giant steps. As the book progressed, I became more comfortable, even writing an entire chapter on fear. And, because my fear was not only acknowledged but brought out into the open, I suddenly felt freer than I ever had. This was the final step in owning my fear rather than allowing fear to own me as it had done for so long. And, more recently, the latest step of actually talking about fear during book talks has lifted the curtain even higher.
Writing about fear in a private notebook is just another way to acknowledge fear and bring it out into the open. You might also talk about it with people close to you, knowing you are not alone, that everyone is dealing with fear in his or her own way. Refuse to keep fear hidden inside yourself where it can fester and keep you from the joy of doing what you are meant to do.
Today, because I no longer give fear any undue importance, we get along quite amicably. Just like any other emotion ‒ anger, sorrow, contentment, or joy ‒ fear is felt, then dealt with, which for me, means either facing it or turning away. The choice is mine. I am in control.
Putting Fear in its Proper Place.
(Comments and questions are welcomed.)