I woke up this morning thinking about fears. A teacher came up to me yesterday at a booth that I was working at and asked me a question. It's a question that has popped up often in the last year: "Aren't you afraid you're going to lose the little bit of hearing that you have left if you keep on barefoot water skiing?"
One year ago this month, I took up barefoot water skiing again, a sport that left me deaf as a teen. My brother also lost some hearing from a fall while barefooting, so I know that every time I get on the water, there's the potential for losing the the "little bit of hearing that I have left." The deaf gene that runs in our family is like a game of Russian Roulette-- we never know when the bullet is going to strike and bring on more hearing loss. So yes, I'm afraid-- sometimes. Most of the time, I try not to dwell on it.
Back when I was nineteen, I was crossing the wake on my bare feet when I caught a toe and fell. In an instant, I went from hard of hearing to deaf. When I climbed into the boat, I could see my friend's lips moving, but I couldn't hear them.
The first time that I finally faced my fear of crossing the wake last August, I thought that I conquered the fear. But the first time that I crossed the wake on my bare feet a few months later, I bailed out just as I went over the wake. Fear came washing right up over me.
So when I went to the World Barefoot Center last month, I had the goal of making it across the entire wake on my bare feet-- no shoes. After all, if I was going to enter a tournament this summer, I would have to learn that skill. The only way to deal with the fear, was to do the very thing that brought on the fear.
I hesitated on the water at first, but I closed my eyes and just plowed through the wakes. Inside, I felt like screaming. I likened it to the same feeling that I had when I first rode on the Superman ride at Great America. It was the only roller coaster ride that scared the crap out of me. I didn't know that it would terrify me until three seconds into the ride-- and of course, there was no way off. So I screamed my way through it and never went on that ride again. Why would I want to go through something so terrifying? What reward would there be to face that fear again?
But here's the thing, I love barefoot water skiing. I want to learn to compete. And the only way to learn, is to face the fear and cross the wake. "Go back out there and do it again," said two-time World Barefoot Champion, Keith St. Onge. "But you have to keep your eyes open--you have to see where you're going so that you can cross over successfully." So back out I went, but the fear screamed through me with each crossing. I gritted my teeth and hung on. There was triumph afterward-- as I crossed the wakes three times.
I talked with the World Barefoot Center coach, Swampy, afterward. I told him how deep down, there was a little part of me that was scared on the water. Would that fear keep popping up each time? "You're going to have to work through that," he said. "The fear of falling is going to hold you back-- you can't be afraid to fall."
So this morning, when I came across a post by Molly Cantrell-Kraig in Liz Strauss' blog, the title caught my eye:
One particular paragraph that Molly wrote with a quote stood out for me:
When it comes to the purifying nature of fear, I don't know of
a better example of a linear, step-by-step explanation of how fear can
be harnessed and overcome than the following excerpt from Frank
Herbert's 1965 speculative fiction book, Dune:
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the
little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I
will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone
past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone
there will be nothing. Only I will remain." - Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
So I thought long and hard about fear this morning. How many of us hold back because of fear? We fear the "what ifs" in life so we choose the safe course. How many of us end up tiptoeing through life to avoid fear-- and as a result, we hold ourselves back from our full potential?
One of the realities of fear is that sometimes we have to conquer it over and over again to continue to move forward. There is wisdom in the Bene quote above that holds the key to facing fear: "I will permit it to pass over me and through me. ...Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."