Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fear, part 1

Some years back, after I was living in California about a year, I was working in a very unstable company, and wanted to find a new job. Someone I had met at a temporary job a few months earlier set up a telephone introduction for me with a woman he knew who might have an opening at her company.

When I called her, she thought it would be a good idea if we met to talk. So she asked, "Would you like to get together for dinner, or tea?"

I was stunned at my reaction to that question. Before I could reply, I knew something about myself.

I said "Tea," and we made a time to meet a few days later.

But before I got the word "tea" out of my mouth, I realized why I would be answering "tea." I would be answering "tea" out of fear. I was unsure of myself, unsure who she was, and I was clearly (in my mind, at the time) not going to be able to handle a formal/official 'business dinner' (whatever that is).

In that reply, I instinctively knew I had been living my entire life in terms of fear. With many fears to choose, I made most efficient use of the ones I gravitated to, I was comfortable navigating the world with my fears, and held them close. I never went anywhere without them. It was the reason I did everything that I did, it was the reason I didn't do everything that I didn't do.

(As it was, I met with that person over tea. She turned out to be as plain and uninteresting as I. Needless to say, no job came of out that interaction. )

From that experience, I decided to investigate my fear[s]. What was it? How did it work? What could I do about it? I spent many hours and many days considering my fears, looking at how it manifested in my life, and its origins.

After some time, determined to not let fear run my life, or at least my entire life, I became determined to confront it.

I decided to understand what were my worst fears.

More thinking followed.

I came to understand that my two greatest fears were: one, getting married, and two, jumping out an airplane.

At the time there was no specific immediate possible spouse on the horizon, so confronting that item was put on hold.

Determined to do things I was fearful of, I pulled out the yellow pages and looked up skydiving. A few weeks later, off to skydiving class I went.

And that is how I happen to make eight skydiving jumps. (Skydiving is another story in and of itself.)

Among other things, to skydive, one must confront one's fear of death. Perhaps there are those that do decide to jump but do not look at the possibilities that can occur. But I was not one of them. Skydiving may or may not be dangerous from a statistical point of view or when compared to other activities, but for me, it was an ever-present possibility.

And so, the first time I boarded the airplane to take my first jump, and on all subsequent jumps, I thought to myself, 'well, one never knows, and although it is not likely, if something does happen, it will happen.' And I was willing to do what I had signed up for.

It was exhilarating. But that first jump was with an instructor. It was the subsequent ones, solo jumps from the plane, that were as significant or more so. These were the ones where I needed to jump from the plane on my own, getting myself to the ground all alone.

Skydiving had a long lasting effect upon me. Many times, when I found myself potentially cornered by a hesitancy, or a fear, or a reluctance to take something on, I would catch myself by saying, "wait a minute! I jumped out of airplanes. This is nothing compared to that." And I would be able to easily move forward.

I have no opinion about anyone else and skydiving. It was just something I used. It was effective for me in helping me see my fears more clearly, and confront them. And that I could do something about it.