Freedom Over Fear

//Freedom Over Fear

Freedom Over Fear

Around this time eight years ago I couldn’t sleep for a couple of reasons.  Hugh had been gone for two years yet, weirdly, I struggled with vows of monogamy as I had recently met and was hanging out with the man with the European beard.  Hugh insisted on coming to life in vivid trickery dreams that had me convinced he’d not died.  I’d feel immense guilt while dreaming, then confusion upon waking.

As well, my goddess, Mt. Kilimanjaro loomed ever closer – I’d be departing December 29 – and I was overcome with fear.  I knew the chances of dying on the mountain were slim, but because Hugh had died of sudden unexplained death, I figured I didn’t have the odds on my side anymore.  I would lay in bed imagining what it’s like to die, Hugh’s last thoughts as he was rapidly whisked away from life and how it feels to know your last breath is imminent.

But this immersed-in-death thinking was nothing new since four family members (and three pets!) had passed in the previous two years.  There were many reasons for climbing the mountain – to metaphorically and physically “get over” grief, to learn how to climb well because I was climbing mountains daily anyway, to give back to my community by climbing for Make-A-Wish Foundation – and facing my fear of death was a big one.

Knowing this, you may laugh when I say it was this question from a high school chum that jolted me from fear and let me get some sleep before jetting off to Africa.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” he said.

“I could die,” I said.

“Exactly,” he said.  Exactly.

Death is always the worst case scenario.  But if fear of death keeps you from living, keeps you from trying things that expand your awareness, make you grow, then that is a pretty bad case scenario, isn’t it?

“Fear rips us from freedom,” says Brendon Burchard in The Motivation Manifesto.  “It is the destroyer of greatness.  Unless we are being chased by a deadly animal or deranged human, or face imminent physical harm like falling to our death, fear is just bad management of our mind.”

I told my story, the inspiration behind the writing of Long Climb Back, to 400 people at momondays London last night.  Was I afraid?  Oh yeah.  I was second in the speaker line-up and as I sipped my water, I nudged my sister Jana beside me, had her watch how bad my hand was shaking.  A quote I’d recently heard from Kathy Smart, nutritionist and best-selling author, kept running through my mind.  “Shaking?” she said.  “Do it anyway.”

My desire to speak is similar to my desire to climb the mountain.  For some pursuits, there’s something in me that just says, “You must do this.”  Sunil Godse, author of Gut!, was on the speaker roster last night too, and he spoke about this intuition, this “gut” feeling, that is so important for us to listen to.  I breathe a sigh of relief that I knew to climb the mountain because, in hindsight, it was necessary.  It shifted my focus to something unique, challenging and positive, while also lightening my burden of grief.

In the early hours of Day 4 on Mt. Kilimanjaro I dreamed I was a speaker at a conference.  After I spoke, my mom was in front of me with a beautiful smile on her face, pride in her eyes.  “You should see the effect you have on people when you talk,” she said.  “They get so emotional.  They pull out Kleenexes and that.”

Well, they weren’t pulling out “Kleenexes and that” last night, but the crowd was receptive, and I kept the subject material as light as possible, it’s Christmastime after all.  The main thing?  I didn’t get the “deer in the headlights” look because I’d totally blanked out.  All of my practice paid off; it felt good to just be in the momondays moment and get it out.

Most pursuits you’re afraid of won’t kill you, like public speaking, climbing gentle mountains and say, Karaoke (it might hurt friends’ ears, but there’s alcohol for that).  One of the huge lessons I learned when I lost Hugh is that he would have died at 46 regardless of how he lived his life.  Luckily he was inclined to choose happy over sad, positive over negative, risk over safety, freedom over fear.

What do you choose?


One Comment

  1. Les December 10, 2014 at 3:46 am - Reply

    Oh there were kleenexes out, you couldn’t see for the bright lights ! You rocked it !

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