Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fear, Freedom, and the Future

I used to be terrified of heights.
Somewhere between my tree climbing childhood and adolescence the thought of getting on a ladder became nearly incapacitating. One late night I prayed. And prayed and prayed. Please make me not afraid. Of heights, of death, of the unknown, of so many things. I was so exhausted by fear. That night something changed. I felt calm and reassured. The crushing weight of anxiety was lifted and I chose to embrace it.
Daily I chose to be unafraid in small ways. I began to seek out the things that had terrified me. Little by little I gained the confidence that I could live without fear.

3 years later I stood on the edge of a 50ft cliff. Lake Powell, deep and vast, sprawled below me. Others were jumping. My stomach was in knots, but I tried to pretend that I was unafraid. I had to convince myself. I walked to the edge and looked down. Oh God...
There is a normal level of fear when confronted with falling into space. There is also irrational fear that can take you over.
Deep breath. This is a normal feeling. You can overcome it. Deep breath. Three strides and I was plummeting.

In the new surroundings, dark and heavy, I was frozen. My limbs reached spasmodically for purchase. Then, the emerald glimmer above gave me a new path to follow. My arms and legs fell into sync, every fiber and all my focus were on that beckoning shimmer. Arid desert air filled my empty, burning lungs as I came bursting from the darkness into the light. I was free. I was exhilarated. Clarity. I suddenly understood baptism. The way it feels to conquer fear. The words, "Take up your mat and walk."

Sometimes the door to the future slams so loudly you don't hear the window down the hall opening. You rail at the door until completely spent. Slumping to the floor, staring back at your past, you notice the flutter of curtains. And when you reach that window you may find that it is ground level. The future is easily accessible.

But sometimes it reveals wide, empty space. You have to take a deep breath. Swing your legs over the sill...

Trust...

and Jump.

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