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My Adventure Begins (Again)

My adventure begins (again). When I left CO in February, my plans were to spend a few weeks in TX visiting friends and relatives, going to the dentist, and finalizing my income tax return. Then I was going to be on my way. Off to the great western US to explore verdant National Forests and wild BLM lands, boondocking (dry camping) my way across at least half a dozen states this year. My primary objective was, and still is, to write.

I arrived at my “home base” in Texas on March 5 and shortly thereafter, got stuck due to COVID19. The extra six weeks I was delayed actually were very helpful and gave me time for more preparations. I had to trade my old Jeep for a newer model (NOT in my financial plan) after discovering a major engine issue. I discovered a leak in my rig that had to be repaired. Boxes of papers, books, and hobby supplies were sorted. Some things were tossed, others repacked, organized, and consolidated to be tucked away in nooks and crannies in my RV. I installed a few useful things here and there to utilize the all-important vertical space in my tiny home - a hanging fruit hammock under the kitchen cabinet; a two tier cutlery drawer; wire shelves inside cabinets to maximize the few precious square feet available. I installed floor to ceiling curtains that separate the cab from the coach. It’s homier, more private, and provides a bit of insulation. Day by day, I made improvements and adjustments to get my home on wheels ready for my travels.

In short, I haven’t been idle, but I have gotten used to being stationary. I haven’t driven my rig in two months. I’ve lost my edge, the fresh-from-driver-training confidence I felt when I left Colorado. As the days and weeks have gone by, my successful 1,000-mile drive from Colorado to Texas seems so long ago. My self-assurance is not what it was just eight short weeks back. It’s in the rear-view mirror. Now, the thought of driving a 32’ RV and towing a 12’ Jeep behind it is a little scary, especially for a single female. My stomach knots up a little every time I think about pulling out. So, I looked in the proverbial mirror, had a heart-to-heart with myself, and confessed: I’m afraid. I said it out loud, and admitting it actually makes me more determined than ever to move forward. To be frank, my own fear really infuriates me. I hate, I loathe the thought that fear is trying to exert control over what I want to do, what I feel compelled to accomplish, what I know is part of God’s plan for me.

So, what is fear? How can it stop us dead in our tracks or spur us to run like a jack rabbit from a fox? Why is it so powerful a motivator and a discourager? We all know about the fight or flight response, but that is in response to immediate danger. It is a complex physiological response to a perceived danger or threat, to ensure our survival. For instance, you may find yourself setting a new land-speed record if you happen upon a mama bear and cubs in the woods. But that’s not the kind of fear I’m talking about. I’m referring to the fear that keeps us from moving forward. Fear of the unknown and the what-ifs. The kind of fear that wants us to stay in our comfort zone. Fear that convinces us that we might get hurt (physically or emotionally), that we might fail, fall, or possibly suffer. The type of fear that is afraid of, well, fear. It can produce anxiety, dread, worry, and apprehension. It can cause a loss of courage… and that’s what I’m talking about.

When I announced that I was going to take off on this journey driving my RV and towing my car, many of my female friends reacted somewhat in awe. The common response was “that is so brave”. Well, maybe some people think it is, but I don’t think of it that way. To me, it’s something to learn, a new thing to try, a different type of challenge, and it’s one I am perfectly capable of. Like learning a new sport or game, you just have to understand the rules and get in and play. You can’t learn it without doing. Although driving an RV may not be as common for a woman, there’s absolutely nothing that prevents a woman from doing it.

My dad taught me not to be afraid of doing things that other people might think I was incapable of. I was fortunate that he was always a cheerleader for me. I loved hanging out with him in the garage, handing him tools while he explained why he was checking this part, or replacing that part. He taught me to watch, learn, and dig in. Daddy was kind of a women’s libber before it was popular. In the garage, I was just his kid wanting to learn and he was the encouraging teacher. He always told me I could do anything I wanted, be anything I chose. He also taught me to drive and wasn’t afraid to sit beside me while I took corners too sharp or didn’t brake quickly enough. He encouraged me when, as a teenager, I told him I wanted to join the Navy. Although that didn’t happen, I truly believe the way he cheered me on in those formulative years helped prepare me for this adventure.

So, what might happen to me? What am I afraid of? Having these discussions with myself, I realize the main focus of my fear is having an accident. But having a car accident is an every-day possibility for anyone who drives, rides, or even walks. What’s the difference between commuting twenty miles in heavy, crazy-driver, get-out-of-my-way traffic on the highway and what I’m embarking on? Okay, so I’m driving a big vehicle. There is always a learning curve when driving something different. It’s just a matter of getting accustomed to something unfamiliar. It’s new and different but there is no real reason to fear it. So there.

I was discussing fear with a friend of mine and she noted how babies learning to walk fall down over and over, but they don’t hesitate to get back up and take another wobbly step with yet another plonk on their padded bottoms. The compulsion to propel themselves on two feet knows nothing of fear, or failure, or fear of failure. They instinctively know the goal to be vertical and propel themselves forward is within reach if they just keep on keeping on.

How do we learn to be afraid, to be fearful, to worry about the what ifs? There is an unlimited supply of fear dosed out by media, television, and news. Well-meaning neighbors and friends often admonish us to “be careful”. They care for us and they don’t want us to get hurt. Sometimes parents make us fearful with good reason. There are healthy fears we’re taught that help us navigate through life. Often, one of the first words a child learns is “hot!”. We constantly take things out of their hands and mouths that may harm them. We teach children to fear getting hurt and that’s absolutely necessary to protect them.

Unfortunately, as the years go by, the bucket of fear continues to fill and once an adult has a full-blown fear generated from their personal life list of experience, they have a tendency to caution everyone about it. Too frequently, people are unintentionally placing their personal burden of fears on you. Sometimes they’re irrational fears that they want to share like they would a freshly baked apple pie. Here, have a slice of what I’m afraid of so we can enjoy being afraid together. We can be scaredy-buds. Misery does seem to love its company.

Now, I understand that some fears are legitimate due to past experiences. I get it that if you’ve fallen off a horse, you might be hesitant to get back on. I understand that if you’ve fallen off a roof, you’d keep your distance from the edge. I know that you’d probably be afraid of dogs if you’ve ever been attacked or bitten. These built-in defense mechanisms are normal, expected responses to unpleasant or painful experiences. We’re designed to learn that way. But the fear I’m talking about is more the irrational, unfounded, groundless kind. The fear that is based more on the boogeyman under the bed feeling. The kind that finds a place in your head from an outside source, not from experience or the survival instinct. You fear something because you think there’s something there to be afraid of, but you have no real basis for your fear. Does that make sense? No, I mean really, does that make sense? It’s your mind messing with you. Your mind being your worst enemy, having fun making you squirm and sweat.

Franklin Roosevelt famously said, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”. He went on to say how “nameless” fears paralyze our efforts. Can you name your fears? Are they pain? Suffering? Failure? Ridicule? The unknown? Edison tried at least 1,000 times to find the right element to make the electric light bulb work. He conducted over 10,000 experiments in his efforts to create a successful storage battery. Yet, he had no fear of failure. His resolve was to keep pushing forward because he had discovered thousands of things that wouldn’t work. He knew that with perseverance, he would eventually find what he sought. And we know he did.

Recently I watched the 2010 version of Karate Kid. You know, the one where the teenager is competing in a martial arts tournament against the bullies. He’s been hurt and told that he needs to quit the competition. He repeatedly pleads to go back out to the fighting floor despite his painful injury. As his Kung Fu master argues against it, he finally asks the boy why he needs to go back out there so badly. The boy answers “Because I’m still scared. And no matter what happens, tonight, when I leave, I don’t want to be scared anymore.” That’s how I feel. No matter what happens, when I feel fear I will go back out there. I will fight it, do battle, deliver my best Kung Fu moves, and kick it in the teeth. I will not give in to it because I don’t want to be scared anymore. I refuse to let fear win. I will have the satisfaction of winning this battle.

One last important note about fear or overcoming fear. I am a woman of faith. My strength and my abilities to rise above my fears come from God. I am thankful that I was raised in a home of believers and although I’ve had my ups and downs spiritually over the years, I still fiercely believe. My parents were nowhere near perfect, nor am I, but we are forgiven. That’s the core of it. That’s the reason I can walk (er, drive) confidently forward, attacking and crushing my fears along the way.

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