I had no qualms about introducing myself to strangers, singing and dancing in grocery stores, putting bras on my head and popping out from the middle of clothing racks in the mall. I’d scramble up a climbing wall like a monkey and fling myself from the top. If this wasn’t the time I learned to fly, I was always confident it would happen as soon as the cast came off or the stitches came out.
Getting bit by two dogs didn’t stop me from patting the next one. People who didn’t appreciate my less-than-coordinated dancing or enthusiastic-but-off-key singing were dismissed with a shrug. And if you hurt my feelings or displeased me – you heard about it, along with the whole neighborhood.
Somewhere along the way I lost this. I grew a skin of fear, which all too quickly coated and subdued my impulsive courage. Risk factors begin to weigh more than potential benefits. Potential consequences dominated potential gain, and soon all I could see were the consequences. A big change since I’d always been an act-first, time-out-later type of kid.
By high school I was too scared to learn to drive and didn’t get my permit until after my 17th birthday. I missed countless opportunities because I was too terrified to return a phone call, attend a party, take a chance outside my safe group of friends.
I’m an adult now – but I still have phobias that trap me:
*I won’t sleep with the closet door open for fear of being sucked into the Poltergeist-dimension.
*I stopped swimming laps at nighttime after reading a Mary Higgins Clark book where the heroine was drown by a murderer wearing SCUBA gear and waiting at the bottom of her pool.
*Order pizza? No way. Not after that time when I was 14 and babysitting and the man at Sal’s screamed and accused me of being a pranker because I didn’t know the address and had to check a piece of mail.
*I wussed out of Jet-skiing because of what happened when I tried moped’ing in Italy.
*Zoomba? I’ve been invited by four different friends, but it sounds too much like dance class and we all know how that turned out…
*I’m terrified of offending people, so when my feelings are hurt, I swallow it with a smile.
But NOT anymore. I’m declaring this my Summer of Fearless and I’m reclaiming some of the bravery I’ve been hemorrhaging for far too long.
So DARE me. CHALLENGE me. Ask me a WHAT-IF that requires me to do, not just think.
And when I go to wimp out, freeze me with a look and threaten to take away my night light and security blanket if I don’t comply.
I may not be that fearless little imp anymore, but maybe if I do a good enough impression of her for long enough, maybe it won’t feel so much like pretending.