Lesson 10 of 10: fear
From the moment we said aloud, "We're riding our motorcycles to the tip of South America," fear has never been far away.
Before we left, I was afraid of leaving my awesome job, having no income, renting out our house, and lots more. Almost every time we told someone of our plans, I could sense the fear in them. And now, it's there when we're choosing roads to ride, and places to eat, sleep, and visit. You name the decision, and I can describe a way that fear is influencing the outcome. Recently, it accompanied me to a swimming hole and I ended up writing a poem about it, which is not a normal occurrence for me.
Outside the tiny, mountain village of Santa Fe, Panama, I walked by myself from our hostel, to a swimming hole a mile or two away. I was scared during my walk. When I settled down on a rock, with my feet in the water, to write in my journal, this poem tumbled out.
Fear or Gremlin
I almost turned around,
almost thought I was going the wrong way,
almost didn’t see this river, swimming hole, Panamanian countryside.
I would have missed the cool sensation of dangling my feet in the water,
wondering if I should go all the way in,
wondering if the air is warm enough, and the water not too cold.
How many times has fear won?
Or, perhaps, fear has saved me.
It’s hard to know.
Hard to know when fear is warranted,
a savior, a signal, a true warning,
that danger is nearby.
times like this,
fear strikes falsely.
Fear blocks me from joy,
runs so quickly through my body that I freeze,
fills me with doubt and terrifying headlines.
I can’t banish fear,
anymore than a dieter can stop eating food.
How can fear become my ally?
What’s the difference between fear and my inner gremlins?
Fear isn’t always trying to stamp me down.
Perhaps that’s it.
Fear that’s holding me down,
isn’t fear at all.
It’s an inner gremlin dressed up as well-meaning fear.
Fear calmly says, “Stop for a moment. Let’s think about this.”
Fear works in facts and intuition.
Adrenalin-filled inner gremlins shout, “Oh shit! Did you hear that?!”
And, “that,” turns out to be a leaf falling to the ground.
Facts are useless to gremlins.
It’s time to forge a new relationship with fear,
to notice when fear is speaking,
and when inner gremlins are jumping up and down with declarations,
It’s time to respect fear,
even love it if I can.
After all, fear wants to keep me alive.
by Jalene Case
This poem was written on the banks of the Santa Maria River in Santa Fe, Panama.
In the spirit of learning,
P.S. In case you're wondering, "Yes, I went all the way into the water!"