I am of the mindset that TV is a mind-sucking, time-sink. I frequently get off my high horse to give my brain a rest and check out from reality. Tonight I swore I wasn’t going to do it. But then I rationalized that reading my completed book draft (my very LAST read before I actually and really send it out) required 100% of my attention, and not a split focus over dinner. So I gave in to temptation, and was rewarded with this bit of dialogue: If you feel fear start to rise, change it. Turn it into inspiration instead.
Okay. So that wasn’t the exact line, however it is the spirit of the line. I sat there, staring at the screen with a mouth full of food that I wasn’t chewing thinking, hell yes!
Since September 13th (for my entire life if I’m being honest), but particularly since then I have activated a process of intentional change. The lynchpin of this, aside from intense reflection, is to do one scary thing each week. It’s been as basic as walking up to a stranger and asking a question (a terrifying prospect for me). It’s been as ultimately satisfying as dance lessons.
What ever “it” is, each week I purposefully engage in a fear-inducing situation. My thought is that eventually, my relationship with those things that make me fearful will change. That eventually I’ll have a greater tolerance, and therefore be better able to handle challenges and embark on the adventures that make me sing.
The most recent “fear” installment was my afore mentioned trip to the desert. Originally I was going to be super badass and go by camping myself (thank you Heather and Rach for talking me OUT of this). Then I thought being the mastermind of the excursion was the fear-inducing bit. An hour and a half into my solo 4+ hour, ~9.5 mile hike (into the desert near dusk, mind you), I realized that was not it. WTF was I thinking?
A couple of disclaimers: most of this “hiking” was in the valley on jeep trails. I had a topo map and compass, and didn’t have to use them (so it wasn’t real hiking). I had food, and first aid, emergency shelter, and someone at base camp who was aware of where I was going and when I should be back.
The fear-inducing part? Being alone in the freaking desert.
At first, the landscape and the camera in my hands distracted me from everything. I love lighting and texture. I love seeing, aligning, and framing. I can lose myself in a viewfinder or darkroom. After a while, I noticed no one had passed me (the compact car full of people my Mom’s age (no offense, Mom) didn’t count). There were no sounds. Texture was all around me. The rocks. The cacti and shrubs. The tracks, and scat at my feet.
[Note: I’m a writer. My imagination is POWERFUL and has a will of its own.]
This was the playground of big horn sheep, ground rodents, and snakes. Coyotes, and mountain lions. Those last two? They’re predators. Not to mention crazy people who hole up in the desert. [Imagination. What can I say? I’m a little ashamed of it.] All around my feet were tracks I couldn’t identify. Some of them looked huge, like they belonged to a bear. Or anything weighing more than 300 pounds. My heart wasn’t exactly pounding, but I wasn’t at ease either. I believe the word was unsettled (around mile 4).
The most intense thing was being out there alone. The bee hive and the bird that surprised me induced little shrieks; however the absolute quiet and relative lack of another human was chilling. It’s the kind of quiet where you either find yourself, or lose yourself.
At a couple of points along the way, I thought about turning back without achieving my goal: seeing the pictographs. Instead, I stayed with the fear. I stayed with the solitude. I remained steadfast to the path. When I finally reached the trailhead, a thrill rushed through me. After another mile of more dubious, yet somehow more comforting trekking, I finally reached my goal. Red and yellow remnants of someone’s song, from somewhere in the past. Peace settled over me in that moment. Utter calm.