^Click Arrow Above To Listen
Growing up in Montana afforded me many opportunities to engage my adventurous side. We had a place my family called “Our River.” Five or six times a year, we would all pile into the old blue Rambler, Mom, Dad, two brothers, two sisters and myself, and be off to that magical spot. Now this river of ours was only 30 miles or so down the interstate. I guess it was the drama and anticipation of exploring the wide shore of the river and the surrounding cliffs that made the trip there seem longer than it actually was. It felt like it took forever.
It would be an all day event. Mom would pack a picnic lunch and bring along 2 or 3 empty ice cream buckets so she could collect river rocks. She would spend hour after hour on the bank of the river, searching, and picking out special rocks, each with their own unique stripe or sparkle to it. Some rocks had faces, while others were in the shape of a shoe, or something else wildly unique and interesting to her. On the way back home, she would pass them around, and we would, “ooh” and “ah” over them. Well at least I did, most of my siblings were asleep on the way back to town! :)
Once we got there and mom was busy hunting for rocks, my younger brother and I were off to do our own exploring. There was one particular rock cliff that I was drawn to. The cliff had a nice, easy path that led to the top. Once you got to the top, it overlooked the river far below. The water would be rushing fast through the narrowing of the cliffs, creating white-capped rapids: an awesome sight that would send your imagination racing through all kinds of wonderful places and curious stories. While my brother was content to walk the path to the top, I was compelled to climb straight up the face of the cliff. Of course, my parents had no idea that’s what I was doing.
Years later as an adult, I went back to that same river. Strolling along the shore, I came to the foot of that cliff face I had climbed 20 some years before. I was appalled. What the hell had I been doing?! This was not some small rock. It was an actual cliff, with loose crumbly gravel where you could lose your foot or hand hold, twisted trees and treacherous jagged boulders to crash onto below. I couldn’t imagine myself climbing that cliff. What was I thinking? Or obviously Not Thinking. I was very parental, admonishing my 10 year old self.
When I was 10 years old and approached that rock cliff, the only thing I had on my mind was to get to the top. I simply knew I could do it, as sure as my next breath would be there. Neither fear nor the concept of failure ever entered into my thinking. I saw it as just another way up to the top.
Recently, as I considered it, I began to admire and respect my 10 year old self. Wouldn’t that be nice? To not be so limited by our doubt and fears. I thought about why it was so hard for me to even fathom the idea of climbing that cliff as an adult. Obviously, as adults we grow into our fears. We call it reason, but a lot of times, it has nothing to do with rationality; it stems from fear. For the most part, we are not served by our fear. Sometimes, sure: when we’re being hunted by the wicked witch, fear and adrenaline kick in and tell us to run and hide from her crazy, flying monkeys. Fear can serve a purpose sometimes. But most of the time, it holds us back. We withdraw. It keeps us from our full expression of all the great, magical and successful things that we are meant to be.
That got me thinking about how RP and fear had affected my running. As my eyesight has diminished over the years, and even more significantly the past two years, it has become harder and harder for me to see the paths that I run on. Since I can’t see detail and definition, each day I go out for my run, I am confronted with that seemingly insurmountable rock cliff.
Before I was diagnosed with this eye disease, it was easy to go for a run. In fact it took no thought at all, except for what to wear. It was like when I was 10 and just climbed the cliff because it was there. Now the cliff face seems harder to scale and much scarier, when in reality it’s the same rock cliff.
I love running so much and am determined to do what it takes to keep doing it, so I find ways to break through the barriers that seem to want to hold me back. I had to find ways to overcome the fears. For me, the passion for running helps tremendously, but it also takes some positive self-talk.
Some days I go out for a run, and almost turn back. Because of my vision issues, when the lighting is flat, everything around looks like I am in a fog. It feels like it’s too hard, so I stop and almost go home. Ultimately, though, I usually keep running. Something in me is determined to keep going forward. Like I said, some of it is the pure passion and enjoyment I get. But from another perspective, for the most part, I’ve pretty much made up my mind that fear isn’t going to keep me from doing what I love to do. I’m the one in control. I’m not giving that up to the fear.
To keep control, I do things to help me be as prepared and safe as possible. I am now using my white cane while running. I don’t have to use it the entire time, but it allows me to run faster, whereas before I really had to slow down my pace to make sure I was not going to run off the edge of the path. I wear lots of flashing lights and blinkers; if I can’t see cars and bikes, I want to make sure they see me. I also take my cell phone and wear my RoadID.
So what fears are standing in your way?
Keeping you from scaling your cliffs?
How ‘bout it?