I have been getting together with my three siblings and our families almost every summer for the past 26 years. It has been a wonderful thing and all nine cousins have this bond laced with love, blood and good dose of healthy competition. These summer vacations have also given all of us aunts and uncles an opportunity to be a part of our nieces and nephews lives and watch them grow up despite the miles that separate us.
I have one niece that has truly blossomed over the past couple of years. Out of the blue she up and moved to Israel about three years ago – a bold move for anyone – enrolled in school, made friends and entered into a serious relationship. What a fearless move. She reminds me a little of my 23 year old self.
So it came as a major surprise to find that she was full of fear last summer. It was a gorgeous August morning and our group of 16 was about to embark on a day of biking when she started in with all of her worries over what might go wrong during the excursion. What if I fall behind, what if my pant leg gets stuck in the chain, what if someone runs into me, what if, what if, what if?
I was bowled over by her litany of fear riddled comments. I tried talking to her rationally about her fears but it just seemed to add fuel to the fire, so I let it go. When we get to bike rental shop, everyone rents a bike and a helmet, everyone that is except my niece. She is not renting a helmet. Are you kidding me? As an avid biker I never get on a bike without a helmet. It is the first line of defense for a biker and the one thing you can do to protect yourself while riding. No, she was having none of it.
At one point during our bike ride we passed a car with a bumper sticker that said “Fearful People Do Stupid Things.” The message was timely to say the least.
The day progressed and none of her fears came to pass, which was good since she was not wearing a helmet. But as we biked along the beautiful Carriage Path Roads in Acadia, I reflected back on the role that fear has played in my life and suddenly my judgment of my niece began to subside. My niece was indeed very much like me. Fear ruled my life for many years. And while it propelled me forward, it also crippled me and forced me into a very narrow view of the possibilities of life. It is only now that I can look back and see how much this emotion ruled my life, and for the most part in a negative way.
It took me many years, but I finally hit a point where I realized that fear was not serving me in any way and I began to let it go. I am still propelling myself forward with a lot less fear these days and I have to say it is exhilarating at times.