Over the course of my life, I have conquered many fears.
Growing up, I went from being fearless to becoming fearful. I battled fear of being alone, fear of driving, fear of riding in a car, fear of flying, and many other fears that would often paralyze me. Over the course of time, I have faced each fear and come out on the other side stronger, more determined to not allow fear to hold me prisoner any longer. When fear tries to grip my heart and stop my journey forward, I formulate an attack against the fear and find a way to overcome. Each victory makes me more resolute to fearlessly pursue my passion and purpose. The battle is always fierce, but perseverance always brings me to victory.
One of my greatest conquests was mountain climbing.
I had never hiked or climbed a mountain in my life. Honestly, climbing up a mountain full of unpredictable wildlife and nature was not even on the list of things I ever wanted to do. It just did not appeal me—there were too many reasons NOT to climb a mountain. It was dangerous. People get lost on mountains; people get killed climbing mountains. Climb a mountain?? No thanks!
As we were planning a trip to California for a training and a conference, a friend presented us with an opportunity to hike up Mt San Jacinto. Fear began to rise up. I could provide many seemingly rational reasons why we shouldn’t climb the mountain, but truthfully, I knew in my heart that it was fear.
Before hiking up the mountain, we would have to take a ride on an airlift that would carry us up 8,500 feet.
Geesh!! Who in their right mind gets into a big spinning cage with a bunch of other people and goes dangling up the side of a mountain? Next, we would hike 6 miles to the first peak. I wasn’t worried about that part. The thought of the lift ride alone was terrifying! In an airlift, moving vertically up the side of a mountain, hanging by cables with 79 other people sounded like a nightmare to me. Why would I do that? Nope, I was definitely NOT going to do that.
After much discussion, I convinced Ron and our colleague, Tim, we did not really have time to go. As they finally agreed with me, I felt the disappointment that I had felt so many times in the past. I had let an irrational fear stop me from experiencing something new. No. I was not going to allow it to happen again. I told Ron I really WANTED to go. I actually insisted we go. He was shocked by my insistence that we could make time — that we must make the time to climb the mountain. We contacted Tim and told him we had decided to go to the mountain and hike after all. As we left, I was completely at peace. This was the right decision. I was going to do it! I was going to face my fear and overcome it.
When we arrived, I looked up at the mountain and immediately felt intimidated.
Could I actually make myself get on the airlift to get to the hiking trails? I watched the pods climb up, up, up until they were small dots in the distant mountainside. Yikes!! Was I really going to do that? I stopped looking at the mountain in front of me and thought of all the obstacles I had overcome in the past. I began to encourage myself, “I can, and I will do it. It is only 10 minutes. I can do anything for 10 minutes!”
We waited for an hour before it was our turn to board the pod. The door closed and I began to feel panic trying to force me to get out. I resisted and grabbed onto the rail next to me. How many times had I experienced this before? Fear, panic trying to keep me from moving forward – trying to stop me from fulfilling my destiny or a new experience and new level of freedom? I was prepared for it this time. Now, I knew I could defeat it. I stayed on the pod and determined that I would be in the moment and choose to enjoy it. As we crept up the side of the mountain, I saw sights I had never even imagined!
The beauty of the side of the mountain and the view of the valley below were breathtaking!
Seeing the mountain so close and civilization so far away took my breath away. I looked at the pure awe and joy on Ron’s face as he took in the view, the sound of the breeze brushing alongside the pod we were in, and the earthy smell of the mountain air. It is a moment I will never forget. As we landed on the top of the mountain, we stepped out onto firm ground and began our trek up the mountain. It was a journey full of unexpected self-confidence for me. With every step forward, my heart beat more surely, and my mind became more clear. This is exactly where I wanted to be and precisely what I wanted to be doing.
By the time we reached the first peak, exhilaration coursed through me!
We sat on the highest rock and ate our granola bars. It was the best granola I have ever tasted and the cleanest air I have ever breathed in! The feeling of accomplishment I was experiencing was incomparable. The mountain I climbed was not just rocks, trees, bushes, and earth. It was fear, self-doubt, and intimidation. I had forced them off my shoulders and under my feet. I had conquered them!
The weight of prison in our lives was much like that mountain.
I was terrified of what the future held. I felt trapped, alone, and shackled to shame and pain. Taking the first steps forward and discovering that I was capable of moving beyond the mountainous pain made me realize that this pain could be my greatest teacher. I knew I did not want to carry that weight with me for the rest of my life. As I laid it down and grappled my way over it, I discovered so much beauty that I would never have known existed. The peace and joy that I was seeking was found along the journey.
Looking at the mountains that face us every day…
It is so easy to just turn around and go back to the path that is familiar to us. It seems safer. But when we embrace the challenges of each new day, determine in our hearts that we will not be defeated, and climb the mountain instead of carrying it, we experience a new level of freedom and courage. Food tastes better, the air smells better, and we are stronger when we take control of our own journeys instead of relegating ourselves to the familiar paths established in fear. We discover we are warriors forging a path for our children to follow into healthy and happy futures as they learn to climb the mountains too.
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