Fear is an insidious paralytic and, if we aren’t careful, will bring joy to a standstill in our lives.
Take, for instance, my recent introduction to Texas. What should have been a headlong jump into a new and exciting life filled with possibility and opportunity chugged and stalled shortly after arrival.
It started out great. We were welcomed by a perfect little house set in idyllic hill country with skittish wildlife and desert flowers there to charm each new day. I’d set up a guitarist for my plan to play out as a duo, fell back into my healthy eating routine (which had been slightly side tracked by travel and final family visits), and delighted in ideal surroundings for my morning workout routine. You see, we live in a secluded neighborhood tucked away seven miles from town. We have the most delightful neighbours, but none too close. Mostly houses are set on 2-5 acre lots in hilly terrain. There are about two miles of well-spaced intervals and side roads making it the perfect obstacle course to get your “burn” on and for unparalleled beauty. There are no big cities nearby- no large factories, so the air is fresh and unpolluted. I couldn’t have dreamed more excellent walking conditions.
About a month after we’d arrived, the routine, which takes about 45 minutes led us to an encounter with our closest (and dearest) neighbours, Cliff & Bridgette who routinely walk their dogs in the morning. The conversation came around to safety and carrying guns and Tim informed them that he was “packing.”
“Oh yeah” Cliff piped in, “I always pack too, and it’s a good thing. We spotted a cougar up on the ridge just down [by a cul-de-sac that we frequented]. They’ve been losing deer down below on the golf course. They find them ripped to shreds early in the morning. Only one animal could have done that. We definitely have a cougar here in Horseshoe Bay.”
And that was all it took. When Tim started working and I was left to walk on my own every day, I didn’t at first put together why I almost immediately stopped this brilliant morning regiment.
But the alarming thing about fear is that once it takes a hold of one area of your life, it leaks like oil into every other area of your life. I did not know that! But in retrospect, I can see how I let this dropped discipline, this subtle lack of confidence, pervade other areas of my every day.
I’d gone to volunteer at a pregnancy crisis center in a nearby town a half hour away, and the director, instead of placing me in that position, offered me a job with the head office instead. I was unable to take the job and actually had to refuse her on three different occasions, which became downright awkward and her insistence and handling of the situation sadly changed my mind about even volunteering with their organization. So my hands ached empty. They longed beyond belief for the feel of babies (which the position offered would have taken me away from). This made me further dejected and sad.
And then there was the matter of a vehicle, or lack thereof. I didn’t have one. Tim had to use the truck for his daily 30 minute commute and I was left with no way to get around. I couldn’t even bike to town (which I love to do) because the main roads here are extremely dangerous for bikers and pedestrians. They are not built with them in mind. There are narrow shoulders above grassy ditches with insane highway traffic and zero respect for bikers, joggers, or anything without four wheels.
Add to this, a sudden, unavoidable and unalterable change in my guitarist’s routine that made us unable to follow that road of acoustic allure, my inability to get to the farmer’s markets to sell my cards, and pile onto that the lack of relationships, and heartache of long lost family, in this brand new setting.
And so, a few months into our acclimation, I froze. It was too much. All I could see before me was what I couldn’t do. And fear- pervasive, convincing fear- stopped me from looking at the myriad of possibilities that are always lurking behind inconvenience.
And then three weeks ago, I met a friend. He told me that he swam every single day, kept a disciplined vegetarian diet, and managed an entire company. I was jealous of his disciplines and jealous of his joy. I was jealous of his full life as mine began to wane.
I thought about what was stopping me. I examined step by step where things had started to fall apart and realized the root of it had been the cougar scare.
So, I did the unthinkable. I got up from breakfast, grabbed my walking weights, and headed out the door. Before all of this, though, I included the admittance to fear in my morning prayer, and asked God for three things 1) his protection against the cougar 2) courage, and 3) joy.
And what joy it has been! These are my hills, this is my neighbourhood, my mocking birds, my deer, my roadrunners, all here for me to enjoy and observe. And I am not, for one minute, going to let fear steal the joy from my neck of the woods again!
Something else I found out. If you are able to locate your Achilles‘ heel of fear in your life and remove it from that area, it starts to lose its influence on every other area of your life as well.
We are going to Florida at Christmas break to get all of our furniture out of storage. And- oh- there just happens to sit the most gorgeous custom motorcycle that Tim has dearly missed. He can’t wait to ride it to work and back- allowing me to have our vehicle!
I called my guitarist and asked him if his schedule would allow rehearsals for a Bob Dylan album I would like to record. He jumped at the chance (which, as it turns out, is what I really wanted to do more than anything else musically). We can do it at our leisure and go into the studio at our own pace. Perfect. Mistakes are made in recording when you rush.
I am looking into a few local volunteer positions to work with babies and Mommies. Some seem very promising indeed.
And finally, I have started making friends. How this is possible by only having a vehicle a few nights a week is beyond me. We’ve been invited out for Thanksgiving dinner and given an invitation by a local band to be their guests at the Marriott for New Year’s Eve.
Things are looking up. I’m starting to see possibilities. God is answering prayer. I am running on faith, and no longer faltering with fear.