Last week, while in Utah for the Ogden Marathon, we spent a few days camping at Bryce National Park.
Like every mother, my days are usually pretty hectic and starting a new business throws its own unique fun into the mix…so as it turns out it was 7 at night before I was able to lace up my sneakers. My plan was to do an 8 mile canyon loop called the Fairyland Trail and then run the 3 miles back to the campground on the road.
As I caught the last shuttle bus into the park for the night, I was very aware of nerves bubbling all around me. It had been snowing all day in the park and it was only 1.5 hours ‘till dark. I kept asking myself, “What kind of crazy person starts a trail run into a deep, remote, snowy canyon right before dark?” Not a very bright one… Still, I got off the bus and started making my way to the trailhead telling myself I’d just have to run fast.
I started down into the canyon and waited for the magic of the run to take over. I took in the red rock and the hoo-doos and tried to let their beauty and blessings wash over me. The descent was brilliant and usually a good downhill alone is enough to pull me out of a funk – but this time my brain was not giving an inch. Both my thinking and emotional brain were fully entrenched in the same corner of the ring – FEAR.
The minutes and miles rolled on and I found myself seemingly years away from the main canyon rim, thinking “When the heck is this loop going to start looping back?!” I checked my watch incessantly as I knew pitch black hits at 9pm and I had to be out of the canyon before then. I switched my iphone to airplane mode, in case I would need to use it as a light or to call out. Again and again, I told myself I was being an absolute ninny. There was truly nothing to fear. I was in the smallest national park with park rangers no more than a few miles away and a charged iphone that got a bit of reception – I would be found in 2 hours if anything happened. What was the big deal? Yet as the snow and dark rolled in…I never could shake my fear and it was just a focused exercise on moving up and out. There was no joy.
Since the run, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of fear in our lives. Starting a business is a huge exercise in fear. What if it doesn’t succeed and I lose my savings? What if people reject what I am offering? Falling in love and staying in love – fear is definitely hiding there. What if my heart is not tended to? What if I am abandoned? Even raising a child involves fear. Am I reading enough books? Teaching the right lessons? Raising a happy, productive, strong young man?
And those are just the easy ones…we won’t even tackle real loss or desperation. Or what about fear of success or fear of happiness? It creeps stealthily into all arenas of our lives, but often disguises itself as irritation, anger, stress, worry. And more often than not, in a sick twist of fate, we bring to us what we fear most. The Indigo Girls sang it in the most brilliant way, “I wrap my fear around me like a blanket”.
The more I ponder on it, it’s such a testament to the human condition that we get up, keep trying, keep smiling, and keep loving. Maybe we’re a little battered, but we’re not broken and darn if we’re not willing to go into the ring again and again. I adore the human spirit.
I think the unique part of my Bryce run was that we don’t usually get the opportunity to consciously sit with our fear and own it. It’s always hiding in the background of our lives, but rarely do you get an hour to just hang out with it. That run gave me a chance to live out the Indigo Girls song – I wrapped the fear around me and by the end had a very tactile sense of what that emotion feels like in me. Luckily, though, in a pretty safe controlled way – I mean it’s not like I was climbing K2 or anything! :-)
That experience ended up being pretty powerful. Since that run, I’ve noticed myself being more aware of when fear pops up in the back of my brain and starts fueling my response to situations.
As it turns out, I got out of the canyon and back on the pavement about 5 minutes before it really got dark. I trotted home comfortably in the dark, snowy night wrapped in the knowledge that I was safe. And, of course, I had always been safe. We are all safe on the inside…we just have to believe it.
This quote by Roosevelt is a classic and with good reason – so pointedly simple and yet so profound.
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”