Thursday, July 24, 2008

Facing Your Fears

I wanted to share with you my latest speech entitled, "Facing Your Fears"'s just something I have learned. I now know that facing your fears opens up a whole new world. Enjoy....

As a woman named, Marie Curie was quoted as saying, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Today, I’d like to share with you the power of facing your fears

To begin, I’d like to share with you a story from my childhood. Travel back with me…I’m 5 years old, taking swim lessons at the local Boys Club. It’s “test day” to move up into the next class level. There’s ten of us, anxiously holding on to the wall of the pool in the shallow end. Our instructor, Mrs. Atkinson, stands on the side of the pool, whistle in her hand, eyes piercing at us…she was someone you did not argue with…she was intimating! Mrs. Atkinson, with her loud, screaming voice, instructs us to swim two laps of the pool, with ABSOLUTELY NO stopping!! If we stopped and grabbed the wall for any reason, she would step on our hands.

I stood looking up the vast lane of the pool, seeing the water gently sway and change color with the increased depth. It was like the water was just patiently waiting for me. I could feel that pit in my stomach, the uneasy feeling, the nerves…the “what if” questions running a million miles an hour in my head. “What if,…I get tired”…What if “I can’t do it?”

The whistle blew, one by one we had to put our faces in the water and swim… each stroke and each breath was a struggle. I became increasingly more and more out of breath and desperately needed a break. I HAD to grab the wall. As I very meekly grabbed the wall, and pulled myself to it, I saw those familiar feet of Mrs. Atkinson!! While stepping on my hands, she began “yelling at me to let go and swim…there was NO stopping she yelled! Frightened and panicked, I slid back into the water, fighting for my breath, paddling along like a puppy pawing her way through the water. It left me feeling that if you get tired while swimming, you will be helpless.

I have numerous other frightful water stories; being pulled out by the currents in the ocean, sailing, snorkeling, white water rating, witnessing a near drowning … each event contained an almost terrifying moment. It all began to prove to me that water was something for me to stay away from.

Deciding to train for and complete in triathlons, at the age of 39, began the journey of facing my fear of water.

My first step was to re-learn to swim. I took it slow. Eventually, I began to swim longer and longer. I was becoming more comfortable in the pool. But what about swimming in a lake?

The weekend before my first race, I ventured to a friend’s lake to get used to the lake water. I put on my wetsuit, cap and goggles and walked to the edge of the water. My heart was racing; my body was quivering; that panic and fear came over me like a cold, white fog.

After 10 long minutes… I took a deep breath, bent over and flopped into the cold and murky water. As I began to swim towards the dock, keeping my head out of the water, I could feel the cold water entering my wetsuit, creeping its way up my body. It was a chilling reminder of just what I was doing. My heart was pounding with fright and I wrestled with what could be lying beneath the water to grab me and my own voice trying to convince me I that couldn’t do it.

Pulling myself up the ladder of the dock, I felt exhausted and defeated. The dock, which was covered with bird-droppings and fish carcasses, was a morbid site. It was like visiting a prison in which no one survived! (Was the dock trying to tell me something?) I looked back at the shore…and felt trapped. The dock was no place I wanted to stay. The shore, my comfort zone, laid waiting on the other side of that murky, cold water.

It took every ounce of strength and courage to get back into the water and swim back to shore. I reached shore and felt defeated and felt unable to swim more then 25 yds in that water. How could I swim ½ mile? I did not compete in my first triathlon.

Instead I had to figure out how to get through this storm of fear.
I happened to read that fears are irrational. That to overcome them you must take the time to understand what it is you really fear. This caused me to STOP…to ask myself, “What is it that I am really afraid of?

Feeling helpless?
Getting tired in the middle of the lake and not be seen and given help?
The unknown?
Feeling I could not handle it?…that my fear of water was bigger than I?

I discovered that my fear was based on past experiences, future assumptions and what I was making up to believe about myself. Once I understood this…I began to take charge of my own thoughts and beliefs. Instead of my “what ifs”…I discovered ways to handle my fears. If I got tired, I could roll on my back! Instead of ‘What if I can’t” I made up a mantra for myself, “I CAN.I WILL.”

On August 3, 2004, I completed my first triathlon. Coming out of that water was like that scene from the movie, Rocky. I emerged hands high…smiling. I did it. It was then that I realized that my fears were not bigger than I…I had proved to myself that I was bigger than my fear…and nothing could stop me. I had discovered that the only thing that truly stood in my way of getting what I wanted was my own head. Once I set my mind to believing that I could handle it, I did.

What I learned from all of it…and what I want to share with you is this:
Take the time to understand your fear, believe you can handle it. Feel your fear and do it anyway. The richness of life will emerge. Nothing in life, after all, is to be feared…just understood

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sharing What you Know

Recently a woman I know from my gym told me about her new blog. She told me it was filled with just stuff she knew. Like where to find those hard to find shoes, or how the new restaurant in town was...or what was happening out in the Hamptons! It's truly filled with what she knows. Check it out: Then on another occasion, my daughter's friend, was telling me how she was writing an email to send to her friends and family to share with them what she learned and experienced while on her annual work trip to Nicaragua. These trips, for her, don't mean traveling the a third world country to build houses and leave. Rather these trips touch the core of her soul. She arrives home having experienced amazing relationships, experiences and sights. While she and I discussed what she wanted to convey in her email, I suddenly realized that she too wanted to share what she knew. She knows, first hand, what it smells like, looks like, feels like to live in extreme poverty. She knows and is grateful for all that surrounds us here in the US. She knows the power of a smile. She knows what it is to reach out and help your neighbor.

Then today, as I stood in line for a shower my gym, a woman commented that she admired "us swimmers". She told me how she had such a tremendous fear of getting tired while swimming and then drowning. Her comment touched a cord within me. I, too, had had that exact same fear. The fear that if I were to try swimming, I'd get tired and drown. When I shared with her that I too had had that fear of water, she was relieved to know that others felt that way too. That was the third sychronocity around sharing what you know. I know about fear of water. And, I know about overcoming that fear. I also know that when we face our fears and understand them, there is a whole new world awaiting us.

I am giving a speech on facing your fears. I'll be posting that speech...cause it's really something I know about. AND, I'd like to share it with you. Who knows, perhaps it'll inspire someone else to face their fears and reap the rewards on the other side.