(Estimated reading time 2 1/2 minutes)
I’ve spent a fair amount of energy in the last couple of decades finding a way to relegate fear to the fringes of my life. Focusing on the negative impact it was having somehow blinded me to the possibilities that there are actually some fears that are helpful. Although, to be honest, it can be difficult to determine which is which.
Some time ago we took a trip to the South African bush. The purpose of the trip was to go and see big game in the wild – things like lion, leopard, elephant, hippo, cheetah and buffalo. On the first morning we set off very early, before the sunrise, in an open four wheel drive vehicle with an armed ranger and a tracker. There is nothing quite like the sleepy, pre-dawn chill, the roughness of the dirt road and the excitement of what is to come. The air was tinged with dust and promise . There was nothing except the trees, rocks, grass and sky – no people, no other vehicles, no houses. JUST. BIG. OPEN. SPACE. I wonder if perhaps this is what Richard Mullen was thinking about when he said,
“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa, for he has so much to look forward to.”
As we drove, alert and watchful, there was a kind of tension between hoping to see what we came for and wondering if it was entirely safe. That first sighting a thrill as we realised that these predators had been there all along, watching, almost invisible in the bush – powerful, magnificent and terrifying. There’s something about being seen by a creature of this nature that is hard to put into words. It is heart-stopping, mind-blowing and breath-stealing
At the end of the game drive we were asked if we would like to walk back to camp with the guide. That’s WALK…through the bush, with the predators roaming around! There was one thought that came immediately to mind – My husband and I can’t both do this at the same time … What if we get eaten? Who would look after our young kids?
I’m still not sure if that was the good kind of fear or the bad kind – I’ll leave that to you to decide – but I do know this:
Sometimes fear shuts you down, makes you cave inwards in a frozen, freefall. This kind of fear diminishes you, hides you in shadows and makes you less than you are. But sometimes fear is there to help you choose wisely, protect you or propel you forward. That kind of fear can be a welcome guidepost.
You will be happy to know that we did not get eaten by predators that day and our children are now fully grown! Next time we do this kind of trip, perhaps I will be walking alongside my husband through the bush instead of staying safely in the vehicle!
Here’s to living with clarity, courage, compassion and confidence!