Suspense. Fear. The unknown. In a story, we love these things. Watching the hero find his way, and struggle to overcome or survive is cathartic . . . our nerve endings are electrified; we live vicariously through the hero sometimes inspired, sometimes just entertained, and in some cases we want to relive his/her story again and again.
Since the beginning of the world, man has been telling stories: The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Ramayana, Shakespeare, King Arthur, Harry Potter, and one of my personal favorites, Lord of the Rings. Those characters, to us have become living, breathing entities. Perhaps in some way we want to be them or be like them; we want to go on our own odyssey, our own adventure and feel our blood pumping through our veins, fully alive and legend. We want to be brave against all odds.
Some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories are of going camping in the mountains in Colorado. As I rode in the truck to our favorite camping spot, my eyes would drink in the scenery of mountain peaks, and aspen groves whizzing past my window. My mind’s eye would wander through the forested valleys and up to the very top of the peaks imagining what lay beyond the sight of my physical eyes. Something inside of me wanted to break free of the car and of my human shell and wander the wilderness, exploring until I reached the end, whatever that was. I would pack my own mini child-size fanny pack with binoculars, a whistle, and a small knife and beg to go exploring and hate when our family hikes “exploring” came to an end. I never wanted to stop. I wanted to know what was just a little farther, through those trees and up that hill. I wanted to climb on all the rocks, balance on all the fallen trees, and peer inside cliff-side caves. I hated being limited, when what seemed like an infinite heart-aching awe-inspiring mystery awaited.
This child-like wanderlust forever lives in my bones and my heart aches to satisfy it. The mountains and nature still and probably will till my days end be a sanctuary that binds up my wounds and yet leaves me feeling benevolently haunted.
The mountains also frightened me.
Late at night while sitting around the campfire, licking roasted sticky marshmallow from my fingers, my grandpa, dad, and uncle would recount funny hunting stories, camping incidents, and as the night wore on and the camp fire burned down to the glowing coals, they would tell stories about the unbending will of nature: bear maulings, lost souls who never came home, ghost stories and mountain town legends. I would sit on the edge of my seat, gripping the smooth edges of my whittled walking stick, terrified and fascinated.
And when it came time to go to bed, and I turned away from the fire to look the dark blackened forest in the eye, I was afraid, and I was afraid of everything. I would grip my flashlight and power walk to the camper or ask to be escorted to the camper door. One of my most vivid nightmares that I still remember was of my getting lost in the vastness of the wilderness, the cold bone-chilling wind screaming past me, and lastly, my parents and family walking on a green manicured lawn to attend my funeral.
The thing that I wanted to “get lost in,” was also the very thing I was afraid of getting lost in.
And like the forest, I am both enthralled with the beauty of life’s adventure and frightened by it. I don’t want to miss out. I don’t want to live small and safely, but my desire to know that everything is going to work out will not, on a detail by detail basis, ever be met. And this, leaves room for worry and fear, if I let them, to rule in my heart and mind, and take control. And so the joy of the adventure, the thrill of the unknown path ahead is stolen.
Recently, a dynamic shift has taken place in my life. Like an old book being shut, I feel as though I can hear the cover of the last chapter of my life being closed and the new one being opened, a new era beginning. And as I look out into the distance of what feels like a metaphorical forest, I am again both excited because I feel that new things are coming my way, and scared because I don’t know what’s next.
My free spirit can’t handle itself, excited for the unknown and what it brings, and my fear is scared, and demanding a roadmap. My spirit for adventure has its head out the window elated, the wind blowing through its air, and fear is wrapped up in blanket in the backseat glaring at my free spirit’s recklessness. Liz Gilbert in Big Magic talks about living a creative life and how fear will always be an ever-present person on the journey. She says to talk to your fear and metaphorically invite fear to come along with you and your free spirit on your journey, but to tell fear that it is not getting to drive.
Fear is a wise advisor, but it can never be king of your castle, or captain of your ship.
I’m afraid of many things and worry sometimes lives in my body, but when I break free and muster up my courage, I want to press on no matter what lies ahead in the metaphorical forest stretching out ahead of me . . . because what a beautiful thing to be the hero of one’s one life, to be fully alive; to know that you’re not going through the motions, because you’re scared to death.
May you be scared to death.
Exhilarated by the free fall.
Enchanted by life’s mysteries.
And may you be brave.
Copyright 2016 Kristen N. Rea