When I was afraid

Growing up, I would dig into my parent’s extensive and varied  book collection and explore everything from the Britannica Encyclopedia, to Anthony Robbins, to Kahlil Gibran. It was in one of those books, I don’t even remember which one, that I read a phrase that would become my motto. I remember the moment of revelation it was to read it, how some kind on spiritual and intellectual door opened and changed me forever. Paraphrasing, it said that the only thing we should be afraid of is fear itself.  That moment I decided to leave fearlessly.

I faltered a lot, though.  The raising criminality in the place I used to call home and some close encounters to what could have been extreme tragedy made me powerless. Other than, I have tried to leave a courageous life.

Today, I had to face fear itself in a very unexpected location: the gym.  I attended a very fun Zumba class. I was doing my turns and my steps while grinning bluntly. Then I felt it. First time it happened was five and a half years ago and it was back, was it? I was sliding to the right and my leg seemed to have turned more than it should, and something pulled behind my knee. I moved again and there it was. I stepped down for a second thinking I should stop and rest.

Almost six years ago I tore my ACL while trying to beat my husband at a racquetball game. I ran to hit a ball and I felt the same sensation I felt today, but I kept going. Less than two minutes later while running again, my knee gave in, and a very loud pop echoed inside the racquetball court. I collapsed and lost movement of my right knee. There is nothing that frustrates me more than inactivity. I can’t stay still and that injury forced me to go  two months without driving while undergoing physical therapy until I recover some movement before I even got surgery. They took a tendon out of my tight and used it as a replacement for my ligament. Another month without driving, more physical therapy, then working with a wonderful personal trainer who got me jump and run and go back to my usual level of fitness.

That injury, although common in a lot of athletic disciplines, was devastating for me. It tested me in so many ways. It took me a year and a half to go back to the old me, although I discovered I was never the same. I grew a lot, I exercised my patience and acceptance, I worked harder than ever and I put all of my frustration into my painting that developed at gigantic steps during that period that I could not do much else.  As grateful as I am for the experience, I don’t want to go through that ever again!

Those were my words when I felt that strange pull behind my knee today. I would do anything to avoid it. Then my mind went to all the places I did not want to go, all the effects that another surgery will have on me. I was afraid. The class kept going on and I looked at myself in the mirror and I had replaced my grin with a big frown. I had let fear conquered me. Then I became really afraid of where my thoughts were taking me. I put the attention back in my knee. Could I move it? Yes. Did it hurt? No. Should I finish the class?…..I deliberated.  Then I remembered I was being afraid of something that could certainly be but had not yet happened. So was my fear unfounded? probably. Was I going to let fear kept me away from a great class….Oh, hell, no.

I gave it my all and I finished the class. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and my smile was back: the sign of victory. I did not let fear bring me down and I am proud of it.

Sometimes, the greatest victories come in the constant, smaller battles. When we get terrible news, we have no other option than to fight. But it is on the day-to-day smaller tasks that we fall out of the wagon because they seem comparatively irrelevant. But a dose of constant fear is paralyzing. It is like being bombarded continuously without a place to hide. 

When I saw Mr. Fear today I told him that he could go find another victim or exile. I know he would like to come visit soon and every time I will try to kick him in the butt while I continue dancing and grinning. Honestly, I am a little bit afraid of him, but mostly, I am afraid of the version of me when he is around and that is something that I am willing to to do the impossible to avoid. So, farewell, Mr. Fear! I may no control the outcome but I decide who comes visit. You, I am sorry to say, are not exactly welcomed.