I remember being fearless though I wasn’t old enough or aware enough, at the time, to know that I was fearless. And maybe “fearless” is an over reach. I might have been afraid of snakes or grizzly bears or Frankenstein .. but those things didn’t really exist in my four year old world.
My dad had shown me a king snake the day after Hurricane Carla flood waters had subsided. I was as much taken by the beauty of the snake as the story he told me about how they were the good guys and never to kill one. So even snakes were not really frightening to me.
I also remember the exact moment I lost my sense of fearlessness. It happened the spring after Hurricane Carla when I turned five. My parents had bought me a horse for my birthday. She was not a beauty or even nice to me .. but I loved her. My thirteen year old brother named her “Mable” because, at the time, there was a popular beer commercial that included a whistle and he thought it would be great if we could whistle and she would come running. Mable, Black Label .. whistle, whistle, whistle. It was an epic failure and Mable was mean, to boot.
She had a halter with a long rope attached to it so she was easy to catch. I hadn’t had her very many days when I took myself out to the pasture and grabbed the rope. I brought her to the barn and tied her up and proceeded to find someone tall enough to saddle her for me. The first person of any size I ran across was apparently my mother. And she was LIVID that I had gone out in the pasture, by myself, to catch my horse, by myself. Didn’t I know that she could have KILLED me?
Uh, no. Why did you buy me a horse if you didn’t want me to catch it myself?
But, at that moment, I realized I COULD DIE. And it wouldn’t take a grizzly bear to do it. My OWN horse could KILL me. I felt fear. And I felt foolish. And I felt something something large slip away from me that was intangible and vague, but very important.
Later, much later, I learned it was SELF CONFIDENCE.
Now, please note that while I realized fear for the first time in my life .. I had already had two medical emergencies. At four, I’d fallen UP some concrete steps (yes, true talent) in an effort to match the grown up gait of my bff by not holding on to the steps as I scaled them .. with a beverage in my hand. (Plastic glass, thank goodness.) But I managed to bust my face open at eyebrow level, apparently bleed like a pig and was rushed to the yellow tiled emergency room. I will never forget that yellow tiled emergency room. My mother was vomiting somewhere nearby while a complete army of ER folks proceeded to hold me down and sew me up. I still remember going back to the scene of the crime, wearing my one eyed turban head bandage thingie.
A year later, I was hit by a car .. I had a rough childhood! The car thing wasn’t bad – I was more burned from the tar (it was August in Texas ..) than injured by an impact. I’m pretty sure that one made my mother throw up, too. But, I don’t remember fear ..
Even so, the “Mabel incident” didn’t ruin me enough that I thought twice about trying out for the talent show in third grade. Didn’t plan it, didn’t ask permission .. just did it. My mom, no vomiting this time, was in awe (yeah, we’ll call it that) when she showed up to see me go-going my way thru The Ventures “Twilight Zone” with four of my “back up dancers” ..
Somewhere between go-go boots and bras though, something happens to little girls, I think. Somebody tells us it isn’t ladylike to climb trees or sing loudly, or ask too many questions. Somebody insists we act “pretty”. Or maybe it isn’t somebody .. maybe it’s hormones and insecurity. Maybe it’s not being allowed to just .. be.
I got the distinct impression that had my mother known I would be go-going with my hair down in my face and rocking it out with all the latest dance steps learned on Shindig, Hullabaloo & Dick Clark, none of it might have happened ..
Fast forward a few decades and past several huge heartbreaks. Mom brought me a brochure she had picked up at a doctor’s office. There was an ad in there she thought I’d be interested in. It was a trip to Big Bend (a place I had loved with one of the heartbreaks) for a raft or canoe trip down the Rio Grande. I was a newly single mom with a hard time making ends meet, so there was no way I could afford it and she knew that.
My then-boss, after hearing about the trip from me, offered to make weekly deductions from my paycheck and front me the $327. that the trip cost. When I shared with my mom that I actually WOULD be going on that trip, thanks!, … her response was pretty close to vomiting.
“You weren’t supposed to GO .. you were just supposed to WANT TO GO!”
Uhm, what? Is that like that horse thing all over again?
Eventually, she warmed up to the idea, got over the fact that I might be killed by snipers on the canyon wall along the river, raped by banditos, consumed by giant man-eating catfish, bitten by a not-a-good-guy snake. Drown. Die from sunburn. Get lost in the desert and die from thirst .. eventually she ran out of maybes …
I had a blast. I didn’t die, drown, get bitten or raped or shot. I found peace, solace, healing, and beauty and wonder so BIG it made all my problems seem insignificant. It took awhile and the influence of some very big hearted people but I started feeling .. CONFIDENT. FEARLESS, in fact. I shed failure and sadness with some extra pounds and gained muscle and joy and a smile that came from my toes.
I became HAPPY again. And I became a guide with that company and enlarged my heart and my family. So, I told you ALL that to make you understand why that photo at the top of this story is so phenomenally important to me.
Those two littles, dressed up like flyboys, are my grandson, Trey (L) and granddaughter, Molly. They were just about to become airborne at one of those places that allows you to fly on a column of air, experiencing what a skydiver does in free fall. Trey is eight and Molly is six. And they are game for ANYTHING. Trey excels academically and at sports and Molly is a talented swimmer and the most courageous little being I have ever seen.
Seeing their videos of flight and knowing that their mama WASN’T vomiting somewhere .. was just the greatest gift. Thankfully, my children both allow their children to .. be. They don’t run wild, in fact they are all very well behaved and well rounded. But they are free to experiment, to try and fail and maybe even to have a scar from the experience, but they are being taught to trust in themselves.
I turn sixty in April. I am planning to either zip line or Fly Zone (maybe BOTH!) with my littles in celebration .. of us all .. being FEARLESS.
Happy 2017. Be fierce. Be FEARLESS!