What Are You So Scared Of?

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

It’s Friday!!! Not that you needed me to tell you that. It’s like telling people how nice the water feels after they’re already in the pool. They know. Unless they’re shivering and turning blue, in which case they may know something you don’t. Sometimes, I’m the last to find out.

A few years ago, we were swimming in the ocean at a beach in Florida. The water was perfect, and not a cloud in the sky. And all around us little fish were jumping, obviously enjoying the day as we were. It wasn’t until a few months later that I found out jumping fish, especially 200 yards from a fishing pier, are a telltale sign of sharks. Perfect!

As it turns out, there was a shark attack that day a few miles north. But we were oblivious to any potential danger. Besides, most sharks aren’t maneaters, right? They take one bite and then decide we’re not worth the effort. I’m not sure which is more comforting. The realization that I’ll probably keep most of my leg, or that in the shark world, I’m about as appetizing as steamed broccoli.

When my oldest grandson was a toddler, we took him to a petting zoo. I still remember him running toward the goats, arms outstretched, and giving them a big hug. He didn’t hesitate for a moment. And they returned his affection readily. It was truly a beautiful moment.

His mom, on the other hand, stood back at a distance, constantly looking over her shoulder to make sure one wasn’t sneaking up behind her. You see, as a young teenager, we took her to the same petting zoo. She had a bag with a souvenir in it, but anybody who has been around goats knows when they see a bag, they assume it contains food. Suffice to say she was the center of attention.

As she tried to back away, the goats moved in closer until she was completely surrounded and beginning to panic. We laughed and moved the goats away, but to this day she’s scared to be around them. And I have little doubt if they’d moved in on her son that day, she’d have run the other way. “Oh well, I can make another one!”

Fear is not a natural instinct, it’s something we learn. It’s the result of one or more experiences that either ended badly, or in which those around us reacted in a way that tells us we should run for cover. The danger may be real or imagined, but there’s always that feeling that maybe we’re just the last to know.

Anybody who knows me knows I’m afraid of snakes. Oh, I think some of them are beautiful – behind glass. And they’re fascinating. But remove that barrier and you’ll remove me. Like now. I’ve often said I never run unless somebody is chasing me with a snake, and then I could outrun Jesse Owens.

I’ve often wondered what I’m missing, being held slave to a fear I can’t really define. I have a picture of my pre-teen granddaughter, who is terrified of a fly (no joke), with a huge yellow boa wrapped around her neck. A live one. The snake was beautiful. You know, in the picture. Then a moth flew by and she threw the snake. You’ve gotta have priorities.

They say the first step in overcoming any fear is to face it head-on. If that means holding a snake, I’ll pass. The goal has to be worth the effort, and that’s just not at the top of my list of priorities. But the reality is, I’ve been around snakes a lot more than I ever knew, just because they blend in so well. You know, like sharks swimming beneath the surface.

Throughout life, we’re surrounded by things we don’t know about that, if we did know, would likely cause us to step away. Conversely, we also encounter things that are no danger whatsoever, but our programmed response is to run. And quite often, after that initial escape, we realize we were never in any danger to begin with.

Fear drives us to action, but not always in the right direction. And when that which we fear is standing in the way of our goals, we have two choices – face it, or turn back. The question is, what do we fear most? That which is standing in our way, or never moving beyond where we are?

Fear can keep you out of the water when sharks are looking for food, and it can also keep you “safe” from the affection of a curious goat. And fear of mediocrity can drive us to work past that which would otherwise stand in our way. Some fears you may never overcome. Find those that are holding you back and focus on them first. If you do, the rest will fall into place.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved