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i’ve said it a zillion times, but there are very few things i am afraid of. i don’t know why, but maybe it’s because those things that we all fear deep down, like death and divorce and abandonment, have been hoisted onto me throughout my life, and i’ve had to look them directly in the eye and kind of try to stare them down. so other things that instill fear, like the eating of bugs or climbing mountains or flying on airplanes seem so miniscule, such a waste of energy when compared to bigger, more substantial things. (i’ve adorned myself with a tattoo–in vietnamese–that says, “not afraid to live, not afraid to die” for a reason. and if you don’t really fear dying, you certainly can’t be completely frozen by the idea of really living. right? i believe this. i believe it.) so while these huge enormous things still make me shake a little in my flip flops or my ragged chuck taylors, and i find myself in moments of darkness, chewing off the fingernails i don’t really have, worrying about being left again, i also have some weird ability to go directly into things without letting the fear take me over. i don’t let the fear stop me from at least trying.

when i decided to move to siem reap, cambodia, i forgot to think about why it might be a scary decision. it never occurred to me to consider lurking menaces hiding behind palm trees or the ever present danger of contracting malaria or dengue. i never went to get vaccinated for anything, never bothered to ponder of what mysterious traumas and dramas could be facing me with this huge step, this massive leap i was taking. i forgot to think about the fact that my heart could be broken here in siem reap, too. i let go of the notions of being abandoned. i just came. i just decided to do it, and did it. it was simple, maybe naive, but simple. i just did it.

and while masked men behind trees haven’t appeared and tropical diseases haven’t struck me down yet, there are other things i have been doing that normally i would be reluctant or hesitant to do, but again, i forgot i was afraid. so i just did it. 

i have found myself ready and open to romance. this is enormous. this is probably the biggest fear i’ve had to confront, the letting go of the devastating disappointment in the dissolution of my marriage, shucking off the ramifications of being struck down and maimed by someone who claimed to love me, someone who made promises and commitments he had no intention of keeping. without really knowing it, or being full aware of it, i’ve been trying to, at least, trying to cut the anchor around my waist, around my heart, the one that holds me down and keeps me afraid, keeps me leery. and i feel ready to put myself out there again, i feel like maybe i’ve grown my legs back. sea legs, yes, still shaky and quaky, knees knocking slightly, but legs nonetheless. 

so yes, indeed, there is someone who has caught my eye and made me feel alive in ways i forgot i could and made me feel ready and willing and able. but i’ve confronted that fear from a different angle by understanding–and doing what i can to accept–that this readiness, this willingness, is not being reciprocated. i’m on a one way street, and there’s pylons in the road and some major pot holes. i bumped into some of those neon cones, fell into a shallow little hole, and i am climbing my way out, band-aiding my cuts and attending to my bruises. i attempted fearlessness, and while i failed at it in some ways, i’m also still walking. i’m getting up. facing fear.

i went camping this weekend. enormous step #2. i am an urban girl living in a rural place. cities are my bloodline, cities fuel me, cities pump me with energy and enthusiasm and excitement. and yet here i am residing in a tiny town where sidewalks don’t really exist and movie theaters are what you create from pirated dvds and a second hand dvd player in your un-air conditioned apartment. so here i go again, forgetting what scared me about the countryside–the darkness, the silence, the “inactivity”. and i went camping with my small little posse here. in fact, i arranged this trip–planned it, greased the right people, organized the food and the beer and made sure everyone knew to bring a mosquito net. it was me. facing fear.

i was forfeiting hot showers and hairbrushes and the general urban standards of living– the living i used to feel comfortable in, the living that i’ve been, well, living for decades. i purposely chose discomfort, i released all the reasons and the excuses and the rationalizations of why i couldn’t do this, why i shouldn’t do this. i was sleeping on a hardwood floor, freezing my ass off, huddled against the chill under various layers of dirty tee shirts and woven straw mats, dreaming of socks but realizing i didn’t want to be anywhere else but on this floor, in this place, in here, with cold feet. i was listening to the sound of water cascading off a cliff, endless streams of the worlds most important resource, it’s asset, it’s claim. hearing some unidentified bird cawing in the distance, the sing-song chorus of some wet amphibians making homes in the gigantic leaves and fauna that is their decor, their nest. looking at a moon fuzzy and hazy in the increasing humid sky, squinting to see if there was a remote possibility that the sky would offer me a shooting star. taking delight in watching monks throw sticks at a huge, slithery snake. throwing myself into icy river water and crawling on slippery rocks to immerse myself under a daunting 3 story high shower. wondering what the hell i was ever afraid of. forgetting about the fear. facing the fear.

and today, under the blazing morning february sun in cambodia, i mounted a golden horse named geronimo, and took enormous leap #3. i took an english riding lesson. after brushing and washing and cleaning hooves filled with the dust and dirt and the god knows what else of cambodia and saddling up this animal, an animal i don’t necessarily fear, per se, but one i don’t particularly care for, i became friends with geronimo. i liked this being. i opened myself up to something, to him, to this strangeness, to this i-would-never-ever-do-this-in-a-trillion-years, unlocked this chest, this footlocker, inside. and suddenly, geronimo seemed like a proper vehicle in which to ride head first into all the scary things i’ve felt and harbored and made huge with my imagination. i trotted, i galloped. i let the horse lead me while i led it, too. i felt free. i felt unencumbered by all the histories, all the lead balloons that have been tied to my wrists. i let go.

facing fear.


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