Admission of the day – I have been frightened of everything.
This was never the case in my teens and twenties. I had the confidence of glorious youth, which of course, it goes without saying, went completely unappreciated.
I wonder if (somewhat negatively) that confidence was perhaps due to a lack of experience of how the world really can be pretty cruel, or if it is handed out at birth alongside the traits of being inquisitive and eager to explore, or perhaps just a touch of both.
Certainly, and it has been said before, if as a toddler, we had opted not to continue learning to walk because we kept falling down and it hurt, then life would be fairly limited; similarly if our parents had not encouraged us to eat different foods again and again, even though they might not be quite to our palate (semolina, tapioca, pearl barley and anything with aniseed … still beyond the pale however) then similarly, our world would be relatively small. But no, we experimented, tested and tried all manner of activities, foods, drinks, boyfriends, girlfriends, ways of organising our knicker drawer, varieties of sexual positions, before starting to work out what we liked, what we didn’t like and the ways that we liked to do things.
And then, ‘kaboom!’ …. We discovered one day that we were stuck with those familiar places, people and wonderfully familiar ways of doing things; not because necessarily they were the best, but sometimes simply a case of ‘better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t’. Really? Is it truly best to put thongs in one section, everyday knickers in another, and extra special, ‘these cost a flippin’ fortune and only get dragged out once a year’ knickers in another …. or should they simply go in order of colour? Is there a best way at all, or should they all get pushed in together and frankly if one remembers to even wear them, well, Praise The Lord. Who knows? Once again, it’s down to personal preference … the way we like to do things.
But back to the point in question and forgive my ramblings about knickers, when did we (or rather, I) stop trying and experimenting? Because from that moment, I became apprehensive and disinclined to try the unknown and the new. And when I lost the desire, subsequently the loss of ability soon followed. Like any good habit of course, the less you practise, the harder it becomes to do. And the result? As in human nature, we choose the easiest path. And stepping out of one’s comfort zone and trying new, alien things become all too frightening and our world shrinks.
We see others doing exciting, fun things and give a little snort of derision (in fact it’s secret jealousy teeming with fear and frustration); we can easily justify why it’s a bad idea to take a holiday somewhere unusual, excuses for forgoing that themed party (how childish and anyway, think of the cost of hiring an outfit … how unthoughtful are the hosts), we become a No Person rather than a Yes Person. And our world shrinks just a little bit more.
One of my first dates with The Colonel was cycling around London on a pair of Boris Bikes. Once I had overcome the complete panic, fear and adrenaline brought on by the prospect of being flattened by a bus, car or ending up in a waste disposal lorry, the complete joy and freedom of my hair in the wind whilst peddling through the quiet little squares of matching terraced houses with their private gardens in the middle protected by the wrought iron fencing …. Past the flower shops, the cafes, and through the parks with their splashes of vividly coloured and regimented bedding plants, past the ladies pushing their prams clutching coffees and talking nineteen to the dozen with a fellow female pram pusher. The joy was stronger than the fear. The outcome … a most successful date and an aching jaw from having smiled and laughed so much and for so long.
And back to today where kayaking was the order of the day …. visions of being trapped in upturned plastic tubs in rough torrents, unable to escape, drowning in water and fear. Actually not the case.
A double kayak, I was in front, the Colonel behind. I gave orders, (The Colonel was surprisingly content to relinquish leadership status for a short while) “left hand down a bit, right hand down a fraction”. I’d forgotten that I’d done a fair bit of straddling a lilo as a child with my sister whilst trying to remain upright for longer than ten seconds or the width of a swimming pool (whichever was the longest) I was also quite fit from all that exercise in Scotland. The claustrophobic fear as we entered narrow, low entrances into the darkness of caves almost instantly disappeared as I remembered reading somewhere, “It’s not fear, it’s actually excitement, your brain just needs rewiring”. I repeated this just the once, and suddenly the darkness and gloom gave rise to a cool, silent cave with limestone rocks reaching up high above us. Not a sound, bar the slight rippling of water from our paddles. I am in heaven. Again, the joy and excitement was stronger than the fear.
My world has started to open up, by trying new things, experimenting and challenging again, just like when I was a fearless child. I feel excited, my confidence is returning and I have at long last found a new lease of life. Thank God, it really is possible to become a yes person and start afresh. I just need the joy, excitement and the control of my breathing (and therefore my negative emotions), to be stronger than any panic and fear. I can do this.
Has anyone tried anything new lately? How did it make you feel? Do you think it’s possible to rewire your brain?
Are you a yes or a no person?