Bursting the Myths of Fear

Fear; an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Oxford online dictionary

This year has been interesting for me so far. Yes, like everyone else I have my desires and goals that I want to accomplish. But, while those are at the forefront of my mind, I am faced to tackle my fears. In January, I learnt that a close friend of mine died, Mr. Moss-Solomon. I could use a lengthy page to tell you about his accolades, but those were not how I knew him. He was a mentor and a friend to me. Someone who believed in me. Though we met in Jamaica, at the University, where he held the position as Executive in Residence, he continued to stay in touch when I returned home in Canada. We stayed in touch years later, even a little over a month before he died. I didn’t know that our last conversation was going to be our last, otherwise I would have stayed on the phone longer with him- it was his birthday. He died on Jan 04, 2022.

Read More: An elegy to Jimmy Moss-Solomon.

That death has a shock to my new year. Because the thing I began to reflect on was time. No matter how much we have, it’s never enough. Kinda like money, actually. All jokes aside; there are some things in life that we all need to do, we are called to do them because of our unique skill-sets, experiences, and personality; but we keep feeling fearful. My friend used to tell me all the time that I am made to do more than I am currently doing (though he wasn’t that politically correct when he told me so). That was the rolling joke for us- he was a man that was as direct as they come. And he hated the way Canadians were always so politically correct all the time. There is a Jamaican song that not so eloquently expresses this point in patios, “..who don’t like it not….(I won’t end the lyric). Since I am Canadian-raised, I am forced to remain politically correct.

Photo by Xue Guangjian on Pexels.com

When we allow it, fear will stop us dead in our tracks and prevent us from moving ahead. Yes, because the feeling is utterly unpleasant. It’s a moving out of our comfort zones to places we have never been before. It makes us pause, gauge our surroundings, and make a decision about taking a step forward or backward. In my last article, I shared how I stood on the ski hill for almost 10-15 minutes looking down. How would I get to the bottom without falling? Did I really want to do this? These are all legitimate questions that the brain must conceptualize. But, the final decision is always up to us. The questions that we should begin to use to rebut are: Will this hurt me or make me better? Even if it hurts, won’t I learn from my failure?

Read more: Ready, set, pause.

It’s natural that our brains aim and program is to protect us by any means necessary. Have you ever walked on a lake before? I went out walking on the lake yesterday. I did it while being afraid. My brain automatically started to process the possibility that I could fall because the ice could crumble under my feet. That even though all those other people and their dogs were out there walking, I was going to be the one to fall. I slowly started to walk. The truth was, it was hard to tell where the land ended and where the lake began because the ice was also covered with snow, everywhere. My brain reprogrammed itself because it realized things were not as it thought. Even though it was my first time, this was perfectly safe. The next time I go out there, I will gladly go walking on the lake. I was extra vigilant at first, but now that I see that there was nothing to fear, I intend to do it again. Everything that is out of our comfort zones become an imminent danger, and is to be feared…until we do it.

Overcoming fear requires that I step out of my comfort zone to do new things.
Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

Basically, if I was to follow my brain every time I would never do anything new.

My encouragement to you before we begin yet another month is to DO IT! Do it in the midst of feeling afraid. Ask yourself these other rebuttal questions: Will this actually hurt me? And even if it does hurt, will I learn whatever my failure has to teach me?

“…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Richard Berg, an inspiration

I don’t know which of these “coincidences” are strangest. You can decide for yourselves.

This morning, I decided to repost two memorabilias of my past excursions. They just stood out to me; while I was scrolling down my facebook wall and looking at the sequence of events that had taken place in my life. The first was an article that I wrote when I was in South Korea. I wanted my friends to remember that. Then just above it was a photo I had taken in Mexico- another very important trip in my life. So I reposted it on my wall again for friends to remember. It’s been about six to seven years since those experiences took place. The photo of Mexico caught my attention, so I stared at it for a moment. I see I was sitting around a table at a cafe with three others. Richard Berg was one of the persons sitting next to me. I hadn’t spoken to him in years! In 2009  we made contact through facebook. Our last few words were words of encouragement to each other, though those words seemed to have been forgotten with time, at least for me. I decided I missed him and was now very curious about his whereabouts. I had never met anyone who travelled and lived away from home as much as he had. When we communicated on facebook, he wrote that he was “going off to see the wizard”…(in my mind I was thinking…yet again). This time he was going to Cambodia, Bali, “then Borneo to play with orangutans. After that it’s off to the Philippines for a month of scuba diving with friends from the states who will be on holiday. I’m not sure when I’ll return to the western world, I do like it over here and it’s such a different cultural experience. Still to come are Indonesia, another trip to Myanmar, maybe India and China, and Australia. It appears one could spend a few years just exploring Indonesia due to the number of islands.” That was part of the message he had sent to me through facebook.

When I arrived in Mexico he had already been there for months. We met at the University of Guadalajara at the language Institute, called CEPE. I can’t exactly recall what the acronyms stood for. Richard was sitting in the beginner class with me and a total of eight others, all from different parts of the world. Two were from Japan, another from Germany, a woman who migrated from Arizona to live with her Latino husband, another from St. Vincent, another from Settle, and me, from Canada. All of us knew English (for the most part) and were now immersing in the Spanish language. I remember that it was a beautiful school, but the good experiences we had all happened outside those classroom doors. At the beginning when most of us didn’t know anything, Richard was our source of knowledge.

All those memories flashed through my head as my eyes were still fixed on the photo. I suddenly had this desire to contact him and to see if he was still in Cambodia. I found him on facebook, and lo and behold he had a similar photo as the one I was looking at. “Wow, Richard, where did you dig this one up”. I clicked on the photo which was used for his profile picture, fascinated that it was a picture of the same day in Mexico. In the photo I see my hands gripping my mouth to cover up laughter as I stare at Richard, who was standing tall in front of me, and all five of the others are in the photo laughing too, though looking in different directions. I’m curious about what had everyone laughing- it was one of those captured memories (but the memory of the event may be lost forever). Could this be just a coincidence that he had a similar photo up. According to facebook, it had been up since 2010. I browsed through his latest photos and decided to write something under one of them, “you’ve been there for a while”. I wrote noticing that he was still in Cambodia after all these years.  Not expecting any responses as I had no idea what time zone he was in. Suddenly a response came back anyway, “Shauna, Richard passed away last year”.

What a devastating, unexpecting news to hear. Dead? Yes I know people eventually die but not those I know. Richard, the explorer shouldn’t have died yet. Not when I hadn’t spoken to him in a while. Not when I still needed to live vicariously through one who knows what it means to live in a dream. He’s dead? Nobody dies in my life. The possibility of someone you’re fond of can actually be removed from your life, has happened to me? What does this stranger mean..he’s gone. Where? And then I examined the two photos I now have of Richard in Mexico, again. The only time I knew him. “It’s like he wanted you to know” this stranger said. I realized I missed him. How could someone I briefly met caused me to be so emotional? Why are tears streaming down my cheeks? Why do I suddenly feel so sad? “I got another tattoo” He said in one of his messages. My eyes are drenched with tears and I’m hollering and I can’t stop. I’m grieving what seem like a total stranger. But he must have impacted my life in some ways, ways I haven’t stopped to think about, until now.

I reexamined his entire facebook to see how many times I tried to communicate with him- a total of two times. One article I left on his wall was called. “Dreams, are they for kids?”. He replied to say thank you for that article and ended his very long message by telling me “I wish that all your dreams come true and life is always great to you”.   The last message he ever wrote to me. My response, he may have never seen.

I’m left weeping for his loss. It’s been one year and 2 weeks since his passing, and I’m just finding out. But the last messages that we exchanged, encouraged me. Even the final message I wrote to him, (the one he probably didn’t read) seems to be an inspiration to me.

Thanks for that lovely update Richard! Ever since I went to South Korea, I’ve been thinking about writing a travel book. I’m just imagining how much you could have contributed with all your trips alone. I want to suggest a project we could do together but I can’t see how it would be possible- at this moment. Maybe it’s something to consider after you complete all the things on your travel list.. whatcha think? 

I hope that your experiences will be amazing and memorable- wouldn’t you like to tell the world how you did it?

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Goodbye Richard Berg. It was nice to have met you. Had I known your leaving this earth would have impacted me the way it had, I would have tried to spend more time with you whether in person or otherwise. Thanks for your time anyway and your kind words. Take care.