Have you ever feared something so much, that it prevented you from taking part in an activity that would have had a positive impact? Many times, our fear is so strong that we cannot see beyond it to be able to experience what is on the other side.
Unfortunately, our fears add up in a lifetime, a pattern forms, and we carry our bundles of anxiety into and through our adult lives.
Several years ago, I came across the following passage in a book titled, Fear - Understanding and Accepting the Insecurities of Life:
“The fear of death is fear of time, and the fear of time is, deeply, the fear of unlived moments, an unlived life.”
When I first read that passage, it made me pause and really delve deeper into what it was implying. It has stuck with me ever since.
I don’t think it is telling you to go out and risk your life with any and all dangerous behavior just to feel alive. Rather, it’s asking you to explore the possibilities that might come from pushing through a situation that scares the hell out of you.
For most of us, the situation would cause us to do the safe thing, which in most cases is doing nothing.
I recently had to summon the courage to push past some serious fear on three separate occasions this year. As I began writing this blog, I realized that I had so much to say, that fitting all three experiences into one post was futile. Instead, I decided to make this a three-part series, giving each occasion its own deserved space.
In Search of A Way to Give Back
Last Fall while I was healing at Crozer Medical Center, I felt a strong desire to give back something of myself to the burn community. In fact, I even wrote this into my New Years’ goals on December, 31st.
The immense gratitude I felt because of the incredible medical care I received, made me realize that I had attracted abundance into my life.
It is very difficult to explain to anyone how I can state that my experience of initial recovery from my injuries contained any positivity. You have to make a separation of the components involved to understand it. You must separate the struggles, the ups and downs, the immense pain, and only focus on what helped you get through to the other side of all that.
I’m referring to all the people who played a part in helping me get through to the other side of my injuries. All the people who were by my side each and every day for six weeks, whether by their physical presence or through thought and prayer.
This is the positive experience I had, this is the abundance I received, and as a result, the reason for wanting to give back.
After writing the previous line, I broke down and cried. They weren’t tears of sadness. They were tears of joy in reflecting upon the so many good people who helped not only me, but my family through this ordeal.
How Volunteering Became Therapy
Picking up on my need to give something of myself and true to her nature, my daughter Meghan immediately began a search looking for possibilities. She was able to connect me with Camp Susquehanna, a place where burn survivors ages six to sixteen can come to for support and understanding.
Now held annually in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, the camp runs for four days each June. Part of the camp’s philosophy and goals are to provide children with burns a safe place for healing. Also, it’s a place where they can share their feelings about difficult experiences, even if for the first time.
This mission resonated with me knowing how I felt about my own appearance. I could only imagine how difficult it must be for a young child with burn injuries, socially among their peers. The world we live in, isn’t always kind to people with disfigurement.
Through the application process providing answers for many personal questions, my initial apprehension was in how I would handle myself in an emotional situation. A major concern I had was what would happen if I suddenly broke down and cried?
In the weeks leading up to Camp, the real source of the fear that I was experiencing became clear. I was scared out of my mind with what my bunk accommodations would force me to reveal about myself.
I had spent six weeks after the accident in the hospital focused only on physical healing in an effort to get released and go home. It wasn’t until then, that I began to deal with the impacts of the accident emotionally.
There were many times when I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, and just began sobbing. I was so disappointed at how I looked. Just standing there motionless, staring, I couldn’t believe that this had happened, and just how much of my body had been burned.
At times I was disgusted with my appearance, and even repulsed by how my body felt when I moved my hands over the scars.
Since the accident, other than medical professionals, the only people that have been privy to see my burns, are Holly, Meghan, and Ryan. How was I ever going to handle undressing and showering in a bathroom facility with little to no privacy while at Camp?
Without any knowledge of what my circumstances would be, I allowed my fear to build up to a breaking point. In any other instance in the past, I would have done the safe thing and backed out of participating.
“Fear can paralyze you. To break through, you need courage and fearlessness.”
Helping Me Break Through
The ability to follow through with my commitment to volunteer at Camp never would have been possible without a positive shift in my approach to fear. I had to make a change in my thought process. In many ways, the accident and all of its consequences allowed me to do this.
At a very basic level, how could I ever be afraid of anything after what I had gone through? Holly has asked me many times, “What could ever be worse than that?” The practical side of me thought, “There could always be something worse.”
In reality, the accident was a life altering event that needed to be honored in some way, and not simply brushed aside.
I am a much more confident person now. I feel stronger, not necessarily physically, but more so mentally than I ever have. I don’t have all the answers as to why this is so, but for now, I’m going with it.
Without coming across as conceited, I enjoy feeling more confident. At times, when around other people, I think they can sense my confidence. How did this happen?
In looking back, I give most of the credit to my experience of recovery and healing, particularly while in the hospital.
I endured so many awkward situations while at Crozer, there was no choice except dropping many of the inhibitions I’ve harbored most of my life. Although I’m describing these things as inhibitions, I’m really talking about fear.
As just one example, sometimes I joke with Holly saying, “I have never been completely naked in front of so many women in my life.” Of course, I was referring to the nurses who had to bath me as well as perform daily dressing changes.
I’ve always been a private person, but my experience in the burn ward on this and many other occasions, was everything goes out the window. Including your inhibitions.
Positivity is the Outcome
In dealing with the tremendous amount of fear I allowed to build up, I was able to summon the courage I needed to push through. I was capable to honor my commitment of volunteering as a cooking instructor at Camp.
Without a doubt, my experience at Camp Susquehanna was an incredibly positive one. On a personal level, I received just as much from being around other adult burn survivors as I did from my interaction with the children.
Recently when I had a chance to review some journal entries I wrote while at camp, I realized just how positive my experience was.
Here is an excerpt from June 14:
“I was greatly relieved upon meeting my three bunk mates. That’s right, just three. I lucked out, or rather my anxiety was eliminated, once I met Ed, Leo, and Jim. Ed and Leo are also burn survivors, and through their compassion, they allow me to feel comfortable in my body around them. I have been able to share my story and ask them questions about their injuries in an attempt to better know my future journey.”
By being more or less fearless, and allowing myself to be vulnerable in this setting, I was rewarded with an experience I will never forget. Being genuine with others, including some of the older children, allowed me an opportunity to have them open up to me and describe their emotional stories.
I left Camp less inhibited about my injuries and appearance. I am now more comfortable letting some of my scars show without feeling the need to pull my shirt sleeve down when in public.
Without having the courage and fearlessness to push forward and break through my fears, I would have denied myself the chance to experience a truly wonderful opportunity.
Beginning this week, I have changed my cabochons auction day to Thursday, mostly due to how my production schedule seems to be working at this time. Be sure to check the auction out at "Ten at Ten on Thursday" held every Thursday from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM Eastern on my Facebook page.
As always, I welcome any and all dialogue that might come to me as a result of this blog effort by way of your comments. Until next time. . .
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