Tag Archives: phobia

Flaming Embers…Friday Fictioneers.

Boat was the only way home. A huge fire storm had engulfed Ku’ring-gai National Park, and jumped across the M1 Motorway, burning out the trains and blocking all traffic in and out of Sydney.

Dave was trapped, just like millions of  nameless commuters jammed into this hellish sardine tin of burning embers.  Yet, like a bat out of hell, he had to get home. She’d never leave the house. Would rather go up in flames, than face her fear.

Dad’s dingy would never make it across the Hawkesbury, but he had to try. Only love could find a way now.

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This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria. 

Bushfires are quite a normal, anticipated events, especially during a blazing Australian Summer. It is not uncommon for the M1 Motorway, the only main road North out of Sydney, to be closed due to bushfires and on such instances, the trains are likely to be down too leaving stranded commuters to crash out wherever they can for the night. My husband has been caught up in these closures, although our house is nowhere near the bush.

If you are wanting to read a first hand account of driving through such fires, Kimberley’s Bushfire Diary is worth checking out.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Greatest Roller Coaster Ride-Flash Fiction.

Obviously, catching the roller coaster, was her boyfriend’s idea. She couldn’t wait to get off!

Terrified and tortured, the young woman tried maneuvering into foetal position. Yet, constrained by the seat belt, was a contorted knot, her tiny hands shielding her face. Squirming with every twist and turn, she embodied The Scream. Yet, she didn’t make a sound.

Why couldn’t she tell him she was scared of heights?

Why didn’t he respond? Try to help?

Too late! Her stomach betrayed her. The Dagwood Dog chasing her milkshake spun out of control. A cyclonic catastrophe struck.

That woke him up!

March 23, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an adventure, experienced or witnessed. Explore your own ideas about what makes an adventurous spirit. Is it in the doing? Does standing witness count, and if so, how? Be adventurous!

Respond by March 29, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Today, our family had the most incredible fun at the Royal Sydney Easter Show. This was quite an adventure for us because tackling such huge crowds and walking long distances is difficult for me what with my “small engine”. So even though I had grown up going to the Show every year well into my thirties, we’ve never taken the kids before. From my perspective, this was a very serious breach because that’s what families do in Sydney abnd we couldn’t do it.

Anyway, we had such a great day and you’ve never seen such cheeky grins as the lot of us tearing round on the dodgem cars trying to wipe each other out. Don’t know why the sign says “No Bumping” because we all know it’s inevitable and a huge part of the fun!

After the dodgems, there was a big discussion about which ride they’d go on next. Both kids were looking at a fishing game, which was pretty elementary but then our son decided to go on this rollercoasters of rollercoasters, “The Spinning Coaster”, which promoted itself as the Greatest Rollercoaster in Australia. This ride was pure torture with sharp 90 degree turns and sense you were about to shoot over the very edge. Our son mentioned something to my husband about how he should’ve gone fishing instead.

Meanwhile, my husband noticed the couple who were sharing their compartment on the ride. He mentioned something to me afterwards about whether she’d be talking to him afterwards. It clearly wasn’t her idea to have a go. As I teased out what happened, this picture emerged of this absolutely terrified young woman who had tried curling herself into a ball but was tied into her seat by the seat belt and instead had covered her face with her hands and was trying to bury her self in the seat. Our daughter is pretty scared of heights and spent the first half of our ride on the Ferris Wheel with her eyes very tightly shut. Although I know it’s better for her to face her fears, particularly as a child, that doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to her pain. I feel it. I know it. Not that I’m afraid of heights but I was absolutely phobic of dogs as a child or more precisely, the sound of barking dogs and I know that crippling level of fear. For those of you who know how much I love dogs now, that’s a real encouragement.

Why did I write about this couple? I guess because I remember going on dates to the Royal Easter Show when I was in High School and that awkwardness of first dates where you might not have the courage to admit to your weaknesses. You want to impress and it can be a huge thing for someone to admit and share their very personal fears. Much easier to simply avoid them but then you can’t.

Of course, being fiction, I just had to make this poor woman’s misery even worse and make her sick.

By the way, I asked my husband how her boyfriend responded. After all, I would’ve been trying to help her. However, Geoff said he didn’t really seem to notice. That while he wasn’t quite as terrified as her, he was barely getting by himself. I asked Geoff how he noticed all this detail and he said that with our 12 year old son sitting next to the woman, he needed to make sure he was alright. Geoff was being a good Dad.

The other point of this story is that it’s better to admit your fears rather than covering them up or you could end up confronting them in a way that only makes them worse, fueling your anxiety.

Mind you, falling in love doesn’t always help our logic, does it?!!

xx Rowena

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Coffee By Moonlight

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share!

How was your week? I hope you’ve had a good week but I also understand that many of you have a lot on your plate and things aren’t easy. That’s what friends and community is for. Somewhere to rest your weary soul and feel the tension release.

If we were having coffee this week, we’d be looking at the night sky and the stars and philosophising. I’ve been in a reflective, contemplative and even vegetative state for the last few days after the excitement of our son’s triumphant return from the Australian Scouting Jamboree. It’s been a welcome relief from the weeks of renovating and cleaning which went on while he was away.

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Of course, when you go into his room now, it looks like it’s always been this way. That we’ve done nothing, which in effect glosses over all our hard work. In some ways, this defeats part of the purpose of renovating his room. That is to show him we love him and for him to look at his room and feel loved, valued, special. At the same time, we didn’t want him to feel guilty or that we weren’t happy to do the work. It truly has been a labour of love where our hearts have been turned inside out and plastered to those walls. Will he still feel the intensity and purpose of that love if he can’t appreciate what it took? I don’t know.

Perhaps. we should’ve stuck post-it notes all over the place, pointing out all our many hidden battles. “Patched hole in wall here”, “This skirting board has been sculpted to accommodate crooked wall, poorly situated powerpoints and network cables”. Or, perhaps I should simply stick a post-it  with “OMG” in huge caps on there. There were also edges we went over and over with blue then white then blue paint as we kept wandering out of the lines. I could also write a note documenting how my husband was staying up really late working on the room every night after exceptionally early starts and doing overtime at work. Of course, through the usual twists and turns of fate, a really busy time at work just had to coincide with an urgent project at home. The endless days of very heavy rain also slowed things down.

So, we ended up having quite a tight deadline towards the end. Of course, we didn’t need anyone to tell us that our best intentions would be destroyed if his bed was still out in the lounge room and his room under construction when he returned.  After 11 nights of camping on a rough stretcher, we would have been done for. The absolute worst parents in the world!!

I should also add that just the whole prospect of painting the skirting boards for his room, triggered a terrible near panic attack where I became completely paralyzed by my fear of failure, making a mistake: Scaredy Mum!The boards were yet to be fitted so it wasn’t difficult. However,  as heavy rain prevented me from getting started, these fears really festered badly. Sure, it’s difficult to know what your capabilities are as a person living with chronic health and disability but that’s no excuse for dropping your bundle. Particular now I’ve been reminded about another aspect of Lao Tzu’s quote: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. At least for me, that first step is the hardest part and after that it’s smooth sailing. I did encounter difficulties painting the wall and became dizzy but I put in a respectable effort.

The dog had a bit to say about my efforts there and also wrote his tips for fighting fear: Dog’s Guide to Fighting Fear

In the end, we know full well that the lad won’t appreciate what went into fixing up his room until he’s a Dad doing the same for his kids. Then, he’ll know and we might even get a phone call.

That’s just the way it is.

So, now that’s done, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve hung up my paintbrush and handed in my resignation. No more renovating! Hey, who am I kidding? When you have an old crooked house, renovation is like the good old days of painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Once it’s finally over a one end, you’re back to the beginning again!

By the way, Mister did appreciate his room. No huge leaps of excitement but it was deemed “very good”.

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Also, he said returning home was “weird”. Weird to have electricity again after 12 days going without and it was also “weird” having somewhere “comfortable to sleep”. Not unsurprisingly,  since his return he’s spent much time playing on his iPad, curled up in his blanket in bed.

I should also add that after missing Mister all that time, the dogs barely spoke to him when he first came back and gave him the real cold shoulder treatment. By the end of the night, however, all was forgiven.

jonathon & bilbo

Boy & Dog Reunited.

School goes back in 11 days so now this naughty, rebellious little night owl re-establishing something approaching normal sleeping patterns. Somehow, I need to acclimatize to waking up at 6.30AM to drive our daughter to school 45 minutes away. Instead of being able to have a daytime nap, I’ll be staying up there to bring her home in the afternoon. This is also going to dramatically play around with my writing and getting on with the Book Project, especially until I find a cosy nook where I can write and call my own. Once she’s settled, she’ll be catching the train and bus and I’ll probably just be dropping her at the station and picking her up. She might even become fully independent. I’m just playing it by ear.

Tomorrow, we’ll be off to buy Mister’s high school uniform. Not sure whether I’m truly ready for that either. That said, it would help if I got out of my pyjamas!

In terms of my writing in the last week, I’ve been rather inspired by Mister’s trip away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree and all his adventures. I had pretty low expectations of finding out much of what happened at camp and I was delighted to overhear him talking on the phone…his  Jamboree Tips. He sounded so grown up.These make for entertaining reading.

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As time went by, tales of Funnel Web Spiders began to emerge. These are considered the most deadly spiders in the world. Apparently, while I was concerned about him being out in a tent in the heavy rain, he was scared of Funnel Webs. It is mating season and the male funnel webs are out on the prowl in search of true love. A couple of funnel webs were found close to their tent and then a warning was issued that funnel webs had been found in scout’s bags returning home. Mister promptly ejected his bag out of his room and dumped it at MY feet. Perhaps, I should’ve been proud that he had such faith in his old Mum but not being the most attentive soul, I didn’t have a lot of faith myself. I have bifocals and sometimes they even miss the blatantly obvious. At the same time, I have  my self-respect and didn’t want to stoop to the “wait til your father gets home” routine. You can read the full story here.

book pile

I am also trying to reduce my book pile. After scouring the book shelves, however, I’ve only found 6 books to move on. For some reason, I just can’t find the heart to be ruthless to such good friends and good intentions. Perhaps, I’ll have better luck with the kids’ books. Trouble is, I like reading some of them too!

Anyway, thank you so much for joining me for coffee and I hope you have a great week ahead. This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share  and here’s the link up.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scout Backpack Warning! Funnel Web Spider Inside?

Putrid stench and enough dirt to start a veggie patch…that’s what you expect in your scout’s pack when they return from camp. Of course, you hope ALL their gear’s returned but are philosophical. It usually only takes a trip to the Scout Hall to find the rest.

However, I am fast becoming prepared for the unexpected.

That is, if you can ever be prepared for a deadly Funnel Web Spider catapulting out of a backpack and into your path.

Well, that’s only a possibility. However, after getting Mister home safe and sound, we received an official Funnel Web Spider warning from Assistant District Commissioner. It seems that the deadly venomous spider has been making its own exodus out of the camp grounds in search of electricity and a comfy bed. Uninvited guests, they’ve been found by two hapless local families while unpacking their scout’s bags.

Yikes!

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This is FACT and not the usual Australian hyperbole about our dangerous and deadly wildlife. Well, we’re not exactly exaggerating ALL of their deadly powers but you could say that myth and fact can become a little blurred.

While it seems most other families had well and truly unpacked by the time the warning was issued, of course, we were trailing far behind. After 12 days away, Mister had a lot of catching up to do… with us, the dogs, checking out his new room and making that all important phone call to his little sister and grandparents. So, somehow, the bag was still lying on the floor like a corpse this afternoon.

After I mentioned the Funnel Web warning, the bag was promptly moved out of the Scout’s bedroom and dumped beside my feet in the lounge room. Goodness knows why! I hardly look like “Spider Mum”, do I?!!

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Moreover, when I last checked my list of responsibilities as  “Scout Mum” there was absolutely NO MENTION of removing venomous Funnel Web spiders from backpacks or even checking the aforementioned backpack for them either.

That’s what Scouts are for. The only trouble is that a bite to a child is much more dangerous than an  adult and you could say that I might have a bit more “added protection” as well.

I’m not scared of spiders but the Sydney Funnel Web isn’t any ordinary spider either. Even the Encyclopaedia Britannica rates the Funnel Web as the deadliest spider in the world. I’ve never seen one outside a sealed specimen jar and I can’t say I’m disappointed either.

So, while the scout is supposed to pack and unpack their bag, I did offer assistance.Not that I expected us to find a Funnel Web. However, a Funnel Web warning is not something to ignore either, especially when No. 1 son has already told me that it’s currently mating season and the males are out searching for true love. Indeed, one of his leaders found two funnel webs before they left. Mister also told me that a scout had been bitten at camp (unconfirmed) and they even had anti-venom on site. So, that along with the two spiders found in packs, advises caution.

All this aside, I don’t know how I became the spider expert.

You probably haven’t heard about the nervous breakdown I had when a bird flew inside the house and became wedged between the window and a shelf. It’s constant flapping totally freaked me out!!! I had to get the neighbour to help. I was an absolute mess!! Mummy and the Bird

Spiders don’t have wings but they do scuttle and those Funnel Webs Spiders are so big and ugly, they look scary. After all, it’s not like they camouflage themselves as fairies to deceive you!

Yet, after our snake encounter at Byron Bay, I’m now an old hand dealing with deadly wildlife:  Snake Bait

My modus operandi is to tip everything out of the bag onto the back deck and make enough noise to scare it off. I don’t know whether spiders have ears or can even hear at all. But, if I was a funnel web, I’d runaway. However, I’m not sure what I’m going to do if I do end up with a Funnel Web at large in the backyard, especially with the kids and two dogs to consider. I really should have a glass ready so I can do a textbook capture if required. However, the concept of getting that close to a Funnel Web is more than I can come to grips with, even though the folk at  The Australian Reptile Park would ultimately take it off my hands. They milk spiders to produce anti-venom. So, you could say that catching this spider would be a good thing, although couldn’t someone else be the hero?

Mister empties out his pack.

I hold my breath. Seriously hold my breath. I have absolutely no idea how the contents of this pack are going to fall.

To be or not be?

Will a funnel web spider

be staring up at me?

Apparently not. Seems they weren’t too keen on his stinky socks either!

Phew!

We just threw the lot in the washing machine and pressed the magic button. Pretty soon all that stench will emerge as celestial threads!

Meanwhile, our son is adjusting to being home. No longer having to dodge Funnel Webs, he’s found it “weird” having electricity again and somewhere comfortable to sleep. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from lying in bed playing on his iPad.

Happy at camp, happy at home.

So much to be thankful for!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

xx Rowena

 

Grappling With Fear… the Making of Courage.

What is your greatest fear?

Today, we move onto the second question in the Proust Questionnaire, a tool many writers use to develop their character’s back story. Since I am the main character of the Book Project, I am going through the Proust Questionnaire myself and loving it.

While there are times most of us might struggle with even the concept of happiness (question 1), I’m sure most of us know fear. Indeed, if you’re anything like me, you could be well have your very own A-Z of fears, which you could could rattle off in a jiffy.

“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.”

Christopher Reeve

When I first started thinking about fear, I started revisiting those dreadful moments where I was completely paralyzed and clearly an emotional wreck. However, the more I worked through fear, I came to appreciate that fear is an inherent ingredient in its flip side…courage.

After all, without fear we can not be brave.

Consequently, instead of denigrating fear as an emotion and seeing it as purely negative, we can also re-brand it as a positive, uplifting emotion. That through embracing fear, challenge and overcoming hurdles, we find our inner strength and experience personal growth.

Getting back to answering the question at hand, of course, I could easily give you a simple one or two word response but where’s the fun in that? As much as I don’t really feel like exploring fear in all it’s goosepimpled glory, looking fear in the face and really feeling those emotions, that is the essence of writing.Immersing yourself into the character, the experience until you live and breathe through it’s heart, lungs and soul.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

After all, writing, good writing, is not about skating over the top of the iceberg. No, it’s about diving deep and dealing with the unexpressed, the hard to comprehend, those feelings which are so incredibly painful that any sane sole would stay well and truly away. Yet, we plow on. We can’t leave those pages unturned…despite the personal cost!

“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.”

Christopher Reeve

While I posted a wide range of photos to show my happiest moments, my most fearful moments haven’t really been photographed and even if they were, they wouldn’t necessarily show the inner mechanics of fear which are perhaps concealed behind a seemingly calm veneer, a nervous smile or talking a thousand miles an hour to somehow calm my nerves.

However, when I truly think of fear, utter panic and all those alarm bells going off at once, there’s no greater representation of that enormous fear than Munch’s: The Scream. I actually have it near my desk, waiting to be framed and stuck on the wall. You see, I know that scream, the freak out very, very well.

Yet, although fear is portrayed as a bad thing and something to be avoided, fear is also part of any new experience, especially one which really stretches and challenges us, taking us out of our comfort zones creating growth.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

One of my greatest personal triumphs was skiing down Perisher’s Front Valley with my ski instructor despite having a life-threatening, disabling auto-immune disease which attacks my muscles and lungs. I still remember standing at the top of the mountain gripping onto the edge by the skin of my toes, totally overwhelmed by a tsunami of fear. At the same time, I’d joined up with the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association and my instructor was well-trained and experienced at enabling people like me to ski as independently as possible but with support. Probably the very worst part of it was looking over the edge and seeing how small the village was down below and how the car park was full of “ants” and I felt like I was about to fly off the edge of a cliff into abyss.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

TS. Eliot

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

Vincent Van Gogh

Eventually, after a few falls and needing to stop to catch my breath, we arrived at the bottom. It didn’t feel like the exuberant triumph I’d expected but I’d pulled off my dream. Fulfilled a goal. Moreover, as much as I was afraid, I didn’t let that fear stop me from truly living. From seizing the day with both hands and swinging from the chandelier, even if my joy was, at best, subdued.

At the same time, I must confess that I haven’t skied down Front Valley a second time. That view from the top and the steepness of the slope was too much but I’ve subsequently skied through Happy Valley a few times and this time decided not to look down. Plus, my instructors carried my skis and boots back while I could the chairlift. (So you don’t have to go through fearful situations alone!)

“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.”

John Wayne

I was also terrified when I was having my first session of chemo. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but it’s pretty scary having toxic stuff pumped into your veins…even if it is in a hospital. I half expected my veins to blow up, which naturally didn’t happen and I didn’t throw up or lose my hair either. I was suddenly somehow “lucky”.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

However, another important aspect of going through fear and surviving those nasty experiences is that we develop resilience and we start developing the skills and attitudes which enable us to overcomes adversity not just now and then but every day. After all, life is all about tackling ups and downs and standing only makes you stagnant.

“By adversity are wrought the greatest works of admiration, and all the fair examples of renown, out of distress and misery are grown.”

Samuel Daniel

So, even when fear is completely and utterly justifiable in a situation, the monstrous picture your imagination paints is often far worse than reality and you somehow manage not only to survive but feel a bit victorious…a real sense of achievement.

“To him who is in fear everything rustles.”

Sophocles

Phobias are a different story. A phobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. Phobias come in all shapes and sizes but spiders, snakes, mice, heights are a few classics. While it is good to have a healthy respect for deadly critters(trust me Australia has more than its share of these!!), being terrified of these things and letting them get in the way of living is a different story.

“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them”.

Andre Gide

Jaws...even the theme music inspired dread.

Jaws…even the theme music inspired dread.

At the same time, fear can also be protective and what might be a phobia can also be a real and very life-threatening. It’s not something to simply shrug off and ignore. I’ve never been scared of sharks but lately there’s been a string of shark attacks on Australia’s East Coast. Indeed, there’s been 13 shark attacks in New South Wales in 2015*. We’ll be off to Byron Bay again soon, which is right near a few of these attacks and it really is questionable whether we should swim in these shark infested waters. Do we love swimming that much? I don’t think so but I will seek local advice when we get there. To me, this is just being sensible…the same way I would go swimming with croco9diles in the Northern Territory.

“Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them.”

Rabindranath Tagore

The more I considered fear, the more I came to realise that fear was also coupled with courage, especially when we face our fears, instead of fleeing to the hills. Being prepared, having some training, tools etc obviously increases the likelihood of victory and a good outcome.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

Louisa May Alcott

What are your thoughts about fear and the interplay between fear and courage?

xx Rowena

Sources:

https://taronga.org.au/conservation/conservation-science-research/australian-shark-attack-file/2015

What Do We Do With the Frightened Sailor?… Palm Beach, Sydney.

If you have been following my blog lately, you’ll know that we are currently on holidays at Palm Beach, Sydney.At least, we were. School and us have gone back and I’m a bit behind with my posts.

Palm Beach has to be pretty close to paradise. If you have ever watched the TV drama series Home & Away, you’ll be familiar with its glorious surf beach with golden sand and the historic lighthouse standing sentry. However, there is another, equally stunning, side to paradise.The Pittwater side with its sparkling, diamond carpet of relatively still water…a calm, tranquil alter-ego just perfect for sailing and other water sports.

We are a sailing family. Well, at least we are trying to be.There is only one thing standing in our way… FEAR! Our daughter is terrified of sailing. Well, it’s not just sailing. It’s kayaking, swimming in the surf and even catching the ferry when there are big waves. This fear is augmented by numerous things living in the water such as stingrays, sharks and oysters. With the prospect of being under sail with the boat keeling over, all these fears magnified and just kept growing and growing. Ultimately, they grew into one of those DIY Monsters, which you mix up yourself in the bathtub, escapes and then goes feral leaving a horrific trail of destruction in its wake.

As Miss is only 8 years old and we can’t just leave her behind, we either had to persuade her to come out on the yacht or someone (and we all know that means me!!) had to stay home. Me loves sailing and didn’t want to be left out. I should also point out that if you think I’m being hard on our daughter, she actually belongs to cubs at Sea Scouts and quite happily kayaks along with them. While this seems like a glaring contradiction, she assures me there are no sharks at cubs. I guess they haven’t signed up

While Miss was refusing to go anywhere near the yacht, sailing conditions were absolutely perfect. The sun was sparkling across Pittwater and the wind was perfect. Absolutely perfect! The rest of us couldn’t wait to get out there. Hoist the mainsail and feel that wind! Wow! It’s exhilarating!

However, nobody should ever under-estimate the power, the force, the mighty grip of fear. I suspect that fear is an even a mightier force than love. It consumes your body, mind and soul taking you captive and stopping you from spreading your wings and flying. Instead, you’re in prison. Locked in the dreaded darkness of the dungeon. There is no light.

To make matters worse, you’re often perfectly conscious about the irrationality of your fear and would dearly like to break free. Yet, you can’t and no amount of rational thought can make you do it either. You remain in fear’s grip, by now it’s willing slave. After all, anything is better than confrontation, although you know full well that is the only way you’ll ever break free.

Trying to clarify her fears, I asked Miss if she was afraid of water. She fervently rejected hydrophobia, saying: “Of course not. “I drink water. It would be good to have a fear of water because then I could drink Coke.” (I don’t think so!!) So now we were moving towards cymophobia, a fear of waves. However, this didn’t incorporate the stingrays, sharks and oysters. While I had attributed her fear of stingrays to Steve Irwin’s untimely death and statistically very unlikely. However, it turns out that even the intrepid natives of South America fear a freshwater stingray called the Potamotrygon even more than the piranha. The piranha is a character who deserves some very healthy respect,  so perhaps I should take our daughter’s concerns a little more seriously… especially as her Dad trod on a stringray recently. Fortunately, he was wearing his boat shoes and was okay.

Miss has also been concerned about being attacked by a shark. I didn’t take that concern too seriously either. What are the chances? At the same time, I don’t go swimming in Pittwater. I know the sharks are out there, including the snap-happy bullshark and I’m not trusting their lousy eyesight. Every now and then, a rogue bullshark has attacked.  In February 2002, Paul McNamara, 35, was forced to clamber onto a buoy and flag down a passing fishing vessel after a bull shark knocked him from his kayak near Cabarita Marina, on the Parramatta River in Sydney. That was a long time ago but I wouldn’t classify a fear of being attacked by a bull shark as an irrational fear… just statistically unlikely. The bull sharks are definitely out there. Indeed, up North they have been caught as far inland as Lismore, 50 kilometres from the coast. You could almost say that no waterway is safe.

My daughter’s fears are perhaps not so irrational after all just statistically unlikely. If you want to have fun and carpe diem seize the day, you have to allow for an element of risk and have a go. The fact that she could kayak happily at scouts, gave me hope that she could go kayaking and maybe even go sailing with us given a bit of healthy encouragement.

Here I am swanning around on the yacht, wishing we were sailing but still making the most of it all.

Here I am swanning around on the yacht, wishing we were sailing but still making the most of it all.

In hindsight, we should have left her with Grandma but being the eternal optimist, I’d hoped that once she got out there, she would get over it. We also hoped that a bit of exposure and a good experience might lay the groundwork for next time. This meant we adopted a gently, very gently approach. Use the motor. Keep the boat vertical. No leaning over.After all, avoidance does nothing to reduce our fears. If we keep going round and round our fear like a constant roundabout, we’ll never build those all-important neuro-pathways to help us get across, overcome it and finally develop resilience. So we wanted her to try. Have a go.However, we coul’ve taken her out another day when the wind was lousy and we had to use the motor. This probably wasn’t the day to mess around with Miss.

I must say too that my Dad is very good at working through such fears and he’s had many years of patience practice. I remember the little chats we used to have when he’d remove a splinter ever so gently from my finger while I was hysterically freaking out about the great, big, ginormous needle. Or, when Dad took me for driving lessons. I wasn’t a natural and was also a nervous wreck but Dad kept his cool. Whenever I was afraid of driving anywhere and sometimes this fear really was very intense, he would logically ask me if my driver’s licence preventing me from driving anywhere. Of course not. I was free to drive anywhere and everywhere and his encouragement has helped me work through so much fear.  He had also helped me learn how to ride a bike. That was yet another real test of endurance. Of course, we didn’t know at the time that all my troubles were more than anxiety or clumsiness but Dad had helped me through.So after going through all this with me, I had every faith in Dad. If anyone could ease Miss through her fears of sailing, he could do it.

Although I have overcome or reduced much of my own fear through slow but steady exposure, you can’t push, drag and force somebody else to overcome theirs. They need to take their time. Be ready. That’s all very well if they are just putting themselves out and narrowing their own horizons. However, when you want to do something as part of a group or family and the rest of you are trying to carpe diem seize the day and they’re refusing to join in, it can be inconvenient at best and catastrophically depressing at worst. All your grand plans are ruined, lying around your ankles like an old pair of undies with worn out elastic…dead!

Our son loves sailing and being oout on the yacht.

Our son loves sailing and being out on the yacht.

However, given my own swag of irrational fears, you could say it’s poetic justice. Now, I am the one being held back instead of the one freaking out with anxiety and panic and avoidance. That well might be the case but why did she have to pick sailing? Why couldn’t she have shared my fear of false teeth? None of us have false teeth and we could’ve all been out there sailing enjoying the brilliant conditions not worrying about anybody’s teeth falling out. I know. I know. Life wasn’t meant to be fair but I love sailing and it’s a very rare treat. It hurt to come so close and yet so far.

Anyway, despite her protest, we managed to get Miss out on the yacht but we promised not to go under sail. Instead, we were puttering around Pittwater like a geriatric. I’m sure I’ve paddled faster in the kayak and I don’t paddle all that quicklyWe were actually on a yacht with just the right amount of wind and yet…! That’s what compromise is all about. Compromise means nobody is happy. Our daughter didn’t want to be on the boat at all and the rest of us wanted to be out sailing. Boo who!!

Mister operating the tiller on the punt from the marina. He did an excellent job.

Mister operating the tiller on the punt from the marina. He did an excellent job.

On the bright side, our son enjoyed operating the tiller and he even had a turn driving the punt which drove us to and from the yacht. He did an excellent job. But it wasn’t sailing.

Our daughter farewelling the sailors with both feet firmly planted on terra firma.

Our daughter fare welling the sailors with both feet firmly planted on terra firma.

Mister and Geoff had a chance to revisit sailing in the Laser, a small sailing skiff, over the weekend. Unfortunately, the wind was all over the shop but Mister was improving and getting the hang of things. It was great just to see father and son out there bonding, connecting and enjoying the great outdoors under sail.

Geoff and Mister finally get out to sail. I missed out but I did get to go out in the kayak.

Geoff and Mister finally get out to sail. I missed out but I did get to go out in the kayak.

At the rate Mister is growing and the way he is taking to sailing,  I’m pretty sure that with a bit of extra spinach, we’ll have our very own Popeye the Sailor Man. You never know. The spinach might even work on our daughter. It might just give her the strength to overcome her fear and find a love of sailing like the rest of us. Who knows? We might actually be able to raise the sail one day. I did get one positive sign.

Miss pretending to be out in the kayak. It's a beginning.

Miss pretending to be out in the kayak. It’s a beginning.

While Geoff and Mister were out sailing, she climbed into the kayak which was tied up to the boat ramp and said: “I’m pretending to kayak”. That was quite a step forward. Small steps…small steps…

Perhaps, the journey of a thousand miles has just begun.

As you can see, I remain the eternal optimist!

xx Rowena