I thought I would be out on the water by now, but not quite. I'm still on land, having addressed some equipment issues that popped up at the last minute, and took a few personal days to go to a school reunion. But nevertheless, I will be out on the Pacific paddling for Hawaii starting in a few days.
Beyond a few technical issues, I'm ready to go, physically, and mentally. "Aura" my 22-foot kayak and I patiently await our launch onto the Pacific, on a solo 3,100 mile, 45-65 day odyssey from the San Francisco Bay Area to Hawaii.
I savour each moment on land as though it were my last, no matter how many more I think I might have before I leave terra firma. I don't dread my mission, I accept it, gladly, however, confinement is against my nature.
As my departure nears, and interviews continue, I am continually confronted with the dangers and fears I might face while on this adventure. It's not uncommon that people ask me if I'm afraid, or assume that I don't fear my impending trek. Here's my chance to put it out in the public record, in my own words, how I feel about fear, how much -- if any -- do I have of it, and some of my secrets how to effectively make fear your ally.
Am I afraid of what I will face out on the Pacific Ocean, alone, up to 50-foot waves, potentially being run over at night by large ships, in a tiny kayak? Of course! People ask me if I am afraid. Oh, yes, not now, but I'm certain I will be. I will experience terror, sheer terror, and all sorts of others levels of fear. I know there are some people out there that wouldn't be afraid, but I openly admit I do have some fear. But fear is just the beginning of my story.
When it comes to fear, it's all relative. What one person may be afraid of, another may find satisfying or enjoyable, and vice versa. Me, I've been afraid to have children, I'd much rather do battle with a polar bear. Most people aren't afraid of having children; who's more brave?
There is a crucial factor about fear; it does not have to stop you. It's contrary to our nature, but can be learned (for those of us that it doesn't come natural to). Fear can be debilitating, I was a professional climber, and I'm afraid of heights! But climb I did, and I would find myself hanging on the side of a 1,000-foot rock in nothing just few straps of nylon. I don't let fear stop me, and in fact, I've found a few ways to make it help me become more capable and confident.
One thing I found that works for me is I give fear a bear hug, instead of keeping it at arm's length. I embrace fear. Sounds funny, but it helps me. By doing this, I find strength from fear, and I turn it around and apply it to the situation at hand. And if my life is on the line, I will not let fear stop me but drive me harder, be unrelenting until I am safe or the situation has been successful.
There's something else I sometimes do when I get scared. Something that you might not expect, but I've also found to be extremely helpful throughout my life. That something is: Laugh! Yes, I smile when things get tense, and I'm laughing when I'm scared. Not always, but I do find that it helps calm me hearing a happy, familiar sound, and also helps put the situation in perspective. It's a coping mechanism that has served me well, though when with people that are angry, it tends to drive them to more anger.
And lastly, I have a saying that helps put things in perspective. It's called F.E.A.R. = Forget Everything And Relax! When things get really hectic, I can't afford to be scared and freak out, (I figure I'll do that when I get home if I need to), but right now, I focus on the task at hand because typically it means my life hangs in the balance of my actions.
So, am I scared? Sure I am, I'm just smiling and laughing while I steam down 25-foot waves at nearly 25 mph in a 700 pound kayak loaded to the gills! More soon!
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