Franklin Roosevelt said, “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” It was 1933, the Great Depression was in full swing and the country needed a pep talk. Even today, Roosevelt’s words still ring loud and clear. Fear abounds—on the global front, on our home turf this election year and, most disturbingly, within ourselves. Fear prevents us from getting what we want in life; it’s paralyzing. It keeps us trapped in dead-end jobs and unhappy marriages.
Believe me…I know.
Single parents are especially fearful—and understandably so. Many hail from bad marriages, some even abusive. At a recent single-parents retreat up in the mountains, I looked fear in the face . . . it was in many faces, actually. I met a dad who hadn’t dated in five years because he’s afraid of women. But did he know how brave it was to admit that? One single mom hasn’t been in a relationship for 10 years, but would rather be alone than “make the same, horrible mistake again.” How sad.
And then there was Stacy, a quiet and withdrawn mother of two. Stacy was beaten by her ex-husband for years until she finally gathered the courage to leave. Stacy is penniless and the ex continues to threaten her. But she’s on the mend, working toward a degree in social work and trying to repair the emotional damage done to her daughters. While Stacy talked, she doodled nervously on a sketchpad. To my great surprise, I discovered this timid and fearful woman is quite a gifted artist. When I praised her for her impressive talent and bravery for escaping an abusive marriage, the winds shifted slightly and a slow smile crept across her face.
Fear is everywhere, but conquering it is empowering—a lesson I learned that weekend from two unlikely suspects…my own children. My oldest was hell-bent on riding the zip line, the camp’s most popular extreme sport. It involves harnesses, pulleys, cables and…YIKES…a jump off a 30-foot platform. Who thinks up this stuff?
My youngest wanted to try it, but said she’d be “too scared to jump.” Thatta girl . . . like mother, like daughter. But then, in a sudden change of heart—and obviously genetics—she ran toward her sister, “Wait! I want to go, too!”
Surely, these were not MY children.
As they climbed the steep staircase to the hideously high platform, my mothering instincts kicked in. Should I let them go? Is it safe? I ran up to the attendant for last-minute reassurance.
The defining moment…one, two three…and whaddya know? My youngest daughter, the most fearful participant up there, was the first to jump, enacting one of life’s simplest metaphors. Later, she confessed with exuberant pride, “My heart said, ‘No,’ but my legs said, ‘Yes!’”
Hiking back to pick up my daughters at the landing zone, I realized we weren’t that much different after all. Their brazen jumps off that platform were not unlike my own leap of faith into single parenthood years ago—frightening at first, but empowering in the end.
This summer, do something brave yourself. Start a hobby, make new friends or go after the ex for all that back child support. Take your own leap of faith into the rest of your life. And fear not…you’ll land on your feet in the end.
My courageous children did.
Lynn Armitage is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. She regrets not jumping off the zip line with her daughters.