How do you turn fear into love?

Maybe you feel fear when speaking in public, teaching your teenager to drive, or thinking about climate change. Me too!  But recently I had a panic attack at the top of a cliff and at that moment I transformed fear into love. 

How?  By focusing on the very small miracles around me and breathing. 

I took this photo of my daughter and me at the top of Arches National Park in Utah, having just hiked an hour or so to get to the very famous Delicate Arch.  It’s one of my favorite photos of us, as we both look awesome.  In truth, I’m close to being completely paralyzed with fear.

I wanted to be as calm, I wanted to walk out to the arch along the sloping, curving ridge as easily as those around us, and I wanted to be seen as capable and strong in front of my daughter.

Instead, I couldn’t stand; my legs were giving way, I couldn’t breathe; my throat was closing up with panic and my breath was shallow and pulse rapid.  I literally thought I was going to be swallowed up by the void below and die a gruesome, mangled death.

What did I do? I immediately sat down to lower my center of balance, pulled out my camera and took this shot (because lord knows you still have to post on social), and whispered, “I have to go, NOW!”. (Which is not easy with your legs shaking like rubber, your voice squeaking like a mouse, and your head swimming with a lack of oxygen.)

She offered me her hand and I took it. With outstretched arms, and my face and body flush against the wall, I inched down the narrow and unnaturally crowded path. Feeling the iron-rich stone cool on my skin, I noted that if dainty, yellow flowers could forge a life clinging to tiny, bare ledges, I would probably make it as well. 

With her guidance, I breathed as slowly and intentionally as I could and I narrowed my mind to the smallest details of my daughter’s palm, her callouses which tell the story of her boisterous climbing adventures, the fibrous tendons around her knuckles which speak of her strength and commitment to her sport, and the firm, unstoppable power in her capable grip. 

She guided me one slow breath and one slow step downward, repeated over and over until we reached level ground.  Then I plopped down on my butt and sobbed,  “Why can’t I do that simple thing? All those other people could do it?  Some were even skipping along that ridge, without any care in the world. How come I couldn’t do that?” 

Her responses were so loving, so responsive, so knowledgeable, and ever so soothing. 

Quietly, a shift occurred. My daughter grew into her power before my eyes; she became the coach, the guide, the provider and she tended to me, roles reversed, the student becomes the teacher.  It was a beautiful miracle to behold.

My fear subsided, and in its place grew pride, awe, and ever so many more possibilities for love. 

Here’s to the growth moments that fear can sometimes allow us to have.  I hope we can all harness its power and use it to move mountains.

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