Got Fear? Get Stoked!

“Wings of Courage” stained glass window at Washington National Cathedral in D.C.

I recently visited Washington D.C. for a week while my husband took a class.  What an adventure that was!  I’ve never been on my own in a big city before.  One of my biggest accomplishments was riding the subway by myself.  I was terrified to do it, fearing I would get lost.  I’m known for being directionally challenged.  I never look at maps.  These days, I rely on my GPS to get me where I need to go.

The first day there, I was off the hook.  A major snowstorm literally shut down the government.  Why doesn’t that happen in Michigan?  😉  I was able to get some much-needed writing done at a local café in Dupont Circle.  I did take one small step though.  I followed directions to a gym near the hotel.  But of course, that was just walking.  The next day, it was time to take up the challenge.  I was supposed to meet a friend at some museums later in the week, so I knew I should practice beforehand.  Even with my husband’s helpful tips (he’s a human GPS), I was worried.

Luckily, I had brought along a book to read called Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave by Patty Chang Anker.  The author is a self-professed scaredy-cat.  But after turning forty, she decided to conquer some of her biggest fears including diving and riding a bike all while blogging about it on “Facing Forty Upside Down” and eventually writing a memoir.

Some of her best advice is, “Don’t fixate on the thing you fear–keep your eye on where you want to go!”  I took that advice to heart.  First when riding the crazy long escalator with my fear of heights, then through the subway gates and all the way onto the train.  Here we go!

I’m proud to say I made it to the gallery stop and even made a transfer 😉  One success led to another, and soon I was zipping around town from the museums to the White House to Georgetown to the National Cathedral.  Even the concierge was cheering me on!

Mercury statue
National Gallery of Art:

Mercury is the Roman god of poetry, communication, travelers, and luck!

Probably my biggest adventure came midweek when my husband confirmed that I could use his tickets to visit the Senate and House galleries at the Capitol.  I only had one hour and was all the way at the  National Museum of American History.  To give you an idea of the pressure I was under, I had to speed walk about 9 blocks and I wasn’t even a hundred percent sure I would get in.

The good news?  I made it!  And the rest as they say is history.  But it was really all about taking the plunge.

The moral of the story as quoted from Anker’s book:  “Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness,” states Susan Jeffers in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.

And how does one do that exactly?  According to Anker’s surfing instructor, “You just need to keep your stoke up.”  Stoke being defined as the fire in one’s belly as in the excitement of seeing a great wave, which leads to harmony in one’s life and the ability to rise up to life’s challenges.

But it’s more than that.  “It’s about pleasure even in uncertainty, relaxing when you’re out of your element, keeping yourself excited and motivated for whatever might be coming next,” Anker says.

So now that you know my story, my question to you is this.  What will you do to keep your stoke up?

Author Washington Irving’s kneeler at National Cathedral

Don’t wait until you’re Rip Van Winkle! 😉

1 Comment (+add yours?)

    Mar 24, 2014 @ 05:23:01

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