For the better part of forty years, I have had two significant fears; horses and the ocean. Horses because I was thrown when I was in the first grade after my best friend, Missy Brown, invited me to join her on an epic ride. She was an expert rider, participating regularly in rodeos and competitions. She, of course had a real cowboy hat. Mine was the felt impostor that you could buy in the toy section at the pharmacy. Regardless, I felt like a real live cowgirl, nonetheless. As the young boys and girls cued up to enter the arena for the opening ceremony where flags blew and patriotic music blared, Missy Brown and I proudly entered the spotlight. We managed to get about a quarter of the way around. Slowly picking up speed, I panicked and inadvertently kicked the horse so hard that it started bucking. Missy, being the experienced rider that she was, managed to remain unfazed by the event. Miss Fake Felt Hat, on the other hand, fell to the ground below like a five pound sack of potatoes. Because we were basically leading the other riders around the circular stadium, I still to this day have a vivid memory tattooed in my brain of the remaining horses jumping over my paralyzed body like a mere speed bump in the road. I was not injured, just scared to f#@*ing death! Mrs. Brown eventually emerged, picking me up, trying to convince me that I would be okay.
A few years before rodeogate 1973, I was at Pismo Beach with our family and some friends. I recall my mom asking me to please not go into the water past my knees. Naturally, I was hip deep in no time, and quickly whisked out with the strong undercurrent. My memory of that day is being on the bottom of the ocean floor failing miserably to dig my way through the loose sand. I was luckily pulled from the water by a family friend, and never went into the ocean again past my knees.
I have happily avoided horses and dips in the ocean for forty years. Honestly, I could have continued the streak for another forty. Except for the fact that my teenage daughter recently requested a side trip on a family vacation to the Cayman Islands. The adventure involved riding horses on the beach, followed by the horse swimming into the ocean. No joke! The horse literally swims with rider teetering on its back in deep ocean water.
After initially rejecting her request, I decided to spend the two weeks leading up to the trip changing my vernacular. Instead of using words like "no way", "crazy", and "forget it", I started saying to myself, "I can do this", "I am going to do this", and periodically phrases like, "I hope I don't die on a horse in the ocean."
Strangely, I felt calm as I began the journey. I'm not going to lie, I had a few moments of trepidation, but I am proud to say I did it! As you can see in the photos below, I simultaneously faced two lifelong fears in one afternoon. I have written on many occasions about the concept that your brain believes your words. We are conditioned as humans to tell ourselves a story. A story that becomes so ingrained in our brain that it eventually is like another appendage that we carry through life without further evaluation.
What's your unwanted appendage?