I know I’ve talked about fearlessness and fear before, but I want to dedicate this entry to it.
To start, fearlessness is not the same as carelessness.
When I went to my first kickboxing class a few weeks ago, I was pretty terrified. I had never been to one before. There were the standard worries that everyone has trying something new: “What if everyone is watching me?” “What if I’m terrible?” in addition to my personal “What if I have a seizure?”. When I found out that I would be starting with the beginners in the ring, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to even get over (through? under?) the ropes to get into the ring.
Luckily, I’ve seen Rocky, and I was able to get through the ropes without disaster.
Once I got started with the instructor (“Kru” is the title, and I had to ask what that word meant), I didn’t even notice what anyone else in the gym was doing. That fear was vanquished, because everyone there was focusing on what they were doing, not me. I didn’t even think about it again until the end of practice.
Next fear: Being terrible. I was. We started with the basics, including the “teep”. I had never even heard that word, never mind how to do it. So I asked. The Kru explained the term (it’s a front push-kick) and how to do it. I tried, repeatedly, and could never seem to lean far enough back. That comes with practice and I couldn’t expect to get everything in the very first class. Fear vanquished.
What if I have a seizure? I didn’t. Even if I did though, I had taken the precaution of letting the staff know. This is something that is unique to individuals who experience seizures. On top of the concerns that everyone experiences trying something new, we have to take into consideration our condition. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try new things.
Fearlessness is something that everyone should cultivate in each other and within us. Fearlessness is looking in the mirror and thinking “I can do this”, even if it’s brand new or looks difficult. “I can do this” whether it’s something new or familiar. “I can do this” whether it’s starting a new job or going back to the same job that you’ve been at for 10 years. “I can do this” whether it’s a marathon or walking around the block.
If we let ourselves be led by fear we limit ourselves from all of the potential opportunities that are out in the world. If we allow ourselves to be led by fear, there’s no chance to try new things or have experiences. The fear of having a seizure can be debilitating. I’ve had seizures in public places, and yes, that can be embarrassing.
As an example, one time I had a seizure on an airplane. This was almost ten years ago. Before boarding, the airline was asking for two passengers to potentially switch to the next flight thirty minutes later because they had overbooked. They were offering a couple hundred dollars in flight vouchers, so I was happy to take it. They assured me I would arrive in time to make a connection to my destination. On the plane, I was sitting next to a fellow who had also taken advantage of this. As we landed, I had a seizure and threw up all over myself, and the fellow. I missed my connection because I needed medical attention. I was emotionally devastated and completely humiliated. The airline crew and medical team were amazing and kind and were able to get me on a flight a little bit later.
(As a side/additional story to that, who was I sitting next to on the next flight: None other than the fellow from the first flight. He had missed the connection as well because he had to go clean up. Again, I was super embarrassed. When we got off the plane, he helped me with my luggage, helped me to a taxi, and paid for the taxi in advance for me to get to my destination. That is just one of the examples I’ve had where I’ve encountered the kindness of strangers.)
That embarrassment though could have stopped me from every going on an airplane again. Never travelled. Never seen another place overseas. If I had let fear control me, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to backpack again, or visit family. This is where fearlessness comes in. I made the conscious decision that I wasn’t going to let that fear (terror) control my future. Since that time, I’ve been to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, British Columbia, Hawaii, Arizona and California. Since that time, I haven’t had a seizure on an airplane again.
Fear is the knowledge that as a person with epilepsy, I have the potential to turn every opportunity into something negative and then not taking those opportunities. Fearlessness is the knowledge that every opportunity is a chance to experience something positive. Fearlessness is going into a situation not knowing exactly what will happen but saying “I can do this”. Fearlessness is not just limited to seizures. It includes not knowing how a day will turn out or whether we will be good at something. Fearlessness includes trying something new, or being bad at something but going back to improve on it. There are lots of things that I do that I can improve on. There are lots of times that seizures have happened when I’m doing something (travel, running, yoga, showering) but I don’t let that fear stop me from trying again.
Whether it’s running (I should stop sprinting at the start, because I can’t maintain that pace), yoga (I can’t touch my toes) or kickboxing (I need to keep my feet light), there is always something that we can improve on. I may not be perfect at those activities, but I will choose fearlessness, and try again. Fearlessness is the decision we have, that everyone has the choice to take. We just have to move away from fear.