To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. ~Henri Bergson
September 7th marked the two-year anniversary of my first climb to the top of Half Dome; 382 days later, I had the chance to do it again.
While both experiences were very different, both were physically and emotionally challenging, forcing me to face my fear of heights. Both excursions allowed me to create a new perspective 4,800 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley.
I cannot adequately describe the rush of euphoria, the sense of accomplishment and awe that I felt; the tears of joy, and the excitement of making it to the top, and then standing on top of Half Dome. I learned that I could rise above whatever comes my way.
For the longest time, fear and anxiety were my kidnappers: they held me captive and prevented me from living a full life. I stayed in jobs I didn’t love because I was afraid to give up the big salary and benefits. I agreed to take volunteer roles I didn’t really want to do because I didn’t want to let someone down. I was complacent to the point that everything was dull and routine.
I think facing my fears helped calm down my brain. The fear of dying after having a pulmonary embolism; the fear of sliding down the side of Half Dome. The fear of trying something new.
I thought about this as I was in the kitchen over the weekend, baking my famous (to my family and friends) chocolate chip cookies, a recipe I created and fine-tuned resulting in the perfect chocolate chip cookie: slightly under-baked with a touch of crisp; dense with semi-sweet chocolate chips, and the essence of homemade vanilla extract, my secret ingredient.
I’ve been making these cookies for 30+ years and can make them with my eyes closed. As I moved through the motions of mixing the dough and shaping them into balls, my mind wandered. What would it be if I doubled the size of each cookie? My old fearful brain would have said “No, stay with you know is perfect” but my calm brain, said “Do it, try something new” so I doubled the scoop of dough, adjusted the baking time, and kept a watchful eye as they baked. The result: a cookie as big as my palm, bursting with chocolate goodness. A cookie that is better than my original.
As I prepared another tray of dough for the oven, I thought about a significant change I made at the end of June, when I decided I needed a change-up to help me move my writing from blog to book.
I had enjoyed working with my writing coach, she guided me as I launched my blog and she motivated me to write, but after a year of generating post after post for my blog without getting any closer to my goal of writing a book, the fear swooped in: Maybe my blog wasn’t good? Maybe I didn’t have enough quality content in order to write a book? Maybe I wasn’t writing enough?
Rather than working through these feelings, I became complacent and scaled back on my daily writing. I made excuses and filled my time with trivial tasks until the word “Developmental Editor” popped into my mind. I needed to make a change, I needed to find a developmental editor, someone to help take me to the next step.
At our next scheduled conference call, I told my writing coach I was ready to move on and work with an editor. The fear of feeling the fear was squelched as I grounded myself in a place of courage rather than confidence: I was going to do it, no matter what. I had been thinking about making a change for several months, yet I had been afraid to do it. I had been confident, expecting success in the form of a finished book yet I had not achieved it. To me, coming from a place of courage meant severing ties without having any idea of what my next step would be – meaning I would just do it, no matter what the result.
After our call, I experienced the same rush of exhilaration I had when I resigned from my previous jobs; this told me I had made the right choice and despite the next day I the “Oh no! What have I done?” and “What do I do now?” feeling of panic, I chose to forge forward and write each day and see what would unfold.
Two weeks, later, the name of an old friend popped into my mind. I sent a message to him, knowing he had great connections in journalism and told him I was looking for a developmental editor. He knew exactly who to recommend. Things had unfolded perfectly.
As I waited for my new, improved, cookies to bake, I thought about Half Dome, about the progress on my book, and how much I enjoy writing. I had grown since that first climb, I’d grown more since the second.
I applied for the Half Dome lottery again this year but didn’t land one of the coveted spots. There’s always next year. Perhaps I can bribe one of the rangers with my cookies. There’s no fear in trying.