Most of my life, I never considered myself a risk-taker. I am afraid of roller coasters, things that live in the ocean, and the one thing that will make me lose my last nerve, and likely my lunch—heights. Fear has been a familiar companion throughout most of my life.
I may not have been courageous in reality, but I was a conqueror in my dreams.
In my childhood dreams, I rode through fields of tall, green grass to great adventures on a horse with a long, flowing mane and tail. In my teenage dreams, I was a doctor, or a veterinarian; a healer. I did anything I set my mind to do. I vanquished all my foes. I always had the last word and it was always brilliant.
By my late teens, my life had someone else’s thumbprint on it. My three sisters and I knew that we would do what was expected of us; no choice, no discussion. Our parents’ approval was everything. I desperately tried to dream my way out of the life I saw being forced on me. I wanted to break free, to be independent, but I didn’t know how. Fear won the battle. The dreaming stopped.
I was married at age 19 to the man I had dated since I was 16. He was 22 and just graduated from college. We began a life together, working, figuring out life the best we could, and loving each other the best we knew how. We were enjoying our blissful ignorance.
Eight years later, we had 4 children 5 years of age and under; 2 of them, twins. Life was consumed with all things related to child rearing. I loved being a mother and I loved my husband and children more than my life. I poured my life into my family and I don’t regret a moment of it.
Somewhere along the way, something changed after about 18 years of marriage. Suddenly, there was an unfamiliar distance between my husband and me. I felt it in my core and I was afraid. I had already experienced significant loss and my fear was that I was about to experience more. My mother died of cancer at age 51. My father remarried shortly afterwards and his new wife didn’t care for a life that included his 5 children. It was as though a bomb had exploded and the body of our family was blown into bits, never to be whole again.
All my pleading and attempts at reconnecting and healing the rift in our marriage were not successful. Like a caged bird, I had plenty of lonely hours. I began dreaming again, knowing that one day soon my children would be leaving home and it would be—just me. It had never been just me, ever. I didn’t know how to do life by myself, so to battle the fear, I dreamt of my ideal life. The process of grieving the loss of my marriage was eased just a bit by dreaming of something, anything, better. I lived for my children and time spent riding my horse, which kept me centered and connected to God, even though I felt, at times, He had abandoned me as well.
I sat across from my husband as another bomb blew apart our 28 year marriage. The look on his face was chilling, as were his words. He told me he didn’t love me, didn’t want to be a husband anymore, and instructed me not to ask him any questions. He thought we should remain married, however, because we had a history.
Stunned, suddenly something snapped. I became angry. I did something I have never done—I woke up and found my voice. With courage that came from deep beneath the ruins of life, I stood, looked him squarely in the eyes, and declared that this scenario was not what I got married for. I told him that he would finish what he started, and leave. I felt as though I had just leapt off a monstrous cliff into what would surely be my demise, but it was empowering. Finally, I thought, this is the real me.
Six months later, on New Year’s Eve, 2003, he announced he had an apartment and was gone the next day.
I was in the odd place of being terrified and relieved all at once. I feared for my children and what this would do to them. My youngest 2 were in their first year of college; the middle daughter was living and working in another state, as was the eldest, who had married 2 years prior. I was unemployed. I was 47 years old and I had never lived one day on my own. I owned nothing, except my horse and tack. But as I drove up to the door of my rented condo, I felt relief in the fact that I didn’t have to confront a husband’s cold indifference, and the fact that I was unwanted, any longer.
My divorce was final on July 1, 2004; my Independence Day. The previous ten years of grieving the loss of my marriage were over and I was squarely in the place of beginning anew. I’m not about to tell you that this is the end of the story, or that what followed was easy and all my dreams came true. The truth is I was a half-cocked pistol, armed and slightly dangerous, and fairly ignorant of life as an independent adult woman.
What I hope to convey is that it is entirely possible to break out of a situation that has robbed your soul, to find your voice and your authentic self and realize your dreams, if you’re willing to walk through the wall of fear. Imagine this: Harry Potter is going to Hogwart’s for the first year. He’s trying to get to Platform 9-3/4, but there’s a brick wall between him and the train. He took a deep breath, got a running start and was there. What wall?
Trust God—the first step is the most difficult, but once taken, you’ll look back and say, That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. The anticipation was far worse than the actual doing.
What wall of fear are you facing?
What is holding you back?