"Within seconds I was riding a huge mule named Madonna down the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and not in a room full of people."
That is my client Diane relaying what happened as she pushed through fear in front 30 people at a storytelling workshop in Denver, Colorado. She's a psychotherapist, cancer survivor and, as you can probably tell from Madonna's appearance, a hoot of a person to hang out with.
We met seven years ago at a writing retreat in the mountains. She came to me, tears welling, halfway through the weekend to see if I could squeeze her in for a coaching session among my other appointments. She felt the retreat was hard. The others there were real writers. She wondered if maybe she should leave.
I told her she wouldn't be this upset if she didn't really want it.
There were more tears after that, and then it clicked. She was surrounded by other writers who accepted her as one of their own. She was already a writer, and could choose to stay and become an even better one. By the end of our time together, we were both laughing so loud the others shushed us. A month later she was submitting her stories for publication.
Another thing you learn quickly about Diane is that when she faces a fear, she goes the whole way.
She decided to pick up writing and signed up for the retreat. She decided to get over her fear of heights by riding Madonna down into the Grand Canyon. Four years ago she decided to try storytelling and ended up speaking in front of 30 people.
A couple weeks before she was on stage, she called me about the comments she received from her teacher: "I felt like a teenager who was failing a high school course. I went home and cried."
It felt hard again, that maybe she was in over her head.
[box] My best clients are Serial Fear Facers. When you jump in with both feet, there is often a moment when you look around, terrified, and wonder what the heck you just did to yourself. [/box]
On the other end of that moment when you dust yourself off and keep going, you can almost forget it even happened, because then, like Diane, you're back doing what you do best.
"Last December I delivered the eulogy at my brother's funeral, sharing stories about him and our relationship. Everyone applauded. Can you believe that? At a funeral in Ohio? What did I do? I curtsied, of course. After all, I am a storyteller."
When you find yourself mid-leap, remember Madonna the mule, take deep breaths, call me...and whatever you do, keep going.