We have a choice on what we focus on: fear or joy.
I did not grow up in the country and so when we moved to a rural area several years ago, I was often amazed by the sights and sounds of our new environment.
The horses playing in the field across the street delighted me when I looked out my kitchen window. And the vast sky view on a clear night was just breathtaking! I remember cracking up the first time I saw a family of turkeys cross the road. The little ones were just mini replicas of their parents, waddling and gobbling all in a row. And, of course, my morning walks by the lake surrounded by expansive natural land bursting with abundant wildlife was just another great perk of living further away from the city.
My enthusiasm for nature came to a screeching halt however, the first time I saw a coyote having a drink from the lake early one morning. I was walking my dog, who was a puppy back then, and we stopped at the top of a cliff to enjoy the beautiful view. Just as we looked down at the beach, the coyote turned its enormous head and made eye contact with me. I had never seen a coyote before, and it was much bigger and intimidating than I had ever imagined. This freaked me out in a major way! I quickly scooped up my puppy and hightailed it to the car!
After that, it took me a few weeks to return to my morning walks in the park. A park ranger finally convinced me it was safe when he told me that coyotes are timid, loners who have no interest in attacking people. In time, I rarely thought about that coyote sighting during my morning walks. I told myself that there was probably only that one coyote in the area, and he had most likely moved along.
Then one evening while walking with my husband and daughter in a part of the Lake Erie Bluffs that was being newly developed as park land, we heard an ambulance sound in the distance. It went on for a while, and as I listened in more carefully, it began to sound like coyotes – lots of them! “No,” I thought, it’s an ambulance”. Then, “Nope, sure sounds like coyotes.” It was at about that time that my daughter whipped around and said, “Oh my God, it’s coyotes” and that child, who was a collegiate cross-country runner at the time, left us in her dust as she sprinted for the car!
I was recovering from a tendon injury at the time, so I handed our pup to my husband and told him to save himself as I hobbled behind them. I could hear the coyotes getting louder and louder as I made my way to the car. There were lots of them, and it sounded like they were chasing a deer perhaps that was running towards our direction. Well, obviously we all made it back to the car alive, but geez, it was scary! That park ranger was wrong – there were lots of coyotes out there and they did not sound timid at all.
Since that evening, I had several similar reminders from Mother Nature that coyotes live in my favorite park, especially after an ambulance siren sounded on the nearby road. Each time, this resulted in a short break from my favorite morning routine until I could regain my senses.
Then one morning, when I was most likely the only human in the park and deep into my walk, I heard the faint sound of an ambulance in the distance. “Noooooo!” I thought. “I don’t want to know.” However, as expected, the coyote chorus began and oh man, there were a lot of them. As I walked, I was amazed at how many directions their howls were coming from. They were in the woods I had just walked through, and in the areas where I was heading.
My typical reaction was always to run, but this time I took a moment to reflect rather than let my emotions take over. The coyotes didn’t just appear when the ambulance siren sounded. They were there all along, and not just on that day, but every day. I imagined that they watched me walk by on most days, peering out from their dens, afraid and hoping that I wouldn’t see them. I had let my fear create a colossal story that had sometimes kept me from doing one of the activities that I truly enjoyed, walking in nature in the morning. I smiled to myself and was finally able to release my fear and actually appreciate the magnificent song of these shy, beautiful creatures.
Later, when I reflected on this situation, I thought about how often we allow fear to stand in the way of doing the things that will bring us joy. And to top it off, the fear is typically about a narrative that we created that isn’t even true in the first place.
We all have a choice on what we focus on. We can focus on the fact that there are scary things in the world that we have no control of (like coyotes all around us) or we can focus on the things in life that bring us pleasure and fulfillment.
If fear is holding you back, I encourage you to challenge it. What are the facts? What part is a story that you created about what “might” happen? If you’ve thought about everything that could go wrong, did you also give equal attention to what could go right? What are your fears costing you?
Worrying is just visualizing the manifestation of your fears. Instead, visualize the actualization of your dreams, and see what happens. It will be worth the effort. This I know for sure!