Krissie: Fear

So let me tell you about my friend Ann. She’s 72, and her husband is 75. Five years ago the two of them built a three-bay shed (by themselves). They’ve finally sold their house in Vermont and are moving full time to Cortez, Colorado, and Tim is thinking that at 75 maybe he’s not into building the house they’re going to live in.
They’ve lived everywhere, gone everywhere. In the winter they throw their camper on the back of their pick-up truck and drive down to Mexico and camp on some beach. She says they just drive until they find an unoccupied stretch of beach and park there.
They take a family vacation every year, camping (via tent) with their children and grandchildren. They seldom make reservations ahead of time, just show up at state and national parks and there’s usually some place they can camp. They just drive, and check things out, and then come back again, living life as it comes.
They’ve lived in the San Juan Islands (with two kids and no electricity), on a sail boat (and nearly drowned — did you know you can hear the voices of the drowned during a life-threatening storm?).
They lived in Taos and took in foster children, they ski (downhill and cross-country) and just live life to the fullest. And I was asking her about the camping, which we hadn’t done since we were in our thirties, and she said you just have to be fearless. Just go out there and do it.
So many things hold us back. We get fond of our creature comforts, our safety zone. It’s easier to stay stuck in old patterns of behavior because they’re comfortable, or if they’re uncomfortable, at least they’re familiar. As so many other things are changing (our bodies, our families) at least sometimes the isolation or the dysfunctional stuff can be a weird stability.
I’ve wanted to break free of this place for a long time. I’ve lived here full time for 41 years (27 in this house alone) and I just want to try something new. I want to travel, I want to camp, I want to show up on a beach and wake to the water on the sand.
I watch House Hunters International obsessively. I want to do what Eloisa James did and spend a year in Paris (can’t afford that) or buy a tiny house in Spain. I feel like Anthony Bourdain, hungry for experience, and yet fear holds me back. Well, maybe poverty holds me back, but there are things I can do that aren’t as expensive.
Though actually, as I get older I get less fearful. I love talking to people, asking about what they’re interested in. I think I’d probably do fairly well out and about.
So why don’t we just pick up and go? Why are we afraid of making a move, when god knows nothing is permanent?
One problem is that Richie is a chronic worrier. He’s always had trouble making changes, committing to things. He’s always worried about money, whether it was rolling in or when we’re living hand to mouth.
I want to strike out, go somewhere new. I’d rather have my safety net, my home to return to. In a perfect world we’d probably spend summers here, because it’s cool and incredibly beautiful. But if we find a new home that’s beautiful as well there might not even be a reason to come back.
I think fear keeps us from making decisions, making moves. Fear of change and fear of making mistakes.
Ann and Tim have sold everything (they’re finishing up with a yard sale this weekend and I went to help out) and they’re going to drive across the country in a pickup, hauling a trailer. They’ve got a whole new world ahead of them, countless possibilities. They could go live on a boat again, build a house, buy a house, go anywhere, do anything.
A good friend of mine is currently battling breast cancer. And I was thinking about how a diagnosis can sometimes wipe away all the tiny, miserable little fears that have been holding you back. When you’re fighting for your life you realize that all those little worries don’t mean shit. It’s time to just go for it.
I don’t want to wait for a diagnosis to go live life to the fullest. I want to embrace everything, go everywhere. I want to stop worrying about little things. I want to go to France and get on the metro and speak my lousy French, I want to sit by a river in Oregon, I want, I want, I want …
I want to live! And I don’t want fear to hold me back.
I think a timeline. I think an ultimatum for Richie. I think we go for it, and devil take the hindmost (isn’t that a great phrase?).
I’m ready.

47 thoughts on “Krissie: Fear

  1. Rose says:

    Hear, hear! My mother is 74, and won’t travel because she has trouble sleeping in strange beds and she has back and knee pain that make walking for more than a few blocks at a time painful. I want to introduce her to Ann and Tim. She’s contracting her life, already talking about the places she would have liked to go as if there is no time left to go there. Hell, I’m 38, and I can talk myself out of any adventure – can’t go camping on the beach, how would I plug in my CPAP? I need to print out this post and hang it on my mirror.

  2. Some of the best decisions and experiences I’ve ever made / had have come from telling fear to take a hike.

    I did not go to Spain for a semester, though I was eligible after my third semester of Spanish in college, because I was close to graduation but mostly because I was afraid. I have regretted that decision ever since – and still do. So when my husband was offered a job abroad, I went with him in spite of never having heard of the United Arab Emirates before – I figured I could always come home but when would that opportunity come again? Same with our move to Egypt. And I booked myself on a tour in Thailand by myself when no one I knew wanted to go with me – I had a hell of a good time and made some new friends.

    I’m not advocating that you sabotage your life or your finances in order to “live life to the fullest” but surely there are ways you could start small and branch out – in ways that both you and Ritchie would be comfortable with.

  3. This post reminded me of a book I read years ago and had completely forgotten about. I went searching for it and found it: “Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World” by Rita Golden Gelman. She’s a middle aged children’s book author and, after a painful divorce, she just decides to travel around the world and live abroad. I was amazed at how bold she was and how easy she made it all look. You might find it inspiring too.

  4. oneoftheotherjennifers says:

    “I think a timeline. I think an ultimatum for Richie. I think we go for it, and devil take the hindmost”

    This sounds happy. Maybe you could do some practice adventures in the meantime. I bet Alex would love to sleep with you in a tent in the backyard. My daughter and I did this every week in the summer from the time she was around three until maybe eight. We did real camping, too, but the backyard camping nights were special times, never to be forgotten.

    Can your CPAP run on batteries? If not, a good extension cord will do.

    Also, I travel a lot. In my experience, adventure is where you make it, not where you are.

  5. When I was in my 30s, I swore I would not let fear run my life; I was afraid of so many things. Unfortunately, in my 40s, my life began contracting and I started giving into fear. Taking my trip that ended up with me in Houston was a fairly fearless thing to do, but since I got here, the fears have had their way again and my life has become fairly constricted and isolated because of it. This is no way to live.

    I heartily concur with going about life, fear or no fear, and just doing. Whatever you can do. That’s my next step, to do as Kate says: Feel the fear and do it anyway. It’s the only way to keep your life from constricting into a little ball where your comfort zone is a small apartment or even just a single room and you never leave your comfort zone.

    Vacations are good for expanding your comfort zone, too.

  6. Kathleen G. S. says:

    “Living life to the fullest” — I hate that phrase. It sets one more standard by which we are to judge ourselves.

    My husband died four-and-a-half years ago, and I am (I think)Krissie’s friend who is slogging through breast-cancer treatment (with every expectation of an excellent outcome — it was Stage IA, and if I weren’t so healthy and if the women in my family didn’t all live past 90, the doctors wouldn’t have recommended chemo).

    But if I thought that I was now supposed to live “life to the fullest,” I would get depressed. That sounds impossible. But I did decide,sometime after my husband died, that I didn’t want my life to “get small.” So I have rules for myself. I give a dinner party once a month, and it has to be for more than two people. If I am invited anywhere, I go unless I know for sure that I will hate it. And I’ve even done some things I’m pretty sure I will hate — a zipline through the rain forest canopy. And I did hate it. I’ll never do it again. Am I giving into fear on that? Yes, but that first time I didn’t give into the fear of fear.

    I don’t know how I will be changed by “my breast cancer journey” (words which were on the cover of a pink notebook my radiologist gave me). I’m better at being straightforward with people, asking them please not to bring me food, but would they instead come over and do the dishes? And after they have cleaned the kitchen, I ask them nicely to go away. No one ever seems hurt by such clear requests, which is something I would have worried about before.

    The one thing I know is that I will not try to “live my life to the fullest.” The only “fullest” I know about comes from over-eating.

  7. Danielle says:

    Ah yes, Fear. The *other* four-letter word that starts with an F.

    Do it, Krissie. If Richie needs some time to get used to the idea, just start doing some of this on your own. Go on a retreat organized by your church or something. My 83-year-old grandmother does this (she and my grandfather used to take a few of their kids on road trips every summer – they had 9 kids, so there was a rotation and their remaining kids stayed with aunts/uncles while they were away). My grandma has been to the middle east and all over Canada on her own. This past summer, she got in a van with four of her siblings and drove 15 hours to Edmonton to visit her sister (who is a nun and has seen the world also, incidentally).

    I’ve never had money (maybe someday?) and I’ve managed to drive across my country (which is pretty fricking huge, by the way) a couple of times. My husband and I get in the car and just start driving. The tent is our home and food is found in little corner stores along the way. That’s all you really need.

    Well, that and knitting, of course.

  8. Kathleen G. S. says:

    Not sure if this will end up in the right place. It is a response to Rose’s comment about camping with a CPAC. Three of my cousins and I went camping and one of them used a CPAC. We had to plan more than Krissie’s friends, but we reserved campsites in National Parks that had electrical hook-ups for R.V.s. The sites weren’t always as pretty as the tent sites, but it was better than not going at all.

    And we used the electricity for the pump to blow up our Aerobeds. That made a big difference for all of us.

  9. Cindy says:

    Absolutely go for it!!

    My mom is 70 and has Alzheimer’s. My dad just turned 74 and takes care of her. They are both retired. And they live life to the fullest. They travel non-stop. Every two months or so they are on a new exciting trip to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Cancun, Argentina, Cuba, etc.

    When life got hard for me, my mom and dad loaned us some money. A few weeks later my dad called me and said to not pay him back. All he wanted was for me to get passports for the whole family, and to promise him that someday I will travel just like they do.

    One thing he has taught me is that life is short, and it can turn nasty. But YOU have to make the best of it. You can make it fun. I try to remind myself of that.

    Do it, Krissie.

  10. Interesting. My husband passed away 2 1/2 years ago, and for that first year, maybe two, I very much wanted a return to normalcy — in spite of the huge change. My youngest was only 14, too, and in his first year of high school. So having weathered one huge upheaval, I wasn’t ready or willing to subject any of us to anything else new. It didn’t/doesn’t help that I’m the poster child for Homebody — it takes a lot to blast me out of the house, even though I always enjoy being somewhere else and new experiences.

    For the past six months of so, however, I’ve been getting itchy to break away, be and do something new. MOVE. The youngest is closing in on graduation, the others have either left or are planning to — which is as it should be. And the thought of hanging on to the scraps of my former life is, for the first time, more unsettling than the idea of a fresh start. I’m even contemplating all the “stuff” I’m ready to jettison, since clearly I’m not going to need a four-bedroom house any more — and God *knows* I don’t need or want all the upkeep that goes with it.

    Where all these musings is leading, I have no idea. One kid is making noises about moving to Hawaii, and the idea is more tempting that I would have ever thought possible. :)But I absolutely feel that if I don’t make some sort of change soon — to recharge both my creative and emotional energies — I’m going to wither to a husk and blow away.

  11. I think it’s important to remember “live life to the fullest” means something different to everyone. It could mean living in the moment. Spending time with your kids or grandkids. Taking up dancing or planting new flowers or taking a walk once a day in your own neighborhood.

    Each person should define “fullest” for themselves. (Or foolest, as I typed the first time. WTHeck?)

    Healing vibes for you. My mom and sister have both gone through this same battle and come out shining on the other side.

  12. I think I decided as a teen not to let fear get in my way. Probably because fear is what kept my mother (and us) in a dying town and our lives were the worse for it. At some point I knew I’d never make that same mistake, especially if my child’s quality of life were on the line.

    At 22 I moved from PA to TN without knowing a soul. Lined up a job, had a start date, then drove down and crashed on a near stranger’s couch until I could apartment hunt the next day. Had to call from the payphone at the McD’s (no cells and dude didn’t have a phone) but I found one the very next day. Moved my stuff in the next.

    I’ve been hurdling through life ever since. Been knocked back a time or two, but you have to keep pushing. I think my 30s were transition years and I’m determined to take on the world in my 40s. I’ll be 41 in December and so far, so good. Got a degree, bought a house, got a publishing deal. Now to figure out how to fit travel in there somewhere.

    You can do anything you set your mind to, Krissie. I’m sure of it.

  13. Yes. Schedule an adventure, big or small. Just do it.

    I used to be a lot more adventurous than I am now. But I have travelled alone to foreign countries and had fabulous times. I find even travelling home to my native Australia to be huge these days. I know it has something to do with getting older, but also to being at the mercy of airlines and airports and all that yucky stuff. It isn’t as much fun anymore.

    Sometimes an adventure for me is getting in the car and driving for a few days and just exploring. Must do that again. Soon.

  14. Lois says:

    “Without Reservations, The Travels of an Independent Woman” by Alice Steinbach and “A Year by the Sea, Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman” by Joan Anderson are also thought provoking.

  15. Redwood Kim says:

    My husband found a battery that will run his CPAP. It was pricey, but we can go camping! (Not that we have, yet, but we will, dammit, we will.)

  16. Mine, too, Jenny! I struggle always with fear–mostly fear of making someone else unhappy and having to have a confrontation, but also with fear of the unknown. I’m getting closer to the age my mom was when she died and now my fear is dying young like she did without doing/seeing so many things I want to do/see. Another huge fear is that I’ll never have another book published, mostly because I can’t effing stop working on other people’s books long enough to write my own. Going to fix that. Facing the fear of a month without billing a client and just NOT work in October and see if I can get some writing done. It’s okay…Husband, the dear soul, is encouraging me to take the month off. So…so, I’m going to do it…I think…yes, I’m going for it and “devil take the hindmost”!

  17. Lulu says:

    I started running again when I turned 50. Now my niece, who is half my age, and I pick our half-marathons based on locale – somewhere we’ve never been before. On Tuesday, we leave for Montreal! She’s never been to Canada and this is the first time she gets to use her shiny new passport. I’ve been to Canada countless times because my mom was Canadian, but I’ve never been to Montreal or Quebec, so this is a grand adventure. And we’re doing it without my husband who is our usual travel organizer, host, and chauffeur. Yes, I’m anxious for a whole lot of reasons, but we’re going! C’est la vie, in a good way!

    Stretching ourselves, trying new things, does make life more interesting, I think, and give us reason to carry on. I see my dad, at 84, sitting more & more still every day. He is fading away because there is nothing to engage him, nothing to challenge him in a way that sparks his interest. (Long story; Lots of family around him trying, but he’s tired and says he’s ready “to go”.)

  18. Chris S. says:

    “I don’t want to wait for a diagnosis to go live life to the fullest. I want to embrace everything, go everywhere. I want to stop worrying about little things.”

    I love this.

  19. This post reminds me of the movie SHIRLEY VALENTINE. Love that movie. I need to go find it and MURPHY’S ROMANCE. I want to watch both of those movies over and over and over.

  20. Catherine says:

    I’m ok with making mistakes. I think it’s because I see actions that could be considered a mistake one less way to do something. Or sometimes something unexpectedly good happens from something I first thought wasn’t for me. I think the key is staying open to possibilities greater than you plan for.

    Very cool to read how excited you sound exploring your options.

  21. Lynda says:

    I spent more than fifteen years as my husband’s caregiver, and my life became smaller and smaller as his illnesses worsened. I gave up a career I loved, lost contact with friends I loved, until finally my life basically consisted of hospitals and my husband’s bedside. Now he’s been gone for not quite three years, and I’m still struggling to expand my world again. Right now my goal is to regain my own health–which means losing massive amounts of weight–so that I can begin traveling to some of the places that he and I once planned to go, when we were young. My mantra now is “Next year England!” I know I can do it. I just wish it were as easy to find new friends.

    On the subject of just traveling, my in-laws were full-time RVers for ten years or so, traveling around the West, wintering in Quartzite with the other snowbirds. My FIL loved it, but after a while it really got to my MIL, affecting her health. Eventually they bought a tiny house in a tiny Colorado town, near one of their children, and they’d spend a couple of months there each summer. It made a HUGE difference to my mother-in-law, having a place to call home base, even if they were still on the road most of the time, and in the end, after my father-in-law became too ill to travel (cancer), that was where they spent the last months of his life. This just confirmed my belief that almost everybody needs a place to call home.

  22. I’ve camped on a beach in Mexico. It was cold and windy and the sand got everywhere.

    I’ve lived on a sailboat. It was possibly the most profoundly lonely experience of my life. (I wasn’t alone.)

    I’ve moved to Chicago knowing no one, moved to San Francisco never having been west of the Mississippi, moved to Canada to a town I’d only seen in the movies, and moved to Florida on six weeks notice. Bad plan, good plan, *disaster*, mostly success.

    I’ve spent the night on a train station floor in Italy and outside in a park in London, eaten Indian food in NYC and beignets in New Orleans, fell in love with a dog on Corfu and puked my way through Yugoslavia, rafted on the American river and rode horseback in Hawaii. Etc. I could probably keep going on this theme for quite a while.

    But you bring yourself with you wherever you go. Travel isn’t magic. Giving up fear sounds great, but in my experience, finding happiness is never as easy as going someplace new. It just feels that way when you’re thinking about it.

    (That beach in Mexico was gorgeous. Also miserably uncomfortable.)

  23. An adventure doesn’t have to be big. I challenge myself all the time – once it was to jump off a platform into an icy cold natural spring in Gainsville, Fl (if 6 year olds could do it, so could I!!) and once it was to try boogie boarding in the Atlantic off the coast of NC (again, cold water) Start small and work your way up – I can think of plenty of things I’ve tried and decided once was enough but I’ve never regretted the experience.

  24. I absolutely agree, happiness isn’t “someplace else,” it must be found within. I know way too many people who were so sure things would be better elsewhere…except when they went, they simply lugged their discontent with them.

    But I’m not sure that’s quite the same thing as what’s being discussed here. Because fear does have a nasty habit of holding us back from growing, from achieving our dreams, of exploring new possibilities. But if fear is the motivation behind wanting to change, that’s no good, either. So one does need to question the motivation behind the impetus to shake up one’s life — is it about running away from something (which rarely works) or embracing a broader version of who we are?

    I’m pretty sure, in in Krissie’s case, it’s the latter. πŸ™‚

  25. KellyR says:

    My 37th birthday present was a trip to Italy. I went alone, but I did join a Rick Steves tour group for part of the trip. My birthday fell on the last day of the tour and all my new friends sang happy birthday to me over tiramisu.I highly recommend having your birthday in Rome if at all possible.

    The next morning I rolled out of bed only slightly hung over and headed out to the UAE to visit my globe trotting sister. It was a fantastic trip. Even losing my passport in Dubai couldn’t ruin the trip. My next trip will be Turkey. Specifically Istanbul, but also all the historical ruins (Troy!!!). It’s not in the budget for a good long time though. :(.

    I may need to take a long weekend and drive myself down to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I haven’t been in years and I’m having Ray Porter withdrawals. Although he may no longer be part of the company. That would suck.

  26. oneoftheotherjennifers says:

    My daughter hopes to spend her 14th birthday in Rome. We’ll still be in Turin where my husband will be working then, but we could fly to Rome for the weekend. We think it would cost about $500 for flight/hotel, which is a LOT more than we usually spend on her birthday. But… Rome for her birthday. That would be a birthday she would always remember. We haven’t made any promises, though.

  27. Barbara Cameron says:

    I loved Sarah Wynde’s post — especially the second to last paragraph.

    I also like the idea of small adventures. I think they give you more idea of what you want to do for a big one and would also be a way of making Richie more comfortable with a big change.

    I wanted to move after my divorce and couldn’t sell it for four years. Told myself I’d never buy again but I did get to a point where that was a good idea. Now I want out and once again feeling a little stuck here. So I’m going to do some small adventures until I get a way to move on to a bigger one.

    One lesson I learned from my father is to be careful of what I call a “geographic move” — it won’t help to move someplace else unless I’ve made some changes in myself first. He chased happiness around the country but never found it because a new place wasn’t a guarantee it would be there.

  28. Reb says:

    It’d be a present for all of you, not just her. That’s how I’d justify the cost, anyway. And Rome’s fascinating!

  29. Reb says:

    There’s wonderful Celtic saying about pilgrimage:

    To go to Rome
    Is much trouble, little profit.
    The King whom thou seekest there,
    Unless thou bring Him with thee, thou wilt not find.

    Me, I loved Rome. I’ve traveled quite a lot. Some of it’s been life-changing, some of it’s been hair-raising (travel tip: don’t try to cross a 5400m Himalayan pass in a blizzard). But most has just been interesting, relaxing and fun.

    I say go for it! Start cheap and small and build up.

  30. Chiming in late here! When the kids were little, we found we liked to do what we call “heavy” camping. Car packed to the gills, pulling a popup trailer; when we were all set up, I had a “kitchen” that worked beautifully, two different places to heat water for coffee, a cooler, and everything tucked away in the bear locker at night. We went for almost ten years straight to Mammoth Lakes in the summertime AND made reservations – beautiful creek-side camping spots with trees for hammocks. (Told you we “heavy” camped!) I made fabulous meals and we had terrific wine.

    On the flip side, we all have our own ultralight backpacks, our own rated-to-20-below mummy sleeping bags, ultralight campstove (2.4 ounces or something like that). Now that the kids are older, the hubby takes them out hiking/camping with terrible dried food and whatnot. Hubby and I also go out, but not as much as we used to.

    Both are valuable experiences. But I confess, I LOVE my heavy camping. One of these years we’re going to get a small house on wheels and just drive…

    Loving this attitude of yours! Hugs!

  31. Micki says:

    If you are one of those writers who can write anywhere . . . well, you can write anywhere (-:. And if you and/or Richie have college degrees, teaching English overseas is still a possibility (some countries are not too picky at all what your degree is in *Japan*). Some of the teaching gigs can also be quite short-term, so it’s possible you could teach somewhere warm during the winter, and be back in time to garden.

    There’s also plans like that couch-surfer international where people trade houses . . . and maybe you could find a writer in Paris or somewhere who would like to trade houses for a vacation/sabbatical.

    If there’s a college nearby, checking out their center for international students might give you a lot of ideas about posts or house-sharing schemes.

    (-: And if you are looking for a mini-mini-adventure, maybe you can host an exchange student for a weekend.

    There are all sorts of ways to expand . . . .

  32. romney says:

    I love how in Shirley Valentine the relationship is a mistake but the life isn’t. Sometimes new experiences are good, regardless of whether they’re something you want to repeat or not!

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