Something More Important Than Fear

Fear Not

On a sunny afternoon in April 2001, I landed uneventfully at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas. I remember the moment vividly because I was supposed to be dead.

While I had flown before, that was the first flight I had taken by myself…and I was terrified. So much so, actually, that I had left a Will on my desk at home. So much so, I had not moved from my seat, had not moved at all, since the plane left the ground five hours earlier. I was so full of fear that the plane would crash, I had not even thought about what I would do when it landed.

So there I was, in Austin, on vacation, and I didn’t know what to do next. I was supposed to be dead.

It’s been 10 years since that flight. And while even I giggle at the thought of being SO afraid—I love flying now—it still serves as example of how fear can interfere.

– – – – –

Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them. — Brendan Francis

– – – – –

On my most recent trip to Texas, I found myself face to face with fear again. Toe to toe, actually…

We were driving south on Route 166, on the back loop of a scenic drive through the Davis Mountains, when we came upon a herd of horses along the side of the road.

I’d been dreaming of horses for several months, and had been trying to find a way to connect with one. There are two beautiful horses near the nature trail I walk, but they are never roadside when I am. I had hoped to see some at the Big E fair this fall, but only saw goats. And then there they were—a dozen horses roaming in a wide-open field as we drove by.

Fear Not

We stopped, and DeLinda the Brave ventured over to the fence for a visit.

I did not.

Between me and them were ten feet of tall grass. And I was pretty sure there were some tarantulas and rattlesnakes hiding there in that tall grass. I’d seen the signs.

Granted the signs were at a nature center 100 miles ago, and included quail and roadrunner “crossings” as well as tarantulas. But like they say, “it’s the thought that counts.”

And really, when it comes to fear? It IS the thought that counts!

– – – – –

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. – Ambrose Redmoon

– – – – –

So there I was—a dream standing just feet away. A dream, and all that stood between me and it were a few feet of menacing grass.

“You’ve been wanting to see horses,” I reminded myself.
“You can’t miss this amazing chance!”
“You don’t know for sure that there are spiders, but you know there are horses.”
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
“Just DO IT!”

And then there I was…at the fence.

And then there I was…up close and personal with this wonderful gathering of majestic creatures. They were so tall, larger than I thought, and their eyes were as big as my fists. They felt strong, and warm from the sun. They made soft noises, talking amongst themselves with much curiosity. Like us, there were brave ones who came right up to the fence; and there were some timid ones who stood cautiously a few feet away.

DeLinda and I stayed with them for a while, then made our way back to the car. They watched us from the fence, all of them standing in a row as we drove away. I got the feeling they were as happy for the chance—the gift—as we were!

– – – – –

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

– – – – –










Fear Not

• • •

Photos ©2010, by Jen Payne and DeLinda Fox.

113 thoughts on “Something More Important Than Fear

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  1. so many beautiful horses – and is that a small pinto pony or perhaps a younger horse? and you forgot to mention those two adorable burros!!!!! aren’t equines marvelous???? thanks for going up to that fence!

  2. Wow … beautiful story, and I’m so grateful for the reminder to FACE YOUR FEARS.

    I’m mired in a terrible situation right now — my ex is suing me to change our custody agreement, and he’s trying to prevent me from blogging about my life. I fear that he is trying to take away my control and silence my voice, which is both my personal and professional identity.

    Your post has reminded me that facing this situation head-on … and not worrying about the tarantulas and snakes along the way — is the only way to approach this.

    Thank you. I hope to see my own horses on the other side of the tall, scary grass. :)

    1. Facing fear head-on is never easy! But I don’t know about you – sitting with that fear day in and day out always ends up being harder, don’t you think. Best of luck to you – stay strong!

  3. What a great post! And thanks for the reminder. I blog from Haiti, where there’s plenty to be afraid of these days. But I try to tell myself that the Haitian people have so much more to fear than I do and do so much more in the face of what would paralyze me. Stay strong! And congratulations on being freshly pressed!

    1. There is plenty to be afraid of all around – maybe facing the small spider fears can help us collectively grow stronger in the face of bigger ones?

  4. Fear; it’s such a common reflex and the frontline of our need to defend ourselves and all that we choose to value. Tis not fear itself but the fear of it that you need to do away with. Embrace the one as a friend and the other is not really worth the trouble as you saw when you landed.

  5. Great post. I probably would have been afraid to fly for the first time if I wasn’t so happy to get away from college and go home for Thanksgiving. After that, it became simple. Thank you for posting your thoughts on overcomming fear. Love the horses!

  6. That’s brilliant that you got that experience! I know many times when I’ve had to overcome fears to be able to do something. I’m scared of spiders, especially tarantuallas, and I had to overcome that to actually hold one. It may not have been my dream but I wanted to do it … so I did it!

  7. Funny how a stranger can bring inspiration to one on the darkest of days. (I’m in northern WI). I stumbled across this blog by accident… and I’m glad I did. You do a wonderful job of articulating the thoughts that I think many who read your blog share. From a writer who dreams big but sometimes comes up short when her pencil hits the paper, thank you!

    1. I think that’s the beauty of the internet – finding those connections, even from so far away! Hi Beth. Nice to meet you! And thank you for your kind words!

  8. great post! nice pictures and wonderful quotations. I think fear is a part of life. Sometimes its healthy, but most of the times its just better to get rid of it. If only doing that were so easy!

    1. I hear ya – sometimes the fears are little tiny and easy to push aside. Then those big ones come in…and whew! not so easy for sure!

  9. What a beautifully written blog.
    I always thought I was afraid of heights-I would get extreme vertigo on top of cliffs or even a garden wall, often I wouldnt let anyone know so I didnt seem wimpish. However this year I did a bunjy jump and a skydive and to me it was a piece of cake. It is that little push in your mind of getting over a fear to achieve something truly rewarding on the other side.

  10. Love the blog, the message and the pictures are amazing. It was fun reading the interactions too. Thanks everyone for making my day and I am going to go out and face my fears.

  11. Good post and thanks for sharing the pics, they are priceless! I have found as I’ve gotten older facing the fear makes so much more sense as the problem only grows in your mind if you don’t. So as soon as I don’t want to do something, I realize it, face it, do it and it never seems as bad as I thought it would. Viola! Then it’s done anyway!

    1. I hear that! I’ve taken to recognizing it – fear – and asking: OK, what am I afraid of really? If I can put it into perspective (am I going to die from this?) then it’s much easier to deal with!

  12. I’ve never seen a big furry spider in TX, but then again I live along the gulf coast. too humid, I suppose. Lucky encounter with the horses and mules! Looks like it was very memorable. Congratulations on landing on freshly pressed!

  13. Girl, I lived in Texas and had to laugh — my first thought was, “What kind of shoes were you wearing?” If you had on good ol’ Texas cowboy boots and jeans, your fears could have been alleviated. That’s why they wear ’em! God bless you, ya fearful little thing, you. Next time wear the right shoes!

    1. Ha! Ok, So, I had on these cute little Clark walking sandals. VERY comfortable, but…I’m putting Cowboy boots on my Wish List right now! : )

  14. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!! I have two horses and used to train them as well. They are remarkable souls for sure – I’m so glad you had such a natural, positive encounter.

  15. This was very well written and the accompanying pictures made it a fabulous package.

    I thank you for sharing this, as more often than not fear and we how get along with it plays an integral part in our lives. Sometimes our fears are valid, at other times they keep us away from what we want and would enjoy to do.


    1. It’s very true that fear can keep us from the things we want and would enjoy. The trick is recognizing the fear – which can be obvious sometimes and very subtle other times.

  16. I agree with everyone else who called this a lovely, well-written post! The photos to go with it — proof that you made it! — are great too.

    I learned a while back that there is a certain kind of fear — the one where you are nervous and uncomfortable about something and unsure you can do it — that is a very clear indicator the thing you are scared of is something you NEED to do. That’s how I joined the Peace Corps, drove from NY to WA alone, and went back to grad school — all to great success!

    I think Georgia O’Keefe put it just right: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

    1. Hey, good for you on conquering your own fears! Isn’t funny how sometimes, the very things we fear are the things that help us find a way to things we love?

      GREAT Georgia O’Keefe quote!

  17. I haven’t yet completely mastered facing my fears. But you did a great job! I will never EVER be brave enough to go anywhere near tarantulas. I even hate pet ones at exotic pet stores.

    1. I don’t know if I could TOUCH one, but I have been challenging myself to not be AS afraid of spiders as I used to be. I don’t kill them as often and I try not to shreek as loudly. It’s a start, right?

  18. I wonder how much we miss when we allow fear to paralyse us?
    And doesn’t it feel great when you push through and arrive on the other side!

  19. what’s with the dead thing? i think your just thinking to much back then because its your first time to fly alone….but see nothing bad really happened right? love the photos I’m scared of tarantula too because they might bite me if i see one, and frogs too weird right :)

  20. Sky divers and sky scraper builders, gunk holers and coal miners, soldiers and fighter pilots, drilling rig divers who have to go down at night, astronautics and volcanologists. If you leave a spider or snake alone, they won’t bother you, but people who do the occupations listed, are another breed. And thank God they can control their fear where the real danger lives, from moment to moment, often day and night.

  21. The horses are gorgeous, and I’m glad you conquered the fear of the “creepy crawly” things to get there to pet them. ;) It’s amazing how smart they are and how much they love attention.

    I live in TX, too, and had no idea we had actual signs for anything but deer crossing. I’m obviously in the wrong area – although we could have used them when they went motoring their 8 legs across a rural road. I suppose growing up with the big furry spiders is largely why I’m not afraid of them. We had a couple even get into the house, and for something so frightening looking, the local species is incredibly shy and mellow. I couldn’t reach one when I was back home and my Dad shoed it into a dust pan. It was ambling slowly up the wall, and it was a large one. It didn’t bite, attack, or do much of anything as Dad put it outside to carry on it’s arachnid life. There’s plenty of super aggressive tarantula species in the world, but ours were always really docile.

    They are terrifying looking, however, and spiders are huge on the list of things people are afraid of, so I can definitely see the fear factor of imagining them lurking in tall weeds waiting to pounce.

  22. Nice post, and good ponderings on fear. It helps to know that others see tarantulas and snakes. (Actually, I live in the hills in Northern California, where tarantulas, quail, and even wild turkey, cross our road. During dry spells in summer, we’ve had parched rattlesnakes going for the water of our swimming pool. And, goes to show you–I’m actually still alive!

    Congrats on making Freshly Pressed!

  23. These pics are wonderful! Fortunately, you were able to rationalize with yourself on why you must face your fear–so you could experience a dream of yours. I try hard to face my fears because I don’t want them to stop me from living my life. But, it’s not always easy. I wish I could say I have no fears, but I can’t. However, if I try to face a fear and, for whatever reason, just can’t do it, I don’t give up. I just simply say I will try again later, or another day. Eventually, when I am able to conquer one, it makes my life so much sweeter!

  24. I foolishly decided to face all my fears, not realising I was feeding myself to sharks. Its a hard journey walking into fear, but freedom I believe is A GUARANTEED AND WORTHY OUTCOME, not to mention longevity, less wrinkles and seemingly in your case great ponies :)

  25. I love your story … especially the humor about “what do I do now that I’m not dead” .. I recently did a post about “Grandmother Tarantula” and getting to meet one up close here in Arizona. It , too, was about facing fears and making friends with it.

    Have a great day

  26. I was Luckier than you in my first flight. The fear was real
    It was a short 30 minutes flight from Benin-City to Lagos in 1976.
    My close friend who actualy paid for my ticket was sitting close by me.
    Yes the fear was real and I could not speak for more than the 30 minutes that the journey lasted. It was like an eternal journey and I was eternally grateful to God that the journey was short. I counted the entire 30 by 60 seconds in my heart pounding all through.
    The fear is gone. Rather I am afriad of alternatives to flying whenever possible.
    Fear is of the mind, it comes on and you may choose to entertain it or discard it. the only good option is to discard the enemy call fear even the fear of death.

  27. Thanks for writing this. It came to me at a time that I needed to read it. For some reason, I’m afraid to become a writer. Not afraid to write… just afraid to give myself the freedom to commit to it in my own heart. After reading your blog, and your awesome quotes, I started blogging again. My blog isn’t anything special, and I mainly just do it for myself, but writing again… and being inspired to do it… meant a lot to me. Thank you for being brave.

    1. Hey – thanks for the mention on your blog! You’ve made me think of a new post about writing. Kind of a quid pro quo here – I get you thinking about getting back to YOUR writing and you inspire more of mine. Nice connection!!

  28. Did you ever stop to consider, that it took just as much courage on the part of the animals to come to the fence and stand with virtual strangers in their midst?

    I am no doctor Phil but I do know that “if I allow my fears to control my life” they will.

    Nice site, where are the Davis Mountains? I am curious.


    1. Oh, I certainly agree. It’s part of the magic – the trust THEY had to come to that fence! The Davis Mountains are in West Texas near Fort Davis.

  29. Never be afraid. Okay, I guess that doesn’t apply to me. I’m afraid of few things, but once in a while, my friends really manage to spook me. Considering I’ve watched a lot of horror movies, this is a pretty hard job.

  30. Your post and some of the pictures were awesome but there is one quote in your post,
    “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
    When i read this quote, I forgot everything else and this amazing thought started revolving in my mind. I have been thinking on this quote for two days( yes 2 days) and after 2 days i am back here to thank you for your post which has given a wonderful food to my thoughts. May be this is just a normal quote for you and other people but it has helped me too much.
    Some times just one sentence solve a lot of complications.

    1. I think it is an incredibly powerful quote! It can be easy to live in fear – and to let the thoughts about that move us and shape us. Or we can decide there is something else. Finding a way to that something else is the brave part for sure!

      Thank you for your comment and visit!

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