If I were to randomly throw a rock as far as I could out my window to the East, West, North or South, I would hit either someone I'm related to, someone related to someone I'm related to, someone my kids went to school with or someone that would know where I live and know where to send the police to when said rock hit them on the head! Relax...I'm not throwing any rocks out my window, just trying to make a point that I live in a small town where everyone knows or is related to everyone. I live and have always lived in a small town setting, sheltered and protected from the rest of the world. That's why I'm a scaredy cat!
My whole life I've been a scaredy cat. Afraid of my own shadow and the shadows of those around me. You know those little kids that hide behind their mother's skirts when strangers try to talk to them? That's me. I remember many times that we would go to eat at a fast food restaurant and I would want more ketchup or more fries or an ice cream cone and my mom would give me money and tell me to go up to the counter and place an order. I would rather starve then walk away and do something on my own...and my mom would let me, she wouldn't coddle me, she'd let me do without if I wasn't brave enough to do it on my own.
When I was in the 6th grade we moved to Yuma, Arizona. For some reason the school I attended there was a hard one for me to make friends at. I hated going to school there. I have one particularly painful memory of my mom dropping me off and I'm crying and begging her not to make me stay and I'm holding on to the car door and screaming and other kids are watching me and laughing and pointing. My mom, in tears, drives away. I'm sure her heart was breaking to leave me, but she was also a no nonsense kind of mom and she knew that I had to go to school and I had to learn to adjust if I was going to grow up to be a healthy, productive adult. Later on that day she came back and talked to my teacher and the next day I remember the teacher sending me out of the room to wait while she talked to the class. I stood by the door and heard her tell all my classmates that I was having a hard time adjusting and she asked them all to be nice to me and invite me to play with them. That turned things around and I made friends, but how sad and pathetic was I?
But as Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "That which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger." Or as my mom is fond of saying, "Los golpes quitan lo tonto". Because of having to rise above these tragedies I had to learn to be strong and not let fear conquer me. It's a good thing that I learned that lesson because I ended up being a single mother with two children age 7 and 11, and in order to give them a normal life and help them to become healthy, productive adults I had to conquer my fears of being alone and raising them alone.
I've never been one to just pack up and go on a vacation all by myself, heck I can't even eat alone in a restaurant. But as a mother I had to get out of my comfort zone and show my kids that they could do anything. I remember a vacation that we took to San Diego. I was terrified. Terrified to drive all by myself from Shafter to San Diego. That's a four hour drive! Anything could happen on the road alone (and this was before cell phones). I was terrified to know that I would be staying in a hotel, just myself and my two little kids! I would be in total charge of making sure that they were fed, had fun and didn't get hurt while being four hours away from my parents, my siblings and friends! I was terrified to be staying alone in a hotel room with them. I can tell you I didn't sleep much that trip. But I did it and we had a great time!
I conquered my biggest fear when I took my kids to Hawaii when they were roughly 15 and 11 years of age. I've already explained how terrified I was to be four hours away from home with two small children. Now I was going to be a whole ocean and a plane ride away from anyone that could help me if trouble arose!! Yikes! But I had won a trip for two and it was almost free to take my son, how could I not go to Hawaii? It's Hawaii!
So I planned for every conceivable mishap, but they happened anyway! I rented a car to take us from Bakersfield to LAX. Once there at LAX I couldn't figure out what to do with the car or where to leave it. By the time I found out where to drop it off and we rode the shuttle back to LAX we missed our flight! They were able to re-book us on another flight but we would have to stay overnight at the airport! Again...Yikes! The kids were thrilled, although at times bored, but I was terrified! Constantly looking around and trying to keep my kids and myself from strangers, which wasn't an easy task since my kids were nothing like me and they weren't scared of anyone and no one was a stranger to them! The good thing about having this happen is that I was so busy staring at strangers that I didn't have time to be scared of getting into an airplane and flying over an ocean with my kids!
When we finally arrived in Hawaii we were met by a man (another stranger) who owned a cremation disposal company. He had his own plane and would fly people up to dispose of cremated remains. His company was the one I had won the trip from. We arrived at around 2am, it's pitch dark, a stranger is meeting us and he's telling us that we're going to get into his little 4-seater airplane and flying across another ocean to the island of Molokai! I can't say Yikes enough here people! My legs were still shaky from the huge jet we just got off of and now I have to get into an airplane small enough to fit in my driveway at home? But we did, we had no choice at this point. Never had the words "what doesn't kill us can only make us stronger" resounded in my ears louder than at that moment!
Once in the airplane my kids went to sleep, which is good as they didn't see that when you looked down from the airplane, there was nothing but BLACKNESS! Pitch darkness! A darkness I had never seen before and have never witnessed again! I knew that in that blackness there was only water. Water stretching for miles. Water with sharks and whales and sharks! I know...are you all saying Yikes! with me at this point?
We arrived on Molokai and he took us to the hotel we were to stay at. We had two adjoining rooms. My daughter April being in high school of course thought it would be awesome if she could have one whole room to herself, so my son and I shared. We had not been in bed for half an hour before April called me and said there was a lizard in her room and she was scared! I'd never prepared myself for lizards! So we called the front desk and they sent a man out (another stranger) who shoo'ed the lizard away. We expected him to come with a shovel and cut the little beasts head off...but apparently on Molokai, lizards are a way of life and considered good luck! I have to tell you, none of us slept well that night at all.
But the next few days we had a fabulous time exploring the island, swimming in the hotel pool, walking along the rocks on the beach, we even hit golf balls so we could say someday that we played golf in Hawaii! We didn't have any more lizard adventures and the island was secluded enough that I felt the kids and I were safe. After three days on the island, the cremation man came back for us. He also gave flying tours out of his airplane and he picked us up nice and early and gave us a tour of many of the neighboring islands. He told me how much he normally charged for this tour and it was quite a bit and we were getting it for FREE! So what do my kids do? Fall asleep of course! They missed the whole thing! But I will never forget the views, the waterfalls, the stories about the leper colony. It was amazing!
Cremation man dropped us off on the island of Oahu where we took a shuttle to another hotel on the beach. I was starting to feel a little more comfortable and even brave. My newly blossoming bravery became even more obvious when the kids started looking at all the brochures in the lobby of the hotel and they wanted to try everything. Snorkeling, para-sailing, boat trips, luaus! How could I take my kids to Hawaii and deny them any of those adventures? I couldn't! So we did it all. We got into a boat that took us out into the ocean. You can't touch bottom when you're out in the ocean...that thought didn't really sink in until I was actually out there. There is something truly terrifying about knowing there is nothing beneath your feet for miles! But I did it, I conquered that fear and went snorkeling and swam out and away from the boat for a bit.
The next day we got into another boat, a smaller boat, a para-sailing boat. I wish I could stay I para-sailed, but I didn't. Not because I didn't want to, but because I wanted my kids to have that adventure. They loved it and they were not one little bit scared! I was so proud of my brave little kids!
We walked around Oahu, went to the beaches, the malls, the Polynesian Cultural Center and had the time of our lives. It's a memory that I will never forget and one of my proudest moments as a scaredy-cat and as a mother! I and I alone had sole responsibility for my young children across the ocean in a strange place and I don't think they ever knew how scared I was! Hurray for me!
I can't say that I'm not still a scaredy-cat, because I am. But I'm not a coward. I found this definition of cowardice online, "Cowardice is the primacy of self. When you put your own well being ahead of anything or anyone else, regardless of your commitments or responsibilities to them, that is cowardice. It differs from outright selfishness, although that is a part of it, in that it is driven by fear, not greed."
The Unexpected Circumnavigation" by Christi Grab. I received a complimentary copy as a member of the online book club From Left to Write. All opinions expressed are my own. You can read other members' posts inspired by "The Unexpected Circumnavigation" at From Left to Write on book club day, June 28th.
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