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“How to Survive Anything” – A Post about Fear

The Swim Bike Family headed to the lake yesterday for a little morning of fun, open water swimming and wetsuit testing, to be followed by lunch and a stop by Cabela’s (a/k/a where all things are Southern, fishing, hunting and camouflage).  The Expert has decided that they (and I mean they) are going camping;  so there were camping supplies to procure.  As for me, I camp best at a Doubletree. The hotel, not two actual trees.

Wetsuits were tested, and the kids were worn out, so we headed over to Cabela’s before heading home.

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The boy child, James, was allowed to purchase a book called, “How to Survive Anything,” which we thought was right up his alley.  I will spoil my children rotten with books–that is pretty much one thing I will never ever say “no” to.  Within reason. Books are amazing, and the little dude loves facts (“Hey Mom, did you know that sharks have rows of teeth and that…”).  The facts are never-ending, and he memorizes them, lock-tight into his sponge-like mind.

Likewise, I really thought James was going to love “How to Survive Anything,” but about 15 minutes down the road, I realized that the Cabela’s version of the book may have been a little tooooo much “Survival of Anything.”

Bear Attacks. Tsunamis. Avalanches.  I should have known better.  It was a big book, and it was actually a survival guide-duh.  It probably had a disclaimer on it.

Knowing James and how sponge-like he is, and knowing the facts that were ping-ponging in his amazing, creative little mind—I should have known he would be upset.  [Another mom fail. Add it to the list!]

And yes, pretty quickly, he was visibly upset by the book.  The bears and avalanches were all too real, all too close in his mind.  He was upset to the point where he didn’t want the book in the same room.  

So I told the Expert, “Just take it back when you return whatever it is you are returning.”  He nodded, and took it out to the car—out of the house.  We discussed how James need not worry about bears or tsunamis or avalanches (I mean, you don’t… until you do… but that’s neither here nor there…). He was good. (Mental note: never, ever ever watch “The Revenant” around the kid. Ever.)

I figured hoped prayed that was the end of it.

But… this morning, I heard the pitter-patter-jump-jump of energetic boy feet come hopping into the room (anyone with an almost-nine year old probably knows exactly what pitter-patter-jump jump is).

I was standing by the bed, sorting through my workout clothes, and James said, “Uh, Mom. Where’s that book? The survive anything book.”

I looked at him.  His eyes were twinkling.

“Dad is taking that book back to the store,” I said.

“Um, I need it. I want to learn about to survive anything,” and he jumped in place, excitedly.

“But you were scared of the stuff in the book, bud,” I said.  I paused, in case he forgot. “Remember? Yesterday?”

“Yes, I know!” he said,  “But I think it’s time that I learn to face my fears!”  He jumped, and off he went, pitter-patter, jump jump…

So he headed into the world today, anything survival guide in hand (and ready to scare YOUR children at school—sorry)… but ready to face his fears.

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In the car, he (without fuss) picked the song he wanted to listen to. He and his sister each get one song each morning to listen to–it’s a 10 minute car trip–works out well, everyone is happy–usually.  We jam Taylor Swift mostly for the girl, but he is always a wide pendulum swing–never can tell what he will pick, or if he will play along and pick anything at all.

After thinking a bit, I realized that recently James has been awfully (and somewhat uncharacteristically) fearless.

And mind you, that’s not a dig at him.  He and I are just the historically “careful” duo out of the family. We assess a situation and then move forward. Of course, we too may be fearless–once properly armed with all the pertinent information and safety gear.

So I think that the newfound fearlessness has come from a few recent developments.  Over the last two years, we have worked really hard on tutoring, baseball practice, and a few other areas where James has been feeling “down” and challenged.  I have been sort of unofficially tiger-not-tiger-mom relentless, though I haven’t been hard on him.  But I have been thorough.  Meaning, that he has been presented with all the tools–everything has been put out in the open for his potential success in baseball, school and life.  [As for baseball, if, at the end of the season after giving it our all, if he wants he can quit. But he can’t quit school. Sorry.]

Simply, I made it my mission for him to know we supported him and wanted him to succeed–yes, even on his terms–in sports, in school, in life, in whatever (he has happened to choose baseball, but it doesn’t have to be that.)   It was my mission that he would know in ten years, when he was released into the wild world, that we had never given up on him.  (And of course, the same goes for our daughter.)

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Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, when he wasn’t “liking” baseball, I intuited that it because he “wasn’t good at it” (his words).  Once we got him working a little harder, learning the game a little more, suddenly… he was “better” (his words), and he started to enjoy it.  We could literally see him turn the corner.

He was happy.

Same with math in school. Once he became more proficient (through hours of work and tutoring), he started to do better and enjoy (well, tolerate) math.

He was happy-er.

I realized how true this same theory is for adults, as well.

We can be all truly FEARLESS in some circumstances–but then in other scenarios, we just cower and wilt, and… well, who knows what else.

Our son has thrived since he has been presented with the following:
  1. Safety
  2. Acceptance
    and
  3. Tools to Succeed

With these things in play, he has begun to feel more confident, stronger, capable—and ready to face his fears (his words).

I think we can all remember a time in our lives when we have been paralyzed by fear.  For me, my first open water swim was just that fear.  I have been scared of many (many) things since then.

As I have gone along in triathlon, I have gained a sense of confidence… it’s not easy, it hasn’t been instantaneous.  But for the most part, I feel like triathlon is a place of safety, acceptance, and through many of my friends and groups–a place with all the tools to help me succeed.

Of course, these are not absolutes. There are always people or places that won’t be safe or accepting–but for the most part, when I am in a place where I feel these things… I am braver. More capable. Fearless, in my own way.

Since my post yesterday, I have received several emails and comments about fear.  I didn’t realize how many were actually about fear until I read a few in succession.

  • I want to make the changes, like you have, but I am TERRIFIED.
  • I desperately want to do a triathlon, but I am so freaked out.
  • I NEED to sign up for nutrition help, but I am afraid.
  • I have to quit drinking for myself, for my family, but I am so scared.

I believe our son is thriving because he feels safe, accepted and now believes in the the tools he has. He was ready to “survive anything” leaving for school today, because he’s in a safe, accepting place–and armed with a book of facts.

Here’s the thing about triathlon and nutrition and quitting drinking–or whatever you are “afraid” of:

If you are in a place of safety, acceptance and armed with the tools–there is nothing to fear.

And if you are not in a place like this?  Well, then you should find one.  And if you don’t know where, keep reading!

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(Superhero Costume anyone? ^^^)

Triathlon?  Come to our Tri-Fecta group on Facebook.  I don’t tolerate any shit.  I mean, none.  You will be safe and accepted.  You will get to know so many people and have access to resources and tools.  Are you a new triathlete? Get my free eBook. It’s a small tool, but one that will give you some courage and information on your journey.  You are safe and you are accepted here, right now with SBM.  Now, you have a tool. We have coaching. We have resources.  We are here.

Fear not.

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Addiction?  I am not a counselor. I am not a specialist, but I am someone who has been there.  And I am here for you. You have a safe place to call/email, and I accept you, right now, just as you are. You can contact me, and I will be here for you. I have friend who has said I could share her info as well–she has also been there.  So you have TWO people, right here and right now, who are here for you. (And after this post, I bet I will have more people for you).  WE are here. And we will help you find the tools and resources you need to get help.

Fear not.

Nutrition? Weight loss? Health?  Oh my goodness.  We have the safest and most accepting place ever… but the tools! Oh, the tools are there. The tools are there if you are ready to change, to make the best of your life.  To thrive, not just survive.  We are here along one of the toughest journeys that any woman will take.  I got you. We got you.

Fear not.

Look, I am not pretending to save anyone.

I also don’t have all the answers.  I know that.  So, please don’t comment bullshit like that.

I am saying that I have been there. I have been terrified to swim.  I have been terrified to admit that I needed help. Living in a place of fear over the mere food I ate (because it was damaging me, and how in the hell could I help myself with something that I was forced to NEED every day? And that very thing was also killing me??!)

I have been stuck, unable to change, unable to know what to do–for decades. I have dealt with pain and addiction and things that you wouldn’t believe… and through pushing through it, I have learned what helps unstick the stuck, and break through the fear.

We have watched it unfold with our son. Not with any magic. But just helping him the ways that we have learned are fundamental for change.

Truly, how to survive anything might just boil down to these three things:

  • Safety
  • Acceptance
  • Tools

Overly simplistic? Maybe.

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But what if it really is that simple?

And maybe we have been over-complicating, over-thinking, and therefore, over-fearing everything for way too long?

It’s possible.

Maybe we need less thinking? More doing?  

It’s worth a try.

So let’s start here. We can do it. Together. We got your back.

I say “we,” because while I put up my contact form, I am surrounded by a HUGE “Army” of people who are right here too–ready to support you, in whatever part of your journey you need.

Triathlon. Support.  Nutrition. Friendship. 

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Come join us–we’ll be here, for whatever you need.

#SBMArmy
#BeFearless
#JustKeepMovingForward

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For the Spirit, that God gave us does not make us timid —
but gives us power, love and self-discipline.   

I Timothy 1:7

13 Comments

  • Tina Gutierrez

    September 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I completely understand what you are talking about. I have my first HIM in 7 weeks. I am still struggling with the swim. I can swim in intervals (50 – 75 yards at a time) and then rest. I decided to go back and read you blog from the beginning. There is a particular day that has stuck out to me in October 2010 (Mental-Giant-Empty-bucket). In the article you talk about fear of failure. I had already started telling myself that I can’t do it, but I have had nothing but encouragement from my friends who have done one or more HIM. I don’t know why it is so hard to believe in ourselves when others (many others) believe in us and we believe in them. Again, I thank you for all of your blogs and speaking directly to me in all of your posts. I don’t know how you get in my head and steal what I am thinking, but you always seem to be able to change those thoughts and help me believe a little bit more in myself. I will keep moving forward.

    Reply
    • Katie O.

      September 27, 2016 at 1:56 am

      Tina, apropos to this post, please let me give you this amazing tool: the time for swim lessons is NOW. I, too, was unable to swim more than 50 yards at a time. Swim lessons changed my life. Best $300 I ever spent, hands down. My problem was that I simply could not figure out the breathing thing. Your inability to swim distance has nothing to do with your fitness, and everything to do with your technique. Find someone to teach you the proper technique and you will be a new swimmer. After one 30 minute lesson, my coach told me I looked like a completely different person in the pool. I was able to swim as long as I wanted to. After 7 lessons, I had all the tools I needed to succeed in triathlon.

      On the off-chance that you live in the San Diego area, I would be happy to connect you with my coach. Or try asking around your local tri community. A google search might work too! Believe it or not, I met my coach through a street fair 😉

      Best of luck in your half!

      Reply
  • Cassidy

    September 19, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you for the parenting advice on top of everything else. Parenting my 10.5 month old son is one of my biggest fears. Up to this point parenting has really just consisted of keeping him alive. But now we’re getting into the “hard” part. I know he’s smart and I know he’s going to challenge me constantly, and the only thing I want for him is to be happy, healthy and safe.

    Reply
    • Swim Bike Mom

      September 19, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      Parenting is the biggest challenge. But gosh when we lead with our heart AND mind—I think it’s the magic. Easy to try and protect them from the world. Hard to let them fail..but learning to do both—that’s the good stuff.

      Reply
  • Lindsay Waibel

    September 19, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    Meredith, thank you for continuing to share your story. You have such a gifted talent for the written word and I enjoy reading every blog you write. This one particularly made me smile. I’m only running at the moment (training for NYCM) but do want to get out there on the bike with you soon.

    Reply
  • Nancy

    September 20, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Good post. Your inclusiveness is exactly what this amateur sport/hobby needs more of. Mainly for the people that have lost sight of the fact that it’s an amateur sport/hobby.

    Reply
  • Hale

    September 21, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Yes. Agreed! And now, why not apply Safety; Acceptance; Tools to camping? And go with your family! I say this because I treasure the lessons I was taught camping as a child. I am comfortable in the wilderness, even after dark, even without a flashlight… or a gun. I love the way life becomes distilled and minimalist at a campsite, the challenge and delight of cooking outside, the building a fire and having a friend for the night. Yes, surely, your children will have this experience when they go camping with the Expert, but it is not the same if you do not go as well. My father was a banker who always wanted to be an outdoorsman, he was small and awkward but determined and he took his family to the Appalachian mountains every chance he got. My mom did NOT like camping – but she went, every time. Yes, she was sometimes miserable, hates pit toilets to this day, and made us eat SPAM burgers – which I hate to this day. However, it is the only time I climbed mountains with my mom, or saw her wear flannel, or watched her perm frizz out. It’s one of the only places I watched her let everything go: I must have been about 8, we were having spaghetti for dinner, Mom and Brother were straining the water from the noodles, using the lid -on-the-pan method and the lid slipped and the spaghetti slurped out and went EVERYWHERE! All over the leaf and pine needle covered ground. Dinner was a disaster. It was ruined, 100%, and all my mom could do was throw her head back and laugh, cackle, laugh so hard on a picnic bench in her flannel and her frizzy perm with my teenage brother laughing heartily at her side. They were both laughing so hard they were crying – I can still see it. It still brings me joy.

    When I got curious about triathlon I found your blog, and I read it. I signed up for an Olympic two years ago. Then, last year I did my first 70.3 and re-visited the Olympic. This year I’m doing my second half and my first full distance. I have my own story about why I Tri and the ways in which it has helped me transform from my own loss – and you helped me with that! Now, maybe I can inspire you to go camping with your family – if nothing else, it means you can acquire more gear! and what triathlete doesn’t love more gear? With Love – hale

    Reply
  • Lori

    September 22, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    Most of the time you write exactly what I need to hear. Thanks. I’m coming to Augusta in 15 hours and doing my second half. Hope to see you there and perform the triathlon version of “I’m not worthy” by Mike Myers. A tad bit worried about ? They go after the slow, the old, and the chunky. I’m literally that exact description.

    Reply
  • robin

    September 25, 2016 at 10:36 am

    i so admire your ability to reach so many people in one post. Telling your story (if people want to listen) is one of the most powerful things women can do with their lives. Addiction, whether its food or alcohol or drugs is SO hard to talk about, especially in such a raw and emotional way that you do. you’re amazing; don’t let anyone tell you different. Coming from a mom with 2 boys. food issues, etc…… thanks.

    Reply

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