When I found myself a widow at the age of thirty nine it was a real shock. My feeling of security had vanished overnight. Not only had I lost my husband, but that job I had created for myself had suddenly disappeared overnight too. I was no longer a wife. I was a widow. And I was out of a job. And with it had gone the job security – which was my husband and the life I had made for myself with him. My identity had been ‘his wife’. Now I had another label. ‘His widow’! So many women live their lives in the shadow of a man, and I have been one of them. I had forgotten who I was and had became part of my husband. My identity had become merged with his. And so had my life. It had never really occurred to me that I could have one of my own!
But then suddenly life was thrust in my face. I was suddenly on my own. Not out of choice, but there it was laid out in front of me. Life. My whole life waiting for me. It was like a blank canvas to do what I wanted with. It sounds wonderful, but I was absolutely terrified! I had never really been on my own. I had always had a boyfriend, or a husband. Someone to support me, to advise me, telling me what I should do, what I shouldn’t do. I wasn’t used to thinking for myself, having to make all the decisions. Decisions which would affect my life. Big decisions, such as where did I want to live? What was I going to do? Who was I going to be?
Yes. That was a big decision. Who was I going to be? In fact, I hadn’t realized that I had been anything other than myself all those years. When we are in a situation it is very difficult to see the whole picture. Even when I was suddenly on my own I didn’t at first see how it had been. For a long while, and understandably, I still identified with my husband. I introduced myself to people as my husband’s widow, I talked to people from that perspective. But I gradually began to realise that it was holding me back. That it was keeping me in the rut I couldn’t get out of. It was as though I was running on the spot. My life was going nowhere. Fast.
And I knew what was holding me back. I knew what was preventing me from taking that one step forward which would kick-start the rest of my life. It was fear. Fear of letting go of the past, which had been my security. And fear of the unkown, which was the future. At that moment I was between the two. In a rut. Stuck in the mud with my wheels spinning. But, being a climber, and used to confronting fear in very different situations, I also knew that once you face up to your fear, you find that there is no fear. It is just the next thing you are doing. Fear is a perception of the mind, a block that stops us progressing in our life, doing the things we know we are capable of but are afraid to try. It is what stops us applying for that promotion, or training to become a lawyer, or telling our husband that we are going to become a psychiatrist and he’ll have to get his own coffee in future because you’re going to have life. Fear makes us turn away from challenges in case we fail. Fear makes us become someone else instead of ourselves, because we are afraid no one will like us. Fear, has a lot to answer for.
What I was afraid of was change. Change is frightening because it’s new, it’s different. We feel secure in our old habits; in our old ingrained ways; in the lives we are in, even though we don’t like them. That sounds crazy doesn’t it? We don’t like where we are, or what we’re doing, but we stay in the situation we’re in because it feels secure and we’re frightened to change it! And of course, as we know, acting in the same way as we always do, doing the same thing as we always do, generally results in the same outcome. Which is nothing changes. So….the only way to change things is to face up to the fear and step into the unknown. And once you do this you will find that it’s like rolling a ball down a hill. It starts off slowly and then gathers speed. And suddenly you find that the new, and the unknown, is nowhere near as frightening as you had feared, in fact it’s even exciting. You find new prospects and new opportunities open up for you. You discover resources within yourself that you never imagined existed, but that were of course there all the time. Hidden away, under all those layers just waiting to be re-discovered. And suddenly your life has the possibility of becoming so amazing that you wonder why on earth you never had the courage to do this before. And you want to tell everyone you know about it.
So I stepped through my fear. I left the security of my old life, I left behind the labels of wife and widow and I took that step into the unknown. That step into my new life, which was to take me somewhere I had never even dreamed of. The day I closed the door on my old life, took the risk of leaving my security behind me, and stepped into the unknown, was the first day of the rest of my life. And if I hadn’t had the courage to take that risk, I wouldn’t have climbed Mount Everest. For that is where it took me.
So face your fear and step into the unknown for that is where you will find yourself waiting…
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