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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Saltzman

Overcoming Fear, Experiencing Adventure

I am not, by nature, an adventurous person. I grew up with the constant warning of “Be careful, you’ll hurt yourself.”

Yet a couple of weeks ago, I got on a horse, maybe for the second or third time in my life. After all, how could I resist the enthusiastic pleas of my granddaughter?

“Let’s go horseback riding for our special date,” Selam requested during a phone call.

“Horseback riding. Hmm. I don’t know. I haven’t done that for many, many years. I’m not sure if I feel safe.”

“Come on Moo. You can do it.”

“Let me think about it for a few days,” I replied.

After we hung up, I thought about the pros and cons: A fun day with my granddaughter doing something she loves. Or a broken leg. A conquered fear. Or a hard fall on the ground. What to do?

That night, I had a dream. I was with Selam, and she convinced me to slide down a huge wooden structure covered in royal blue terrycloth. I was hesitant at first, and then agreed when I saw how much fun she was having. It was a blast. I took the dream as a sign that maybe horseback riding would be OK.

Not one to forget, Selam called back a couple of days later. “Have you decided yet?”

“Yes, I’ll do it.”

“Yay, Mooie. Thank you.”

The day arrived. I was a bit nervous as we drove to Bear Creek Stables. The fact that we were running late didn’t help.

“Are you a good, average or poor rider?” the leader asked when we rushed up to the window to sign in.

“Poor,” I said while thinking, that doesn’t begin to describe it. Yes, Irv and I had ridden a camel in Israel and an elephant in Thailand, but those hardly counted, as we were carefully led on a tight rope by an experienced tour guide.

As I climbed on the gentle Maleficent, my throat went so dry I could barely respond to the guide as she showed me how to hold the reins, get the horse to turn and to stop.

I lined up behind Selam, and the ten horses began their slow march away from the stables. A few minutes into the ride, I began to relax and actually enjoy myself. The leisurely, mellow ride across the stream and through the woods, with birds chirping and the sun warming my back, was calm and beautiful. Maleficent was easy to ride and wasn’t even spooked when a bicyclist crossed the trail in front of us.

“Did you have fun?” I asked Selam when we got back to the stable.

“Yes. Did you?”

I could honestly reply that I did. Not only did I overcome my fear, but I also had a memorable adventure with Selam.

On the ride home, I reflected on other opportunities I had reluctantly, at first, accepted to challenge myself with adventures. Each of those activities had required the support of friends, a leap of faith and some serious self-talk. A few examples:

  • Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef with the encouragement of my friend Sally. To prepare, Irv and I took the certification test on a blustery fall day in the murky Chatfield Reservoir. The diving in Australia, by contrast, though a bit intimidating, was amazing. I was an experienced snorkeler, yet being down among the fish rather than observing them from above was a whole new, and gratifying experience.

  • Ziplining across Clear Creek with Rabbi Jamie and synagogue friends for Joanne’s 80+ birthday. I was petrified as I fastened the harness and the guide explained how to go hand-over-hand if we got stuck. On the first platform, I hung back, letting my braver companions make the first leaps. By the second platform, I was looking forward to jumping off and soaring through the air.

  • Rafting down the Arkansas River with employees of the city of Wheat Ridge when I was a reporter, covering the city. Of course, they made sure Irv and I were on the raft with the best guide and that we stayed afloat. They didn’t want bad press!

  • Riding down Highway 285 on the back of Tom’s motorcycle or flying in his four-seater plane when we got caught in an ice storm in Wyoming. I kissed the ground when we landed.

In retrospect, horseback riding was tame in comparison to some of these other adventures. I was proud of myself for once again not letting fear get in the way of a new experience. Not bad for a scaredy-cat, I reflected.

Even still, don’t expect me to be walking across an aerial tight rope or jumping out of an airplane anytime soon.

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