LEARNING – bravery and fear

I’m considering changing my middle name from Bonnie to Brave in honor of the tremendous act of courage I displayed yesterday morning.

I fed the pigs! Me. Myself. One lone woman against eight voracious hogs, and I was the victor. Yes, I was.

Now, I know some of you may think that this is no significant feat, but to me it was. With heart pounding and palms sweating, I had to conquer my fears and just go in and give the pigs their damn food. Now that it’s done, I’m not sure exactly what I was so afraid of… the unknown, the what ifs, the negative thoughts that always seem to scream louder than the positive ones… or maybe it was simply the fear of being bitten. But none of these were big enough or bad enough to keep me out, I made myself go into the mud pit and get the dirty job done.

Have you seen that movie that was out recently, ‘We Bought a Zoo’? In it, Matt Damon’s character, Benjamin Mee, tells his son: “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” In the movie he was coaching his son on talking to girls, but I think it works for pigs too. I mean, it’s always the first step that’s the scariest. Once you have that out of the way, the rest is easy.

I went to a dinner party the other night with my host family and one of the attendees said something that really resonated with me. She said “Every time you go outside of your comfort zone, your comfort zone gets a bit bigger.” This was from a woman who was, apparently, afraid of everything a few years ago and is now doing triathlons and skate skiing and whatever else strikes her fancy. Pretty amazing, right. She didn’t just talk the talk, she walked the walk or should I say ran the run. I have known this truth for quite a while now, but it was great to be reminded of it so succinctly.

I suppose I have a larger comfort zone than many people, but that has not always been the case. With every new adventure I try and every new destination I encounter comes another fear that I must conquer. Some of them may be small – like feeding the pigs, and some of them are quite large – like selling everything I own and becoming a vagabond. But every new thing I try, makes the next one just a little bit easier.

Everyones comfort zone is different and small or big in various ways. I envy people who can walk into a room and just talk to anyone in it. I am no good at this, at least not yet. I try to push myself and purposefully put myself in somewhat uncomfortable situations so that eventually I can be comfortable in them. Some people look at some of the things that I’ve done and think they could never do the same. But, it’s all about taking things one step at a time and little by little what seemed impossible becomes reality.

A few weeks ago, I saw a van with some advertising on it. Along with some other positive messages, written across the side was the phrase ‘Do one thing that scares you everyday.’ I hadn’t given it much thought until now. I realize that is just what I am doing. Maybe not everyday, but quite frequently. Big things, small things, some which are universal fears and some which are entirely personal. This phrase is about challenging yourself to be better and broader and ever more courageous.

A while back my mom asked me where I got my courage. I couldn’t think of a defining moment or even a series of events. I think courage and bravery are built slowly and deliberately by taking on challenges and not letting your fears limit you.

If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford

I have heard this Henry Ford quote a few times over the last several days and it is really growing on me. It is simple and to the point, and sums up a lot of the talk on the power of positive or negative thinking. If you already have your mind made up one way or another, in most situations what you think will happen is exactly what will happen. Mind over matter. Plain and simple.

When you come upon something that scares you, just pretend you are the little engine that could. “I think I can, I think I can.” And you will see that you can. Be brave little engine. Persevere.

Speaking of bravery – I witness it everyday. The kind people I am currently staying with, Clint and Karen Thompson, are quite the courageous couple. They are the owners and proprietors of the 144 Milehouse Ranch and San Jose Cattle Company. Four years ago they completely changed how they were operating. They went from the standard practice in this region of growing and cutting hay to feed their cattle through the winter and went instead to a practice of management intensive grazing with portable electric fences.

It was a complete paradigm shift.

They have 1200 acres of beautiful meadows and woods with a small river running through and are now ranching with a holistic approach. They have stopped the use of herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and they choose not to give growth hormones to their cattle. They have committed themselves to ranching in a sustainable manner and are striving to improve the health of their land, their animals, and their industry as a whole.

They faced and are still facing a great deal of adversity. The nay sayers and hecklers abound. Being one of the first ranches in the area to test these practices, they took a giant leap of faith when they took this challenge on. Every year brings more change and more results and some of those hecklers are now taking notice. They are some of the brave few who go out on a limb and lead the way for the rest to follow. They are truly embodying this quote, and I am proud to know them.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

So what scares you? Where do you get the courage to conquer your fears?


Thanks for reading!


6 responses to “LEARNING – bravery and fear

  1. I look forward to reading your blogs. They are always so interesting. Keep on with what you are doing and you will have a very exciting life.

    • Thanks Dianne! I’m happy you’re enjoying my posts. I try to write about things that interest me with the hope that others find it interesting as well. Still, every time I push the publish button there is a small fear that no one will like what I’ve written – I do it anyway and hope for positive feedback. Thanks! – Rene

  2. Rene, you are a great writer. You amaze me at how well you capture things and it is fun to read what you are writing. I think feeding the pigs was a big act of bravery – you didn’t mention the commotion those pigs make when they think it’s time to eat – and the bumping, and the teeth! Not that they have ever bitten, but the cherry pit chewing is quite intimidating all by itself! 🙂
    You have said such nice things about us – my hat hardly fits anymore.
    We miss you already.

    • Thanks Karen! Yes, those pigs were something else. I also forgot to mention that they didn’t eat the night before and so they were super hungry and pushy.I hope they keep their no biting record, for your and Clints sake. – Rene

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