I’m riding in the buckets over the park, like a ski lift only instead of powder below me it’s concrete and sharp fence lines. The bucket bounces gently as it moves along the cable and all I can think is “what do I grab onto when this whole thing breaks and I fall?” And just as I convince myself everything is going to be okay, the cable stops and we sway over an expanse of nothing at the peak of the Sky Ride. That’s a long way down. Joe squeezes my hand.

“I rode Cannibal,” I say, “And yet this stupid ride is the scariest thing I’ve done today.” I’d shake my head but I don’t want to make the bucket move anymore than it already is. I try not to cry as I squeeze his hand even harder.

“I’m proud of you,” he replies. “You’ve faced a lot of fears today.”

I nod and close my eyes. “But I don’t have to face them all, right? Because next time I’m walking!”

He laughs. So do I. And that’s when it hits me.

I am right.

I think sometimes we treat fear like cleaning out the garage. Attack it in one day, throw out whatever we can, and stuff everything else back on the shelves and VOILA! Everything is perfect. Right?

But it’s not. Because fear isn’t something we face once and it goes away. And fear isn’t something we conquer all in one day either.

It’s a journey… part of personal growth… not a destination to put in our rearview mirror. It’s about shifting our expectation for ourselves rather than believing growth means never being afraid.

So right there I claim a new expectation. I expect to be afraid. I also expect to choose when to face the fear, like riding Cannibal, and when to walk away, like I will the next time someone mentions the Sky Ride.

And I give myself permission to make any one of those choices without shame and without excuses or explanations.

Because only I can know when to push myself and when to give myself a freaking break.

Having fear doesn’t mean I’ve failed! It means I’m human.

The buckets jolt into movement again and I cry a little.

Maybe because I’ve realized it’s okay to be afraid.

Maybe because I’ve accepted that smalls victories over fear are still victories.

Maybe because I am loving myself for my efforts today and letting go of the rest.

But mostly, I believe, it’s because I’m high off the ground and I’m still terrified because all I can see in my head is the cable snapping and me getting impaled on the spiked fence below.

When my feet FINALLY touch the ground again, I hook my arm around Joe’s waist and snuggle under his shoulder.

“Next time, babe, let’s just ride Cannibal again.”