When I was a kid, I wanted to do anything my dad did -- even if it was something crazy like soccer training with full grown men. My dad was always a hero in my eyes.
My dad passed away 10 years ago after a fierce fight against cancer… with today’s eyes I see him as a flawed hero, but still a hero. I will tell you one story today that shaped me from the beginning in my life.
How to overcome my fear was one of the greatest lessons my dad taught me as a child. I still use it to this day. Here’s how my Dad taught me to move past fear.
Have any of you ever been terrified of darkness? I was! I can’t remember for how long but at least for a couple years I had to sleep with the hallway lights on in case in the middle of the night. I was waking up. If that wasn’t enough, our home was far from the population in town, not in the boonies but separated from the main town by a piece of land which in my eyes it was a dark spot, no lights there.
Darkness was my kryptonite for a few years, I want to say from 4-5 to 6 years old.
I was used to waking up in the middle of the night and calling my mom because of nightmares, almost every night.
The whole problem started right after a misunderstanding between my parents. One day I was taking a nap, my mom decided to go shopping with my brand new baby brother the moment my dad got home without telling him I was sleeping, so my dad did what he needed and left, locking the door after him. I was left alone in a big house. All of a sudden I woke up and I found myself alone and locked inside the house.
I panicked so much that I went to the pantry we had upstairs where my mom used to keep all the canning containers and I started throwing them out of the highest window I could reach.
Finally a very sweet neighbor, Isidre, walked by the house and said, “Gemi, stop throwing containers so I can unlock the door for you.” At that time the town was so safe that people locked the door and left the key at the outside just in case someone needed to go back to the house. Now it, seems surreal but then it was very common.
After that event, I had problems sleeping by myself and darkness frightened me so much that it affected the whole family’s behavior for quite a long time. Until that day, the day my dad thought enough was enough.
It was time to show me how to overcome my fear.
My Dad took me for a ride in his really fun Citroen 2-horsepower car, I think he taught me to drive that car when I was 8 or 9 years old.
He drove me towards my grandparents’ home, they did live in the boonies -- in the middle of nowhere surrounded by apple tree fields and in the middle their dreamy barn where I loved spending time.
At night there, the darkness was much darker than anywhere else. You could hear owls all night long from inside the barn. Of course I was little, I wasn’t used to be outdoors during night time there not because it was dangerous, it wasn’t, only because it was night.
My dad stopped the car a quarter of a mile before my grandparents barn, black night in the middle of nowhere. He took me out of the car, hugged me really hard and said to me “Gemi, I need you to understand what we are going to do now is only for your highest benefit, you will be free of fear forever.” I was little but always very responsible and whatever my dad was saying it was wisdom to me so I listened and did what he said.
“Gemi, I am going to drive to your grandparents, it is really close from here, you are going to walk to the barn. You might be scared but I promise you, nothing can happen to you because I will be watching you. But you have to walk, you can’t run. I need you to walk and listen to the noises around you, it’s nature -- nothing else. I will be waiting for you and all the time watching the path. You are safe because I will be there just waiting for you”.
I know, now it might seem bizarre, it might seem crazy, but when my dad said something it was always the truth. I knew he was watching me, I knew he was ready to run towards me if needed but most of all what I wanted was to make him proud because he always was very proud of me and had no problem and saying it in front of everyone.
So I did as I was told. I started to walk towards the barn. When I couldn’t see the lights of the car, I could see the light in the barn but my surroundings where very dark and scary even though it was only my grandparents’ property.
I kept walking and listening, turning my head around 300 times to see who was behind me, no one. My eyes adjusted to darkness so it wasn’t so dark after all. I could clearly see, God gifted me with a big moon that night too, all odds were in my favor.
I can’t remember how long it took, probably less than I think, or how panicky I was during the walk, what I do remember is the fact that every step was less and less to the point that slowed down my pace to listen and enjoy instead of being blinded by fear.
When I got to the edge of the apple trees I could see my dad’s silhouette with his arms wide wide open for me to know I completed the assignment and I could run to him. I did, I ran and he threw me into the air, which I loved, he hugged me for a very long time in his arms and then he asked me, “How do you feel now?” I said “Brave, I think.” He smiled at me and said, “Of course you do, you are the bravest girl I know in the whole world.”
And that was it! I don’t remember fear darkness ever anymore. It was his experiment, that turned well because he knew me and he knew I trusted him 100%. He made me overcome fear and not only fear of the dark -- I use the same principle today: when I fear something, I go for it because that is the only way to break through fear.
That was my dad, a self-taught innovator, Ha! By the way, today my mom will find out about this story, it was our secret…it took me only 40 years to tell!
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