Overcoming Fear: “Do It Afraid!”

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” This quote is commonly attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but according to www.quoteinvestigator.com that might not be so. “An exact match for this quotation appeared within a June 1997 essay by Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. She began her article with the statement: ‘Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out,’ and she continued by presenting a staccato sequence of items of advice aimed at young students,” reports Quote Investigator. Among those items was the phrase, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

If Roosevelt, a well-known social activist of her day, did coin this challenging saying, it was not based on a characteristically fearless nature. In her 1960 book, You Learn by Living, the late First Lady explained, “Fear has always seemed to me to be the worst stumbling block which anyone has to face. It is the great crippler. Looking back, it strikes me that my childhood and my early youth were one long battle against fear.”  Like Roosevelt, many of us have some kind of fear we must overcome to do anything worthwhile. Or else, we don’t overcome it and simply live within the confines it creates.

In a 2014 Washington Post article, “America’s top fears: public speaking, heights, and bugs,” the title includes the most obvious internal fears many of our country’s citizens possess. In a related 2016 USA Today newspaper column, “Survey reveals what Americans fear most,” more external fears were: 1) corruption of government officials, 2) terrorist attacks, 3) not having enough money for the future… [and even] 8) identity theft.

 

In his article, the “The Difference between Fear and Phobias,” Dr. Todd Farchione PhD writes, “The distress associated with the specific object or situation and the need to avoid it can become so intense that it interferes with a person’s life.” The Boston University researcher added, “It’s this interference with everyday life and ability to function normally that turns a fear into a phobia.”

What keeps you up nights worrying? For many people something like having to make a public presentation at work can be a real anxiety inducer. Personally, I have been a public speaker for 25 years this month. I’m sure I must have been beyond terrified that first time when I spoke at a storefront church. Still, due to professional training and decades of experience speaking at about any kind of venue imaginable, I rarely get excessively nervous before an upcoming event. But a very real fear that affects my everyday life is driving in heavy traffic. Being involved in a serious car accident a decade ago produced this particular anxiety.

I can’t rationalize this fear away, since distracted drivers are everywhere, texting, talking, and even overdosing on heroin on I-75. Many individuals I encounter also seem to have some sort of fear or even deep-rooted phobia they grapple with. Often, these issues cause daily anxiety and keep them from doing the very things they are called to do. For instance, I have a relative who has no problem driving in big city traffic, who would rather have a tooth drilled without Novocain than to fly on an airplane. After all, the fear of flying is another one of those activities that lots of folks dread.

Joyce Meyer knows firsthand about overcoming the fear created by a childhood filled with sexual abuse and dysfunction. Today, the national speaker who leads a worldwide ministry encourages others to “Do it afraid!” whenever she addresses the topic of fear. Whatever you want to do in your life, you might have to do “it” with your knees knocking together according to Meyer. There might be that sick anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach, too. However, when you make a decision to do whatever it is that you are afraid of doing, with some divine assistance, you can find the courage to succeed in accomplishing almost anything.

Joyce Meyer always tells others to, “Do it afraid!” Whatever fear it is that you need to overcome.

Maybe that is what this year’s graduates need to know. The world seems scary. The economy is volatile, and the job market is erratic. But follow your dreams no matter how frightening or impossible they seem. Follow them one baby step at a time, never allowing fear to stop you from achieving your goals. As Meyer says, just “Do It Afraid!” That’s what I do whenever I get behind the steering wheel of my SUV and head for the Interstate.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

Thankful for the Gift of More Time

Martha Farmer 034 Martha Farmer 037 “It wasn’t your time,” the body shop technician said matter-of-factly surveying my husband’s wrecked car. As Nate, whose name was embroidered on his work shirt, began wrapping the totaled vehicle with clear plastic; I dutifully gathered my personal possessions.

Just days before, the black sedan’s pristine finish glistened in the sunshine. Now, what was left of the car was a reminder of how blessed I had been to survive.

“It wasn’t your time,” was the twenty-something auto-technician’s advice on how to conquer the anxiety about driving that my 2008 accident created. I often think of Nate’s simple theology.

His statement reminded me of something German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote in his Letters and Papers from Prison, “We all have our appointed hour of death, and it will always find us wherever we go. And we must be ready for it.”

Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who refused to sit idly by as Adolph Hitler killed millions of Jewish citizens during World War II. Instead the German leader joined a movement to have Hitler assassinated, resulting in his 1943 imprisonment. Bonhoeffer’s own appointed hour of death occurred in 1945, when at only 39 years of age he was hanged at the Flossenburg concentration camp.Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I’m not comparing my situation to the slain scholar’s, because I felt blessed to be alive that afternoon. After all, a few days earlier while driving in heavy four-lane traffic I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a car rapidly approaching. My frantic mind quickly realized that there was nothing I could do. Suddenly, I heard the sickening sound of crunching metal, and felt the forceful impact that propelled me forward quite a distance.

Miraculously, there was no vehicle directly ahead, nor had I been pushed into an adjoining lane. Momentarily dazed, I gratefully assessed that my injuries were non-life-threatening, although they would require a trip to the hospital. The young man whose vehicle’s front end had connected with my demolished back end assured me that he was ok, too. “We can always get a new car, but we can’t replace precious people,” was a philosophy that I had been taught by my late mother.

Thankfully, I knew my husband agreed with my practical view of totaled automobiles, since I just “happened” to borrow his car that day. Providentially, Larry’s vehicle “was” proven to prevent injuries in crash tests. It lived up to its promise, even though it resembled a folded accordion after the wreck.

photo (2)There were several other remarkable occurrences surrounding the event. When dressing the morning of the accident, my treasured angel pin, a gift from late Jewish Holocaust survivor, Elisabeth Sondheimer, seemed to sparkle warningly as it fell to my bedroom floor. Then before leaving, my normally rushed school administrator spouse stopped uncharacteristically to put his arms around me and say a quick prayer.

I had also placed an antique picture of Jesus standing behind a sailor who is navigating a ship’s wooden wheel behind the driver’s seat that day. The portrait depicts the Jewish carpenter with one hand lovingly resting on the young seamen’s shoulder and the other arm extended, pointing him in the direction he needs to go amidst the turbulent seas.

I had taken the inspirational artwork to give to a colleague who was encountering some rough seas of his own. When cleaning the car out at the body shop, I found the glass and wooden framed picture undamaged just as Nate was sharing his wise advice about it not being my time.Jesus is my Pilot

The borrowed car, the angel pin, my husband’s spontaneous prayer, and the antique picture are all reminders of my own belief that God is always in control, even when life seems randomly chaotic. However, my greatest blessing was the fact that apparently it wasn’t my “appointed hour of death” as Bonhoeffer once wrote. Because someday, death “will find me,” just as it finds us all, since nobody gets out of here alive.

If you disagree with Nate, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and me, perhaps you will like the wisdom in the song lyrics of the former hit, It’s Not My Time by rockers, 3 Doors Down. “My friend, this life we live is not what we have, it’s what we believe. And it’s not my time. I’m not going ….” Hopefully, you and I are not going today. For now, we’ve all been granted the precious opportunity to spend more time with those we love, and to finish our work on this Earth.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an inspirational speaker and Amy Award winning freelance journalist. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  

YMCA Fitness Trainer Triumphs over Tragedy

         DSCF1746 Some folks will probably make a New Year’s resolution about fitness, and many will end up breaking it. That’s why Calvin Cooley doesn’t believe in them. The YMCA certified personal trainer who is also a paraplegic, feels that, “New Year’s resolutions are very ineffective, because people will make a resolution to get into shape, but if it doesn’t happen three months ago, they give up.” Due to his own disability, Cooley, 44, knows firsthand how challenging maintaining a fitness program can be. He has been lifting weights for more than twenty years believing that fitness is a lifelong commitment.

Calvin first moved to rural Shelby County from Columbus when he was only eight. His inspirational story begins on August 10, 1988, when the then 19-year-old was riding his motorcycle. “I went into a corner too fast and got into the gravel and overcorrected.”

Cooley ended up in a field, but first he, “Clipped a fence post, and hit my back….that’s what caused my spinal cord injury,” he said. He was careflighted to Miami Valley Hospital and spent the next three months recuperating there. He soon realized that he would never walk again.

Today, the dark-haired Cooley is one of those consistent people you can count on to see the bright side in every situation. He works with individuals of all ages and fitness levels in his job as a personal trainer at the Sidney Shelby County YMCA.

“But, back then I was up and down emotionally. I had a very brief [suicidal] thought,” he recalled, “It was so brief it almost didn’t count, I just felt if I would do something so selfish as suicide…I would have cheated my family and friends out of an opportunity to spend time together.”

While he was at Miami Valley Hospital he received a visit from another paraplegic named Timothy Witten. Cooley had never met the West Milton man before. Witten had been injured in an automobile accident the year prior, and his visit was a great encouragement.

Calvin had been diagnosed with a T4 spinal cord injury being paralyzed from the nipple line down, and needed to learn how to live as a paraplegic. “It requires a tremendous amount of discipline to take care of yourself,” he said. There was also the emotional component to deal with.

“In May of 1989 I woke up one day very depressed, it was a beautiful day out…” Cooley asked himself, “Why should I continue to feel this way? I changed everything. I made a choice not to be depressed.”

Part of his path of overcoming occurred in 1991 when he began lifting weights with his friend, the late Karl Jonas. Normally, the two enjoyed playing Frisbee in Sidney’s Tawawa Park together, but that day Jonas invited Calvin to his gym.

Then another buddy, Dwight Meyer gave him his first membership to the now defunct Pump-You-Up Gym. Lee Sprague served as his original trainer and mentor. “My goal was to be able to get from the floor into the wheelchair in case I should fall,” explained Cooley. It remains an important goal, and “the most difficult thing for me to do.”

Calvin not only lifted weights but he also gained experience as an employee at a couple local gyms including Sidney’s Power Station Fitness. Then in 2002, He started going to the Sidney Shelby County YMCA. The YMCA blessed him with a membership, and Calvin felt one way of paying them back was to assist members using his weight lifting expertise. He was also volunteering in the fitness center training youth.

Before long, he was hired by the Y, but obtaining his personal trainer certification wasn’t as easy. The tenacious Cooley even visited the YMCA USA national headquarters in Chicago to convince the organization of his ability, since they had never certified a paraplegic to be a trainer before.

On October 4, 2004, history was made when Calvin Franklin Cooley became the first personal trainer to receive the YMCA USA certification. Besides, helping YMCA members with their fitness programs, once a month you will find Calvin attending a support group of Spinal Cord Injury survivors at Dodd Hall/ OSU Medical Center in Columbus.

Just like his friend, Tim Witten who once came to offer support and answer his questions about life as a paraplegic, Cooley attends meetings primarily to assist others.  He tries to, “Pay it forward.”

One would have to look pretty far to find anybody more inspirational than this bigger than life fitness trainer who has definitely triumphed over tragedy along his own road less traveled. Until next time, for all of you who made fitness resolutions, keep pumping that iron.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. The article first appeared in the Sidney Daily News.