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LakePontchartrainCausewayThis week I am focusing my Daily Positive Points emails to be on overcoming fears so I thought it would be a good idea to post a few ways to eliminate them. These techniques worked for me and might offer you some ideas to help eliminate yours.

Step 1: Focus on What you Want & Why– When I was younger and just starting to work on self improvement, I decided I was going to conquer my lifelong fear of bridges. Without going into where and when it started, all I can say is that it was an extremely powerful fear over my life. For years and years I avoided them at all cost in the car and NEVER, EVER would I attempt to cross by foot. I knew I needed to do something about it so on a business trip to New Orleans, I saw an exit to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway bridge. Yea, that one. You know, the longest bridge in the world over water. I will post an article on that event later this week on my blog but the bottom line was that I failed miserably. I also put other people at risk for my unprepared attempt to eliminate that fear. Before you start to attempt to overcome a fear, focus one what you want to accomplish and why. Don’t just jump into it without proper preparation. They come in steps 2 & 3 below.

Step 2: Visualize a Positive Outcome – Before embarking upon eliminate one of your fears, take a few minutes beforehand to visualize the outcome you desire. Actually, take as much time as you need to actually see in your mind’s eye overcoming the result. This would have worked for me by visualizing me with my fists in the air at the other end of the bridge screaming out, “YES!” If we can’t even visualize it, you can be that we cannot do it. So spend the necessary preparation ahead of time to visualize success.  P.S. This techniques works at school, preparing for the standardized tests, work, and anytime you want to achieve a goal.

Step 3: Take Action, Stay Focused, & Celebrate the Success – Now that you have prepared the mind, the time has come to take action and face the fear head on. Don’t focus on your nervousness, that will go away AS LONG AS you stay focused on the outcome. Keep seeing in your mind’s eye the ultimate goal and success.  When you achieve the success, it is important to celebrate. Overcoming fears is one of the most powerful tools we have to create an amazing life.  However, please do not worry if you did not face the fear with a success today, make up your mind to face it again when you are ready.

These techniques worked for me and maybe they will work for you. Just remember that jumping into eliminating a fear without the proper prep can be dangerous. Even though I did eventually get to the other side of the bridge that day, it was absolutely one of the worst experiences I have ever had.  I also put others in danger in the process. Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from counselors to help guide you to eliminate your deepest fears too.

With gratitude and peace,
Bill

I found this great quote the other day and put it in an image. I thought it was powerful so I thought I would share.
Enjoy!
With peace and gratitude,
Bill

Fear Emerson

And now, the REST of the story…

Cold and frightened to death, we asked a crew member if we could get a blanket.  We were wet from standing outside and we were shivering.  The crew member actually told us we could “rent” a beach towel.  I looked at the crew member and said something like “You have got to be kidding me.”  I reluctantly paid the lady but I guess it didn’t matter, we were going to be dead soon.

It was now completely dark outside and a new format for the rocking began.  Front, back, left, hold, left some more, hold, left even more, bottles crashing, then right, hold, a little farther right, hold, some more right, more bottles crashing, other crashing sounds, and people crying.  The lefts and the rights started to last longer and longer.  Left, left some more, a little more, hold, even more, hold, even some more and just when I thought we were going to go back right, the boat would slide even more to the left.  I was now officially terrified.  All kidding aside, we were seriously going down.  To make matters worse, there were some Spanish speaking crew members screaming at each other and dropping some sort of measuring device off the sides of the boat and reeling them in.  They would yell at each other with a look of horror in their eyes.  I don’t speak Spanish but the communication was very clear.  Abandon ship!  “You have got to be kidding me!”

Have you ever wondered what your last words in this lifetime would be?  I never really gave it much thought before this time but mine would have been, “You have got to be kidding me!” along with several expletives.    Yes, my final words were going to be cuss words.  I am doomed for eternity for sure.  I would end up taking the hell express and I had my very own toll tag so I could skip the lines.  You were supposed to enter the afterlife on a good note, not cussing profusely.  For the remainder of the trip, I said absolutely nothing.  I held on to the table with one arm and seized my wife’s withered and swollen hand with the other.

Water, water everywhere, and the last thing that I wanted was a drink.

Now, too frightened to even open my eyes, I sat on the floor inside and hooked my arm around the leg of a table.  I started praying however, it got so scary at times, I could not even finish them.  “Dear Lord baby Jesus, please, … (CRASH, left, left, hold, hold, left some more, things crashing, people crying)  I was too scared to even pray and I know that cannot be good.  Each time I tried, the scene kept getting worse and frightened me even more. 

I understood for the first time why I was forced to memorized prayers as a child.  I am here to tell you, take some time to memorize at least two prayers.  Memorize them well enough that you do not even have to think to say them.  I believe this is how I survived that boat trip. 

I repeated the prayers over and over and retreated inward.  As I went deeper and deeper, the screaming and crying around me faded away.  I never stopped and to this day I wonder how many Hail Mary’s and Angel of God’s I said but it must have been at least 10,000.

All of a sudden, the rocking subsided and there were city lights ahead.  WE ARE ALIVE! WE MADE IT!  We stood up and held each other and cried.  There were bigger plans for us and somehow we got a second chance.  Life would be different from this point forward, however, first we had to get off the boat.  We waited and waited and watched as ambulance after ambulance come to the boat.  We waited over an hour and a half before we were able to leave.  We were then told that if you wanted to take the excursion the next day, the boat would be leaving at 6am.  I looked at my wife and said something like YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! 

As we made our way off the boat, we had to walk through some of the lower sections.  One area I recall very vividly was the casino.  EVERY single table was over-turned, broken in half, or on top of one another.  We found out that at least one man had died on the boat and that there were at least 7 ambulances to treat people with severe dehydration.  We got a taxi and went back to the hotel that we had checked out of earlier that morning.  While waiting in line to check back in, I literally could not stand up.  What was happening to me?  I had to hold onto something or I was certain to fall over.  I then discovered what it was like to have sea legs.  It is not really a good experience and I would not recommend it.  This continued for two more days but heck, I was alive.

We made it to our room but refused to talk about the trip.  We turned on the news the next morning to discover that it was the first time in history for a tropical storm to develop that early in the season.  WE WERE IN A TROPICAL STORM!  The seas got as high as 65 feet and the winds were sustained at 70 MPH with wind gust even higher.  The news went on to say that at least one barge at sea was sunk by the storm.  If we had gone one day before or one day after, it would have been no problem.  I am neither a statistician nor a gambler, but try to calculate the odds of us being on that boat, on that day, and a tropical storm flaring up on the exact location.  There was a reason I was on that boat, and I needed to understand why.

After the “Bermuda Triangle Tragedy” our household was banned from talking about it for nearly a year.  I was unable to watch any movie that had any kind of boat in it for many years to follow. 

As I look upon that event now, I can actually do so with gratitude.  I believe that the boat allowed me to face my deepest fear: Being on the ocean, at night, in a storm, in a tropical storm with no land in sight.  If I could make it through that, I could make it through anything.  Within months after the event, I started to seriously look for another job.  When the feelings of extreme fear came to me after that time, I could go back to that event to help me get through whatever fear I was experiencing.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to YOU!
Bill

Continued from previous post…

I had always heard that sailors hallucinate while they were at sea for long periods.  I never really understood it but now I am a believer.  Since it was too difficult to look at everyone else getting sick all around me, I had to look out to sea for the 2 hours that remained.  After my last #4 omen reminder, I snuggled up to the pole and held on for dear life.  While looking out into the eerie dark sea, I started seeing things.  I am not sure if it was stress or if it was my fears coming back to say “Hey, remember me?  Check this out.  How about this?”  I started seeing things like other boats in the horizon, planes, sea monsters, and a variety of other things.  At first, I would point them out to my wife to which she would look at me with worry telling me there was nothing there.  After a while, I stopped pointing them out to her.  Heck, her loss if she does not see the giant Loch Ness Monster following our boat.  Right after we hit the open seas, I started seeing these strange pockets of bubbles.  They could not be from our boat but I imagined Loch Ness was lurking close by just underneath the water waiting for the sushi dinner when the boat finally tipped over. 

Water, water everywhere, and the last thing that I wanted was a drink.

The time had come for us to arrive at the port on the island.  The entire time we were outside, there was a bar attendant giving us a play by play on the weather, the seas, and a multitude of other things.  I glanced off to my left and the sweetest thing I had ever seen showed up, LAND!  “Thank you, God!  You are an AWESOME God!”  I had already told my wife about an hour before reaching land that I would never, ever get back on a boat again and I did not care if it cost $10,000, I was going to take a flight back to Fort Lauderdale when it was time to leave.  At least the death would be much quicker than the excruciating six hour tour … a six hour tour.

Play by play Charlie then started to get animated and this made me very nervous.  He said, “THERE IS THE PORT, THERE IT IS.  I HAVE BEEN DOING THIS JOB FOR FIVE YEARS AND I KNOW THAT IS THE PORT.  I SEE IT EVERYDAY AND WE JUST PASSED IT!”  A few minutes later, the worst possible announcement came from overhead, “We have been advised that the seas are too rough for us to enter the port.  For the safety of the passengers we have been advised to turn back.”  TURN BACK?  Safety of the passengers?  Good thing for the safety of the captain he was nowhere in sight because I am certain it would have involved my shoe and a surgeon.  YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

Remember my fear of water?  Even so, in that moment, I stared at the island in the distance trying to calculate the odds I would be able to swim.  I actually took a step toward the edge thinking my chances were better if I jumped.  With all of the jubilation of seeing land completely gone, I looked at my wife and said nothing.  She knew what I was thinking.  I didn’t have to say a word.  But as the land disappeared, my hope for life was gone.  I was broken; stick a fork in me; I was done.  A six hour tour my, bleep!

Water, water everywhere, and the last thing that I wanted was a drink.

We stayed on the deck for another two hours and kept staring at one another in disbelief.  We did not say a word.  During that time, the tugboat captain said a few things like “That is not good”, “Oh!”, “Hmmm” and then finally stopped talking altogether.  Play by play Charlie stopped talking too so I knew we were in trouble.  The seas went from 25 feet to 35 feet to 45 feet to 55 feet.  With each wave getting higher and higher tossing us like an ant floating on a leaf in a storm drain after a downpour.  Things were actually looking worse.  Front, back, left, right.  Front, back, left, right.   Front, back, left, right.   Front, back, left, right.   This had been going on for about 8 hours now but the last ones started doing something like this:  Front, back, left, hold, left some more, bottles crashing, then right, hold, a little farther right, some more right, bottles crashing, other crashing sounds.

After over eight hours of holding it, I finally had to use the restroom.  I could not hold it any longer.  I was force to go inside.  I opened the door then quickly noticed that everyone was sitting on the floor.    The smell was awful but I had a mission, make it to the restroom.  As I walked, one of those “left, hold, left some more” came without warning.  I was thrust off my feet onto a poor older lady.  I said, “Mam, I am so sorry.”  I got up, adjusted my dignity and took a few more steps.  Then another “left, hold, left some more” had me propelled into some poor unsuspecting man.  I got up and said, “I am so sorry sir.”  I did this about 4 to 5 times before finally making it to the restroom.

The restroom wasn’t any larger than the ones you find on an airplane.  The ship was swaying back and forth so badly I couldn’t even stand up.  My head hit all four walls but I was determined to be a man and stand up.  However, after five minutes of struggling, I gave in.  I have never in my life sat down before.  It was a very humbling experience.  It was much harder than I thought it would be because I felt I had let myself down.  Sitting down, what is my world coming to?  Nearly in tears I let go let go and went.  My dignity gone, my head hanging, I noticed a few other men’s defeated expressions and knew we shared an unspoken bond that night.  

I made it to the deck and my wife glared at me as if to say “Don’t tell me you peed sitting down?”  I said nothing, but she must know what happened though.  The wind and the rain was getting stronger but I vowed to stay out there as long as I could.  Finally, a crew member said it was no longer safe to stay outside any longer.  We were forced to go inside.  Finding no comfortable place to sit, we found a spot on the floor next to a mounted pole that held up a table.  We found out very quickly we had to hold onto the pole because within minutes during a pretty tough wave we slid across the floor as if we were hockey pucks.  I looked out the windows trying to see daylight but several times all I could see was water on both sides.  Yes, water on both sides and we were on the top deck.  That can’t be good!

Water, water everywhere, and the last thing that I wanted was a drink.

There is one more post left and it will be posted soon!  Comeback and see how the story ends. 
Bill

Blogger’s Note: If you have not read my other blog post, FLIGHT or FLIGHT?, take a few minutes to read it before this post.  This story picks up  the VERY NEXT day after that flight.

Water, water everywhere, and the last thing that I wanted was a drink. 

After completing the horrific flight toFort Lauderdale, I was ready to tackle my next fear head on.  Well, I wasn’t really ready; I was swindled into taking this trip.

For as many years as I have known my wife, I have been very clear about one thing, I would NEVER go on a cruise in the ocean.  NEVER!  Somehow she listened to my repeated confirmations of this for the first 9 years of our marriage however she must have forgotten it on the 10th year.  For our anniversary, she bought a package deal that would have us sail to our death as a reminder of her eternal love for me.  I still can remember cringing as she said what her anniversary gift to me was.  I had bought her a beautiful diamond ring that took me a year to pay for it as her gift.  In return, she gives me a gift of death.  Was she trying to kill me?  Maybe she was thinking that I would never survive the flight or if that failed, the backup plan would be to drown me at sea. 

Her rationale was solid.  She had researched all over the globe to find the shortest cruise that was possible.  Her mangled belief was that if the cruise was short enough, I would be able to overcome my fear of the ocean.  Baby steps first.  She finally found the perfect death sentence, a Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas cruise.  “You can do it, honey! It’s only six hours!”  Her eyes were filled with hope and excitement, but all I heard was an eerie tune from my childhood.  Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…… a six hour tour, a six hour tour.

There were so many omens that morning it was mind-boggling.  When we woke up it was raining, omen #1.  We checked in and were told to “walk the plank” (at least that’s what I heard), omen #2.  Easels at every doorway proclaimed, “Warning, rough seas.  Take necessary precautions.”, omen #3.  Murderously, my wife pushed me past each one toward the biggest breakfast buffet on the planet, where I ate like I was not going to eat for the next two days, omen #4.

After swelling up my stomach, we went to find a place to sit.  I wanted to be near the top because I felt claustrophobic when I was inside.  I then realized that I tend to get very bad motion sickness, and never took any Dramamine, omen #5.  As we walked around to find our place, the staff lined seasick bags along the rails, omen #6.  We then noticed that for some reason, it was windy outside, omen #7. 

I thought to myself, “This boat is doomed and God has been telling me since I woke up not to get on it.”  With fear of the ocean sitting squarely on my shoulders and claustrophobia on my back, our boat headed off to my fateful yet calculated death.

Once we were undocked, we moved slowly out of the port.  I thought to myself, this is not so bad.  It was much smoother than I thought so maybe we would be ok.  Moments later, we hit the open water.  Hmmm, what was that?!  Is the boat already going down?  Wait, this was a short cruise, right?  A six hour tour……a six hour tour

The first hour of death row was not too bad.  Even though the seas were a little rough, my delusional mind thought that it would be over quickly since it was only a six hour tour……a six hour tour.  When we were in about the third hour of the tragic trip, we encountered higher and higher seas.  Ten foot seas became fifteen foot seas which quickly became twenty foot seas until a man next to me said, “I am a tugboat captain and I am on these waters every day.  That right there is twenty-five foot seas!”  He went on to explain how you could tell this by looking into the distance and watching what looked to be white caps in the distance rise and fall. 

Remember omen #7?  The rain had subsided however the wind picked up.  As the sea became rougher and rougher, it tossed our little 190 foot ocean liner like a tiny boat that you play with in your bathtub as a child.  Yes, THAT boat!  The one that you would always sink!  As we were tossed back and forth, I decided I would go inside the cabin.  As I walked in I nearly passed out, remember omen #4?  Well, it seemed that everyone in that room remembered all about omen #4 because it was everywhere.  The smell was excruciating so I quickly went back outside even though it was chilly.  Upon my return outside, the tugboat captain was consoling his son who had flown down from Long Island to go to a casino on the island.  His son’s head looked as if it was made of rubber because no matter how hard he tried, he could not hold it up.  His father pleaded with him, “Son, keep your head up!  Do not look down!  Look out into the distance but whatever you do, do not look down!”  It was too late, yet another omen #4 remembrance. 

Remember my omen #5, motion sickness?  I sure did!  My wife quickly found a waitress and asked for some Dramamine.  The waitress said, and I quote, “If you haven’t taken it by now, it won’t do you no good.”  Not caring about that I grabbed the pills and swallowed them because I was worried about remembering omen #4 myself.  I sat back on the heavy wood deck chair next to my wife.  I held her hand in an effort to comfort her because I knew she had to be scared.  Right?  I wish.  She was destined to sacrifice her hand for the remaining 3 hours of the trip.  Did I just say 3 hours?  …a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

As I sat back in the chair holding my wife’s hand, I started thinking in segments much like I did on the plane.  If we could just stay afloat for four more thirty minute segments we might survive.  While having a brief moment of satisfaction of the brilliant plan I had made, something happened.  Evidently we hit some sort of rough seas and my seat was suddenly and without any warning, catapulted toward the water.  I lost contact with my wife’s hand and I was hurdling to my death as my chair went screaming across the deck.  There was nothing I could do but watch my life go before my very own eyes.  SLAM!  BAM! My chair hit the railing and stopped.  I looked at my wife and said something like “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!”  I was nearly thrown off the boat!  I kid you not!  Nearly thrown off the boat!  Her eyes looked with sympathy knowing I probably soiled my pants on my short drag race to the rail.  “Honey, it’s going to be alright.  We only have two hours to go.”

Cussing profusely at the boat, the chair, the weather, the water, and anybody who got near me, I walked back to where I had been sitting.  As I did, I drug the 150 lb deck chair back to its original spot wondering how in the world did that heavy chair go 0-60 MPH in less than 2 seconds?  Ok, no more positive thoughts for me.  It’s doom and gloom from now on since the first positive thought nearly killed me.  I had a new plan, stand with my arm and legs wrapped around a pole that was mounted to the floor and do not move for the next two hours.  I couldn’t hold my wife’s hand so she would just have to rough it out on her own.

Nausea began to rise to serious levels.  In the movies, you see people get sick in public all the time, but when it happens for real it’s a whole different story.  I would not recommend it.  I held it as long as I could, then the #4 omen reminder emerged.  Embarrassed, humiliated, with tears in my eyes, I glared at the spectators like Maximus in Gladiator.  ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

To be continued…..  TRUST ME, the best part is coming!!!

Fear was controlling my life. I had always had a standard response to fears: avoidance. Choices I had made kept me from having to face them, but they had also kept me from realizing my dreams.

I had been claustrophobic for as far back as I could remember, and then I developed a fear of flying. When I was eight I almost drowned. Fear of the water led to fear of bridges, which led to fear of heights.

My loving wife decided she would help me take baby steps toward conquering my many phobias and managed to find a short cruise. Let’s see, that covers fear of flying, claustrophobia, water issues…yup, she had just about gotten them all in one trip! I cringed as she explained her gift to commemorate ten years of marriage was to kill me on a doomed flight or drown me at sea if that failed.

We got through security rather quickly which allowed plenty of time to sit and visualize multiple ways of dying. I anticipated crashing on takeoff, hitting another plane in mid air, having birds blow out an engine, and being caught in a major storm. Every imaginable crash was calculated and weighed to determine which was the most likely to occur.

I sat praying that our plane would not be one of those Buddy Holly crop duster planes, and it must have worked because it was even bigger than I imagined. How in the world would this beast get off the ground? I knew what our fate was, crashing on takeoff.

Feeling wave after wave of the fear of flying and claustrophobia, I actually could not buckle my seatbelt! Jeez! You have got to be kidding me! For a few moments, I thought I was going to black out. Sweating profusely and scared to death, I scanned my options. Should I take the flight or run for my life before they seal us in the tube of death?

As we started taxing to the runway, I paid attention to every single word of the safety features as if there was going to be a pop quiz during the flight. I actually wanted to ask a question but chose not to for fear of embarrassment. Since I knew there was a very good possibility of the plane crashing, I wanted to be prepared. As the attendant talked to the people in the exit rows about their responsibility in case of a crash, I was ready to scream. No one was paying attention. We are DOOMED and when we crash, these idiots won’t know how to even open the door. I decided to pay very close attention and read the entire safety manual just in case.

The time had come. We were about to hit the thrusters and head down the runway of death. All I could do at that time was close my eyes and pray that the plane would not crash before it got off the ground. Within minutes, we were off the ground and leveled off.

We were in the air for about an hour and a half and were scheduled to fly to Atlanta to switch planes. Wait, switch planes? Somehow I missed that memo! Take off, land, take off, and land again? This was going to be a very long day.

When we got close to Atlanta, we hit turbulence. The turbulence made me feel like I was sitting in one of those jump houses. I looked at my wife and said, “What the heck was that?” I had never experienced turbulence before, but I knew it was not good to be “bouncing” around in the sky. She told me what it was and gave me a physics lesson on turbulence trying to convince me it was a natural thing. “It’s going to be alright, honey,” she said softly. I thought, “No way, we are about to die!” It turns out the turbulence was caused by a powerful thunderstorm that was passing through Atlanta. Over the intercom, the pilot stated that we were going to have to circle until we were given clearance to land.
Trying to distract myself, I put headphones on to listen to some in-flight music. Maybe this would get my mind off the intense turbulence and lighting show going on below us. Bad, bad, bad idea! I will tell you this but you will probably not believe me. As I plugged in, the song that was playing was “…drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry,…this will be the day that I die.” Yes, “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie.” Realizing immediately it was about Buddy Holly’s plane crash, I quickly changed channels. On the next channel the song blared “…Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue….” A song by none other than BUDDY HOLLY! Yes, Buddy freaking Holly! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Ok, it is fate; we are crashing. I quickly unplugged the headphones and awaited my impending death.

Finally, the pilot came over the intercom and said, “We have just received clearance to land. It is going to be a bumpy ride so please stay seated with your seatbelt on. When the oxygen masks drop, be sure to put it on yourself before you try to put it on anyone else. In the event of a water landing, the bottom of your seat may be used as a floatation device.” Say WHAT? DID HE JUST SAY THAT? Well, actually, no. He did say something about clearance to land but somehow my mind switched to recalling the safety guidelines. Which way do I pull the door handle? Left? Right? Turn and push or turn and pull? Jeez, we’re doomed!

We finally landed and everything was all right. Well, that was until we were trapped in a tropical storm the next day for our cruise. You think there was a message in there for me somewhere?

It is easy to look back now and see how fears exaggerated my reality. Over the next several years I faced many situations just like this. When I started looking within for the answers to my fears, I discovered that by simply changing my thoughts, I changed my life and eliminated the fears almost instantly. The more I was aware of what I was thinking and changing the negatives to positives, my life shot off like a rocket! If you have any fears, face them, change what you are thinking about, then visualize a positive outcome. It is that easy. I tried it and wiped out everyone one of my many fears.