Years ago I read a book called ’Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. It’s a really encouraging read, with great strategies to help you deal with your fears and move forward with your life. It has led me to some wonderful adventures, and this was one of them.
Ever since I can remember, I have been afraid of birds. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching little birds at our bird feeder and larger birds swooping overhead. However, if they get anywhere near me I’ve been known to flee. I’m the woman who shrieks and jumps out of the way when an oncoming pigeon’s radar gets muddled. I’ll even knock you out of the way to get out of his. I know it’s irrational, it’s just something about the wings.
Anyway, a few years ago I realised that it was not healthy for my young son to see me so afraid. When the opportunity to participate in a falconry day arose, it seemed the perfect opportunity to experience feeling the fear and doing it anyway so I signed all three of us up.
When the day arrived, I was very open with my son about the fact that I was afraid. I wanted to show him an example of someone facing their fear and for him to see that it could be pleasurable and rewarding. On the plus side, it was a great way to teach him a powerful lesson. On the negative side, it left absolutely no wiggle room for me to get out of handling what it was quickly becoming apparent were some seriously large birds. Oh, and not just birds, Birds. Of. Prey.
We started with the biggest bird, a Harris Hawk, and worked our way down to the smallest.
It seemed a rather backwards way to do it, but no one else seemed to mind. To make matters worse, if I had any doubts that these birds were anything but trained wild creatures, they were quickly dismissed when I had to hold part of the frozen carcass of a baby chick to encourage the Eagle Owl to fly to me. The trainer suggested I turn my back to ‘catch’ it.
I’m seriously glad I did. Check out his wing span – you can’t even see my head! But then something wonderful happened. The owl turned his head to look at me, and the trainer suggested I stroke its chest. Although I have a huge aversion to feathers, I screwed up my courage and did it.
The owl seemed very content, and although I can’t say I liked stroking him, I felt comfortable enough to continue doing it for a minute or so while he sat, good as gold on my arm. In fact, it was only because he was so heavy that I was eager to stop. By the time we got to the little Screech Owl, I can honestly say I felt comfortable.
I wish I could say I will no longer knock you down if you are beside me and a bird flies at me, or that feathers and wings don’t make me cringe. I can’t, but what I can say is that if the opportunity to do another falconry day arises, I will be first in line. And even though the day I ‘felt my fear’ of birds and ‘did it anyway’ was ten years ago my son still talks about it, as well as the lesson we both learned. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway really is life changing – and sometimes it’s not just life changing for you!