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Courage sits on my desk in the shape of a good size rock and on a piece of paper under glass.   The rock is heavy and so were my burdens at one time.  The paper is my freedom.  It tells me that Courage is doing something even when you are afraid. "I have a theory about courage.  I don't think it's a moment of bravery when you have a rush of adrenaline.  Courage is something level, a kind of force that sustains you.  And that's what it takes to face difficult things,  to make it through life successfully."

Day 28,  Beyond Layers.   Write about the Bravest Moment of your Life.  Now that is a challenge because from where I was to where I am today there were many brave moments,  and in each of those moments courage got me through.   Most of you know my history,  my background so I'll tell you what I think was one of my bravest moments.  Not only was it a Brave choice but it took a lot of courage but at the end of my adventure I knew I had made a Giant leap to healing and faith.  Faith in myself.

I knew way back in 1976 that I was in big trouble.   I tried not to look at it hoping it would fade into the background.   Instead it grew and grew like James and the Giant Peach until one day it just busted wide open and there I was,  lying in my pool of fear.   For three and a half years,  unless it was absolutely necessarily I did not leave my house.  It seems my Peach had a name and  she was called Agoraphobia.   It really isn't necessary to go into the details of why she decided to pay me a visit or why she decided to stay so long but lets just say...she wore out her welcome.   

I could not go out anywhere.  No church,  no movies, no travel and no shopping.   No concentration so no reading,  no television and no peace.   I was able to take care of my son but not like I would have liked to.   I was frozen in my fear.   It took many years, lots of really hard and brave work to get myself somewhat better.  it was done in baby steps.  The way most fears are conjured. Baby step by baby step I made it.   When I say I made it,  what I mean is that I could finally get outside,  go to the store  and some times I could go to church. I had to sit in the back and by the isle.   Better than my couch though.  The fluff was leaving my head a bit at a time and I felt hope slipping in..not completely but it was knocking on my door, telling Agoraphobia to take a hike and she was getting ready to pack her bags.

In 2000 I picked up a camera for the first time.   I had taken photo's before but never seriously but in 2000, when my brother was dying I found the camera to be my friend.  We went into the woods together and the healing  started.   I felt comfortable there amongst the tree's and the forest smells.  The sounds of the birds and the quiet filled my aching head.  Peace even in the face of death.   That's how it began.  From there it was a steady progress to kick my demons to side of the road one courageous step at a time.   Getting stronger each day,  week,  month and year.

One day as I was reading a photography magazine I came across a photo tour that I knew I would love. It was a photography tour to the back country of Yellowstone National Park on horseback. What a dream that would be.  I loved horses and I now loved the country and of course my camera had become my best friend.  I showed it to my husband and right away he responded "let's go.  Let's do it."  I don't think  I can was my response.  I don't think I could be away from my family, my hospital,  my life lines.  I don't think I could do it without panic attacks and I don't think that is a good place for flipping out when the price of a helicopter out is $7,000. 00.  And who knows if you can even get a signal on a cell phone out in the back country.   I would dream about that trip though and I really wanted it.  After all the ad said it was for beginner photographers and beginner riders..So I took every once of courage I owned and we signed up.

Panic set in as soon as the payment left my mail-box.   Courage stick with me now.   Don't let me down.  We packed,  we flew.  Oh My God I'm in a plane...somewhere in space.   We got there and we saddled up.  Scared beyond scared and then we set off.   Fifteen minutes into the trip,  my horse tripped,  and I was done.  I wanted out.  No way to get out..we were in and that was it.   Courage you get back here right now.  Hoof by hoof deeper into the back country I went with my camera gear, eight horses and riders, eight mules carrying food for a week and our tents.  No phone, no lights, no bathrooms, no heat,  no control.   Bears though, where were the bears.  I knew for two nights that they would come and eat me.  They never showed up.

Then one night under those stars, surrounded by a quiet that was only interrupted by the sound of the bells on the mules,  I knew that this was one of the bravest things I had ever done.   It was beyond my comprehension when I left home what I was in for.   Sleeping in a tiny teepee with a cool whip container for my toilet,  soaking my butt in the stream after 8 hours on a horse because it was like raw meat,  pain, physical pain, in my legs,  feet and back from holding on.  I had dodged tree's when the horse got to close.  I learned how to use a hole in the ground.  We brushed our teeth moving around so that the bears would not get our scent.  And no shower for a week because if you could see how that was done you would rather stay dirty. What I learned about myself and the people that I was with was worth every inconvenience that I suffered.

I learned that I liked being up at 5a.m with my photography teacher studying the bugs and the flowers and shooting  macro.  When the others would get up we had breakfast over an open campfire.  After a long day on the trail,  shooting waterfalls and rainbows and sunsets, there was also a wonderful dinner cooked in the night air by a great couple of Yellowstone guides.   I learned to trust and love my horse Hawk to get me up and down canyons.  I was so scared I could have used my cool whip container on a few of those long and careful trips straight down.   I really learned what a meadow was,  not what I dreamed it was.   Grass and color and flowers for as far as the eye could see and some it so high it touched your thigh.  I learned how to filter water for drinking.  I even learned how to cross rivers with water up to my knees, protecting my camera gear and holding Hawk with one hand.   Most importantly that night,  in the field of dreams,  I learned to trust myself.   I learned that I could do whatever I set my mind on.  It would not always be easy but I would not surrender to fear.   Courage and bravery would travel with me wherever I went after that trip.   For someone who had spent years never leaving the house and years before that afraid of most everything,  the freedom was palpable.   

I will leave this page of Bravery with a little story from that trip that tipped the scale for me.   Two Yellowstone Field guides,  one male,  one female.  Both delightful.   My first real cowgirl.   Her and I became really good friends during that trip.  I would watch everything she did.  How strong she was,  how brave she was.   She handled the food, the mules,  broke down tents and went ahead as we moved to new locations and set up for us when we came in from the field.   I was feeling a lot of stress one day knowing that I had to go down of the canyon that we had come up on.   I was really scared and didn't sleep all night.  The next day as we travel, she was leading 8 mules, fully packed,  down the canyon behind us.  The trail was really tight and so those of us on horseback had to edge up the hill into the brush so that she could pass with the team.   Effortlessly she went by and I was in awe of her bravery and courage with those animals.   That night,  after dinner, we were sitting by the fire having coffee and I told her that I thought she was the bravest woman that I had ever know.  So self-assured and moving along like she was going to a party and dragging those mules as if they were her guests...She looked at me and Cheryl,  you have that wrong,  you are the brave one here.   I was stunned.   You see,  she said,  I am in my element and you are so out of your box that on the first day I predicted that you wouldn't make it the week.   You showed up in all your jewelry,  with your camera gear and country ways and I knew you were clue less as to how this week would go. Never once have you complained or refused to do your part.   You were scared on the first day but you pushed through it.   I have never seen another woman come here and take on this task like you have.   Your the brave one.   Who knew.   I sat there and cried and I remember those words today each time I feel stressed or think i can't do it.   

That trip was life changing for many reasons and while I couldn't wait for that week to be over for the pain of it,  when it finally ended I was so sad to leave.   I knew as sure as I know my name that I will never do anything that brave again and I am thankful for every moment that I was there.   

I have since been on many photo tours,  rode many horses and now I have found another Cowgirl who has the same soul as my first Cowgirl friend. I can honestly say that was a wake up call for how much we can learn and change if we open ourselves up to possibilities that life will bring our way.  There are days when I still have some anxious moments.  They are few and far between.   When they feel like letting me know that they are still there if I would like to visit with them,  I slam the door in their face and go outside for a walk in my Wonderful World.    Here's to Cowgirls, me included, with spunk.

"You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.just change their height and hair color. No one ever once has recognized him or herself in my fiction. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better."  Anne Lamott

"Whatever you're struggling with is a reminder for you to find true purpose in your lifetime." - Deepak Chopra


My Five Photo Dreams

1. To conquer Photoshop

2. To do a Coffee Table photo book of my photo's and quotes.

3  To share my love of photography with the elderly.

4. To teach my Grandchildren the love of nature by taking them to parks and teaching them how to do photography.

5.  To continue to learn and read and write and to always attach a photo to enhance the vision.





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Reader Comments (8)

This brought me to tears. When you post something like this, Cheryl, you help anyone and everyone who has faced the same problem and wondered, "Can I get through this?". I have not had that particular problem, but certainly many others. Mostly, after reading this, I think, we MUST meet up some time. Maybe it will be in Yellowstone (a place we both love winter and summer), maybe in Maine....maybe somewhere else. But also, I am left wondering: What is that piece of paper on your desk????

Cheers, girlfriend!


April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVirginia Rivers

Thanks Virginia for your lovely comment. I am always so ambivalent about writing the truth about myself. I do believe though that maybe it will help someone else and for me, it is part of who I am.. Where I came from. You are truly so sweet.
The piece of paper is the "quote about Courage meaning to do something even when your afraid. It reminds me that nothing is impossible if you take your courage with you....Have a good night Virginia. xoxo

April 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterCheryl Crotty

Your photo grabbed me - your story drew me. You are brave. Thank you for sharing your story.

April 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

Amazing story, Cheryl... Thanks so much for sharing a part of yourself and your courage to overcome debilitating challenges. So proud of you and happy for you!

Blessings - kimB

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterkimBinAK

Thank You Carol and Kim for your visits and kind words. It's always hard to put yourself out there but I also find it healing. And it's wonderful to meet new people like all of you here.
Have the best weekend...

April 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercheryl c.

Oh my gosh! I could cry...for your bravery and courage and for the fear you had but didn't show it! I'd have needed more than that cool whip container!! 🚽🚽 This is an amazing story...more like a mini inspirational book. Print these and Sit them around in doctor's offices for good reading material. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 🐴🐴🌲🌲🎪📷🔦🚽🛁

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBeverly

at this
stunning story,
my Dearest Cheryl . . .
more amazing to me
is that you felt this was difficult to put onto paper?
It's such an honorable accomplishment . . .
I've never done anything so brave in my life,
except to continually try to love and forgive those who tried to instill fear and shame in my teenage mind and body.
But to put a finger on one incident is something I must think about.
Thank you for sharing this with me . . . I had never read this before . . .
I was aware of your Agoraphobia demon . . . but not details.
At this point in my life, I'm feeling I'm developing other phobias,
so am more than grateful for this story.
I also loved understanding more about your relationship with Cowgirl!
I have had similar bondings with a few people in my life, based on my past.
It's all so fascinating, warm and deeply touching.
Sending you ever so much love and again,
a gazillion thanks for sharing your life, story and inspirations . . .
But, does the fear of travel ever go away?
xox a xox

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAntoinette

Not sure why I was never here before but it feels like I was in another lifetime. Kindred spirits :) I have always thought you brave for voicing your thoughts in public and putting them to actual words. I can do it in person but to write it down is a different story all together. You were right... I really enjoyed this ride. I've often wondered what drew us together, initially, it was an unexplained connection, most people wrote us off as an unlikely pairing. Look at us now...7 years later. Thanks for taking me on this ride of courage. I'd love to go on one with you in Yellowstone someday, I've always wanted to go there. Your animals are tamer, braver, or used to cameras. Your grandkids are really going to enjoy this one when they need the strength of their grandmother to face their own ride of courage. Ride on!

March 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn (Heart Sister)

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