#leapfear Day 16 – Melissa

Melissa is one of my heroes.  In fact, until I had read this post, I thought she was the most fearless person I knew.  Every conversation or Facebook post seems to reveal a new facet of her brilliance.  Yup, she rode her bike across Canada.  Doesn’t everyone do that??

But that is the beauty of this project, isn’t it.  These women are revealing parts of themselves that we would otherwise never get to see.   I think this is an extraordinary gift for all of us.  To gain insight to the minds and hearts of each of these women.  To learn that ALL of us face fear in one way or another.  The difference is our attitude and willingness to confront it with an open heart.  I feel humbled to have be here with them.

Melissa came with her mother and her daughter (just to watch but so much fun to test lights on;) to this session.  I included a few photos of them below.  It was hard to find a time to get her mom into to the studio because she is just so busy.  You know, just the usual things like quilting and book clubs.  Out most days.  The pure joy on her face as she stood in front of my camera just warmed my heart.  You can see why Melissa is the way she is.  She is most definitely her mother’s daughter.


What changed that made you realize you were living a life of fear?

As an impulsive ‘seize the world by its balls’ type of gal, I have never lived a life of fear. Perhaps this is because I leap so quickly into situations before fully thinking of all that could possibly go wrong, or perhaps this is because I know that thinking of all that could possibly go wrong would prevent me from living an adventurous life full of growth.

However, this does not mean that I have not felt fear. I felt incredible fear when my mom was diagnosed with cancer 17 years ago, fear each and every time my son had to undergo surgery starting at six weeks of age until he was four, fear of telling my family and friends that my marriage was ending, fear of starting to teach at a new school, fear of putting myself out there to date again, fear of catching an edge as I am flying down a hill on my snowboard…my list could be endless. Fear can be found everywhere but is nothing more than an obstacle created in our minds. Each time I felt real fear, it was because of the stories that my mind created, and often those narratives were way worse than the reality of the situation in front of me.


Once you realized that you were living a life in fear, what stopped you from moving forward? What held you back for so long?

Most of my fears propel me into action. They inspire me to try to try to learn more or do more to change my mindset. My mom’s cancer diagnosis impelled me to cycle across Canada raising $24,000 for cancer research. My son’s surgeries moved me to join the Family Advisory Council at the Children’s Hospital. This was my modus operandi for much of my life…until my marriage started to disintegrate. Here, the fear felt debilitating, that “this” could not possibly be happening to me.

Although I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, instead of taking action to try to better the situation, I kept myself busy with work or any other project so that I could avoid facing my dissolving relationship head on. Fear of courageous conversations, of accepting sad truths, of ending my marriage had me stuck, and being stuck is a horrible place to be. I was afraid of being a statistic of failed marriages. I was terrified of hurting my two kids for the rest of their lives and having them become another statistic of a broken home. I was fearful of telling my parents, wrongfully assuming that they would see me as a failure. Hell, I fully viewed myself as a failure. All of these fears had me stuck for two, maybe even three years. It wasn’t until my best friend said “Melly, what’s wrong? It seems as though you have lost your spark.” that I realized that I was no longer living my true courageous life. My spark had been dimmed by being stuck by my fears and damn it, it was time for me to start living my truth again, for my spark to shine brightly.

Once you did take the leap, what did you have to let go of?

I had to let go of the notion that I could fix everything on my own. I had to realize that asking for help and support does not mean I am weak. Mostly, I had to let go of all of the fears that my mind falsely created. Every single fear I had was so opposite from the reality that awaited me. My children, although sad that our marriage ended, are thriving and really seem to have adjusted well knowing that both their parents always have their best interests and well-being in mind. Rather than view me as a failure, my friends and family offered me nothing but love and full support. And instead of viewing myself as a failure, I see myself as a courageous example for my children as I model a life where one is responsible for creating their own joy.

Once you let go, what did you find on the other side that was worth taking the leap?

Pure friggin’ joy! I found my true happy self again. I found out that when people offer help, they actually mean it and really want to be of some assistance. I found out that I can actually fix a lot of stuff myself around the house (thank you Google and Youtube!) and that I feel even more empowered as a female doing so. I also found a new and improved me on the other side…same silly adventurous Melissa, but one who is more mindful and reflective and at peace with herself and her world. And now that I am in a new loving relationship, I think that I am a better partner due to all I have learned throughout this journey.

What would you tell someone whose fears are still holding them back?

Get out of your head!!! Now!!! I came across this quote and I know it to be true: “Fear is not real. It is the product of the thoughts you create. Danger is very real, but fear is a choice”. If I paid heed to every fearful thought, I wouldn’t have lived in other countries, backpacked across half the world, or let Anita take pictures of me wearing make up.
My advice: Meditate. Practice how not to attach negative emotions or stories to your thoughts. Don’t let fearful thoughts become a runaway train in your head. There are so many events and people that will come into your life, invited or not. You will have no control over any of them. But you can control your thoughts and actions. Choose living your truth. Choose joy and happiness. Choose to let your spark shine.

Is there anything else you would like to share with people on the blog?

Yes, and Anita better share this in its entirety. I think that anyone who knows Anita, and certainly every person who has been a part of this beautiful project of hers, knows that she is an incredibly courageous and inspirational woman. I ask that each of you ask her, as I have done, to let herself be featured as the last day of this #leapfear project. To me, this would make this project come full circle from her wonderful mother to herself, her mother’s beautiful daughter.

[Nice try Melissa.]