Dear Sierra Sage,
What I know about you is that you are 14 years old, you love whales, you are an EcoHero, and that a few days ago you had a bad head injury at a horse riding event. Your mother tells me that you are doing well now, and that one day soon you will need to get back on the horse. She thought maybe I could say something useful to you about courage and perseverance.
To be honest, I’d feel a bit of a hypocrite writing to you about overcoming fear, as I’m having a bit of a struggle with fear myself at the moment. In fact, you may not be scared at all of getting back on a horse, as younger people don’t suffer from many of the fears and anxieties that adults manage to create for themselves. So this letter is at least as much for my benefit as for yours.
I headbutted the wall of my cabin yesterday, when a huge wave struck. Not as bad a head injury as yours, but it still hurt like hell as the impact travelled down my spine into my chest and back. And I’m a long way from the nearest ER. Luckily for me, I don’t need the ER.
I wish I could say that, like any truly rufty-tufty adventurer, I immediately set my jaw, stiffened my spine, and went back to the oars, but I would be lying. I spent last night in my cabin, strapped to my bunk, feeling rather sore and flinching every time another big wave clobbered my boat.
However, today I am feeling better and a little braver. After all, there’s only one way to get to the other side of the ocean, right? And it’s the same ocean, and the same boat, and the same me, as before my mishap. The only thing that has changed is how I feel about it. Before mishap, not scared. After mishap, scared. So I can go back to “not scared”, just by choosing to adjust my mindset. But that’s sometimes easier said than done.
So I’ve thought up a little trick to give me extra resolve. Writers often talk about the smell of fear (probably not a very nice smell) but I’ve never heard of the smell of courage, which probably smells better. So I’ve decided to fill this niche in the market. The smell of courage is (cue roll of drums)…. Tiger Balm.
I was rummaging through my First Aid kit yesterday, and found a little pot of it amongst all the more sophisticated medications. It’s a very pretty pot, glass with a metal lid (no plastic!), with an oriental design featuring a tiger and Chinese characters. On the label it says it is “Effective in relieving headaches, stuffy nose, insect bites, itchiness, muscular aches and pains, and flatulence. Apply gently on the affected area.” (Wondering what the “affected area” for flatulence would be – suggestions?!)
I rubbed some on my neck, shoulders and back, massaging it in well, as they had absorbed the impact of the headbutt and were very sore. I don’t know what the balm has in its “secret herbal formulation”, but don’t worry, it doesn’t have tiger-derived ingredients. It is named for its inventor, whose name in Chinese means “tiger”. It smells good. Not the kind of fragrance you’d want if you were going on a date, but clean and invigorating.
Even just inhaling it makes me feel better. It seems to clear my head and make me feel calmer. Maybe you can get some, too. You don’t have to put it on – just take a good deep breath of it before you get back on that horse, and remind yourself that it is the smell of courage. Your mother could probably do with a hefty lungful of it too – I think she will be more nervous than you are.
Good luck with the horse-riding. Be careful, Be courageous. The world needs you, and so do the whales.
All very best
Conditions continue extremely rough. I took the day off from rowing today to allow the bump on my head and the ache in my shoulders to ease. It’s dangerous to be out on deck with such big waves on the rampage, so I’ve mostly been in the cabin. Very stuffy in here, and the air now heavy with the scent of Tiger Balm. Phewee!
Will keep this blog short(ish), as don’t want laptop and self to go flying across the cabin again. Sooner we are returned to the safety of Pelican case and bunk respectively, the better.
Quote: “There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.”
Photo: Keep on keeping on – the Atlantic
Sponsored Miles: Thank you for contributing: Tom Pollack, James Malone, Leslie Fish.