Why I’m Having Coffee With My Fears

Why I’m Having Coffee With My Fears

You might think someone planning to sail across oceans might be afraid of storms, pirates, or running aground. But as Colin and I prepped for the next phase of our adventure, I was completely calm about those things. Instead, the strangest things threw me into a tizzy.

We’d signed a contract for a Garcia 45, but the options list made for a hefty spreadsheet of choices, and now it was time to finalize the specification.

Going into the process, I was equally excited and scared. How lucky were we to build our dream boat? This would be so much fun! But I also desperately wanted to approach it as a certain person—a successful one who radiated calm and confidence. One who made decisions based on a rational balance of safety, simplicity, and comfort.

The last thing I wanted was to become the person who got all twisted up in emotion, losing the ocean for the waves. So I approached the task using my strength as a planner: by reviewing, researching, and organizing every data point, photo, and opinion in my digital notebook. I felt ready. Jazzed, even.

Then the builder gave us one additional option and everything fell apart.

Suddenly, I had random freak-outs about the last things you might expect. I woke up in a cold sweat after nightmares about poorly placed electrical sockets, clashing fabric colors, or forgetting to add extra deck cleats.

By trying to keep my fears at bay with logic and notes, I’d built a fragile house of data cards, and it only took one more to topple the entire stack.

Still, I tried to rationalize myself out of ridiculousness. Who cared about a plug, for goodness’ sakes? This was the likely only time in my life I’d get to do something this cool and I should enjoy the journey. My internal dialogue went something like: Enjoy this, damnit!

And, yeah. That worked about as well as you might guess, which is to say, not at all.

Distraught at how I was failing to be the person I wanted to be, I remembered how I’d conquered those bigger, life-or-death voyaging fears the first time around—the storm, pirate, and shipwreck ones.

I hadn’t ignored them. That would have been both useless and dangerous. I’d done research, but that only went so far.

What finally made me comfortable was having coffee with my fears.

What on earth do I mean by that?   

Like all emotions, fear is simply a chemical messenger. Nothing more, nothing less. Neither good nor bad. It has a job to send a message from my subconscious to my conscious brain when there’s a threat to be wary of.

If a messenger knocks and I ignore it, what happens? It hasn’t yet done its job, so it will return. The next time, it’ll knock harder. If I still shoo away, it’ll bang, then yell, and then ring the doorbell a dozen times. Until eventually, it’ll pull the fire alarm as the only way to get my attention. That’s when I find myself in a life-or-death freak out over electrical sockets.

There is a simple alternative, of course.

Open the freaking door, Cheyenne.

Back in 2018, fears with names like Storm, Pirate, and Shipwreck I’d deemed worthy enough to listen to. I’d let them give me their full spiel, invited them in for coffee, asked thoughtful questions. I’d listened until I fully understood what they needed to communicate.

By doing so, I gained clarity on the potential issue, so I could control what was in my power and ignore what wasn’t. And I gave my fears the ability to tick the box that said they’d delivered their messages so they could go home.

Six years on, not one of them has returned to darken my doorway.

But in 2024, I’d been more judgmental. I’d discriminated against fears with silly-sounding names like Electrical Socket, Fabric Color, and Deck Cleat. I’d deemed them unworthy of my attention. As a result, they got ever-more aggressive, until my mind was like a house full of smoke detectors, all shouting at me to change their batteries—now!

Of course I couldn’t enjoy the process.

So I finally brewed a big pot of coffee and grabbed a journal to have a discussion with every messenger that came a knocking.

Hello, Electrical Socket. Nice to meet you. What do you have to tell me? I see. How bad could it get? Hmm. How might I handle that if it happened? Gotcha. Ok, and how might I avoid it? Great. Appreciate your help. Thanks for dropping by.

Hello, Fabric Color…

And so on.

If you were paying attention, you may have noticed another messenger I also had to invite in—one that had nothing to do with the boat. Its name was Successful Person, and it was alerting me I might fail to achieve the perfect boat. Also that people might not like me if I got too melodramatic about the small stuff. That I might disappoint myself, even.

This time, I listened. On reflection, I realized an A- dream boat would be amazing. So would a B- dream boat, for that matter. And while other people’s opinions were outside my control, I could try acting in alignment with my values.

Process done, all those messenger alarms except for one fell silent, and I got excited again. It may be a while before we can actually set sail in 16 months, but I’m already buzzing with anticipation for the next milestone - finalizing the specifications and making our boat a reality - even if it’s only on paper for now!

That said, there is still one more Big Daddy fear I’ll go into next month. I’ve had to invite it in many times to hear all it has to say, and I may need to a few more before all is said and done. But this time, I know to leave the door unlocked. :)

How about you? What fear have you been avoiding that might benefit from a coffee date? I’d love to hear about it if you’re willing to share.

Fair winds,



A few snaps from the past month

I explored a B17 radio operator’s job at the Palm Springs Air Museum while Colin tried on a different role. ;)

I had a gorgeous time at my Aunt & Uncle’s house in Palm Springs. This pic is with my Mom.

And while neither my sister or I get very starstruck, it was still unexpectedly fun and surreal to visit Hollywood Boulevard. :)

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