THAT'S LIFE: Facing a demon

Question: Ever been bogged down by fear of failure?

THERE comes a time in every person's life when they must reface their fears. Mine recently was taking my four-wheel-drive back on the beach - approximately 10 years after my first botched attempt.

Things hadn't gone totally to plan all those years ago. There hadn't been a plan, actually.

We'd been cruising down a remote beach road with family on board, trying to lull our youngest to sleep when it was suddenly suggested by the so-called adults that we "take it on the sand". Don't you love spontaneous ideas?

Middle of nowhere, no skills or gear, husband and wife decide to test the limits of what they would later refer to ironically as "the friendship". Hah!

Ten metres into the fun-filled adventure, we got catastrophically bogged. The upside was, we weren't in the tide line. The downside was, it seemed like hours before someone rescued us.

In the meantime, things went on that no child should witness. Lots of whining and squealing, which I like to think was the motor but more likely, it was me.

I'm still digging myself out of that situation at a relationship level. If only I'd deflated my tyres instead of inflating my ego. Still, you live and learn.

Well, perhaps you live because if you'd learned, we wouldn't have been lining up a rather daunting dune the other day, not unlike a bull at a gate, preparing to exorcise the 4WD demon.

I mean, preparing to embark on what was being pitched as a fun-filled afternoon of fishing. You wouldn't have picked it in the cockpit, given the emotional barometer. You would have thought we were in a stricken aircraft preparing to crash.

The same family members, grown up now, facing the same emotional scars.

The main question on everyone's mind: Was dad about to park the cruiser in Davy Jones' sand dune of death.

The difference this time around was the presence of a 4WD Svengali. A man who had emerged from nowhere, well it was up at a pub one night drinking with a mate. A man who claimed to know what he was doing, and who seemed disturbingly keen to share that knowledge with someone who didn't.

God, I loved that guy.

I'm gonna call him "Alpha", and not just because he was a male. I'm calling him Alpha because "Alpha Bravo Charlie" was what occurred to me the moment Alpha threw me a walkie-talkie.

Guys like Alpha have all the gear. Guys like me have an esky and realistically low levels of 4WD confidence.

Alpha's first move was to lower the tyre pressure just short of "flat" before heading off road.

Failure to do this, according to Alpha, probably explained why we'd failed so comprehensively first time round all those years ago.

Second thing Alpha did was issue instructions, which for a guy who makes his living in risk management, were breathtakingly simple.

"Floor it." Even I could understand that.

Without further ado, we took off at that dune like Donald Campbell, Dale Buggins and the Space Shuttle Challenger all rolled into one.

Halfway up forward momentum ceased and we started slipping backwards, perfectly mirroring morale.

Then Alpha squawked through on the two-way that we needed to be in low range. Gear he was talking about, not morale.

With that we floored it again and this time we soared over that dune, like a redneck ET, fears not so much conquered as put on hold till we had to get it off the beach later that night.

Then it was nerve-racking again but still fun. Well, I had fun. The rest of the fam just seemed relieved.

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