Over and over again in life, I learn that fear of something is always worse than whatever it is I am afraid of—and I got that lesson in a major way this past week.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling hard. I didn’t make it to the gym (except once last week), I had insane pain in my foot, and I was extremely worried about major dental work I had pending, and how that would affect my ability to work out.

I was terrified, especially of the latter.

Amazingly, the pain in my foot is gone, and it’s like it was never there. I saw first a massage therapist, then a chiropractor, and I used essential oils on it, too. It no longer hurts anywhere, although I will admit that I have not yet tried to run on it.

Then there was the dental work.

If you know me, you know that I’ve needed major dental work for a very long time—thousands of dollars of dental work that I didn’t have the money for. So this past weekend, I attended an extraordinary event in Santa Fe called Mission of Mercy, in which dentists, oral surgeons, dental techs, hygienists and other volunteers come together, providing free dental work to hundreds of New Mexicans in what is billed as the state’s largest charity event.

I went with my son-in-law, both of us in a lot of tooth pain and both of us very worried about the outcome of our adventure to Santa Fe, which very early on took on mythical overtones, like a quest to slay a dragon.

We went to Santa Fe and got in line around midnight. There were already 100 people or more standing in line.

It was a frigid, blustery night, and the spot we were in had some qualities of a wind tunnel. Even with my heavy winter coat over a jacket, over my clothes, it was still quite cold. But the people in line were cheerful—even as we waited through the long, freezing night.

We got inside around 6 a.m., after the local fire department had brought coffee and extra blankets somewhere in the wee hours of the morning. Huge teams were set up for triage, to decide what the top three priorities were for each person’s teeth. For me, it was three extractions, and two badly broken teeth were the second priority, with fillings and a cleaning as third priority.

For my son-in-law, it was a tooth that needed a crown.

Then I waited for the extractions—and that was the thing I was really scared of. I’ve had teeth pulled before, resulting in a long and painful healing process. I thought it would be weeks before I could really work out at the level I have been doing. I didn’t see how I could run, or really push myself lifting weights, for example. I dreaded it, and feared the worst.

I saw a total of five dentists that day, and the one who pulled my teeth was so very kind. She saw how scared I was and really set my mind at ease.

Then it was back to wait some more, this time for the partial dentures that were made for me on the spot.

Meanwhile, another dentist came along and fixed the two broken teeth, and did any fillings I needed at the same time. He looked at the priority list I was carrying around, and said, “We’re just going to fix all that,” and he did.

This all happened Friday. Amazingly, as I sit and type on Monday morning, I have no pain anywhere in my mouth, including the sites of the three extractions, which are nearly healed already. Not only do I have no pain today, I had no pain at any point during this process.

Now I’m not saying this experience is typical of going to the dentist. It certainly has never been my experience before. What I’m saying is that my fear of how it might have been was so much worse than anything that actually happened.

My fear that I’d be walking on a spike of pain forever, ending my budding running career before it even had a chance to start, turned out to be totally unwarranted. My fears that I would have to drop my goal of participating in track and field events at the Torrance County 50+ Games were just that, fears. Likewise, my belief that it would be weeks before I could really work out again is unfounded.

So where does this leave me? I’ll bet you can guess. Time to return to the plan.

My plan is to eat good quality food, keeping refined carbohydrates in check, while getting some form of exercise every day. My strategy for that is still to find the exercise that I think is fun. In other words, this hiatus filled with pain and angst changes nothing.

How have you handled setbacks, real or imagined, in meeting physical fitness goals? You can contact me at 505-286-1212 or leota@lobo.net, or join the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to hear from you.