Thursday, September 12, 2013

What Are You Afraid Of?

What scares you?

I mean really, really takes you down, makes your cheeks flush as an icy cold tremor runs down the length of your spine and your hands get sweaty, makes your muscles freeze up and your stomach clench with a sick feeling that immobilizes you, makes you have nightmares for a week. That kind of fear.

When I was young, it was spiders. After a particularly high fever and hallucinations of spiders crawling up my favorite spotted blanket, I couldn't stand to look at them. I can remember a day when I screamed for my mom to come and save me from a black widow. It was on the driveway, and there was no way on Earth I was going to walk past it with bare feet. My mother rescued me, rolling her eyes. "It's just a spider. You should have killed it."

I get that now. Moms can't afford to be afraid of spiders -- we're too busy saving our children from them. (Bring on my shining armor already.) I may shudder in revulsion after squashing one, but I do it anyway.

Heights still paralyze me.

Not that I've let it stop me from enjoying life (mostly - I'll never have the thrill of jumping from an airplane or throwing myself off a bridge at the mercy of a bungee cord). I've hiked through Arches National Park - and yes, I did crawl back from Delicate Arch to the trailhead, but I stood at the edge of the cliff and looked down from under the Arch, and it was glorious. Until I started to feel dizzy.

I went to the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and rode the Big Shot. Three times! And roller coasters, well just try and stop me from going on every one I can.

But I still can't look when my husband climbs on the roof of our house.

Most people say speaking in public is one of their greatest fears. I used to agree with them. That was before I had to speak in front of about a thousand people (yes, literally a thousand). And I survived. Intact, even.

If you ever sit behind me when I speak to a large group, you'll see my feet shuffling, my ankles rolling from side to side, and possibly my knees knocking a little. At first. Once I get going, you'll be lucky to shut me up (I like to talk, I mean really, really like to talk).

I will never be accused of being agoraphobic. Bring on the crowds.

The greatest fear I have these days is for my children.

I was in the waiting room of the dentist's office when the first reports of Oklahoma City broke, and I sat with the receptionist, gaping at the television, in disbelief that anyone would choose to cause such destruction.

I watched as children were rushed out of Columbine High School, and I cried with a young man who was our neighbor. Neither of us could understand what would cause teens to do something like that.

And I'll never forget watching planes fly into the World Trade Center, and wondering what the world would be like as my children grew. The sick feeling from that event lasted for days as I watched people looking for their loved ones, posting picture after picture on the wall. I hugged my kids a lot during that time, grateful they were close to me.

The news is full of the worst possible scenarios. Horrified, I watched reports of kidnapped young women and prayed for their safe return. And I was stunned to hear there was a man who held three young ladies captive in his home for a decade. Aghast that a teenager was shot by an adult while walking home from getting junk food. Car accidents caused by texting while driving. Alcohol poisoning on college campuses.  Mothers and fathers who would never see their children grow up. The list of possible dangers is endless and could leave a parent unable to breathe.

And those are the things I have no control over.

I also fear that my kids aren't prepared for life. That I haven't done enough to teach them.

Parenthood, right? sigh

Sometimes I think my kids are fearless (except for spiders, which we've already established). But there are quiet evenings when they'll lie down next to me and tell me their worries, share their fears with me. I hurt for them, with them. And I do everything in my power to help them. I tell them they have no boundaries - they can be who they want to be, do what they want to do. And I encourage them, as every mother would.

But all I can really say is to never let fear stop them from accomplishing the things they want to accomplish.

It's great advice my mother gave me.

I'm still working on getting it right.

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