Fear and relief coursed through her body in equal parts. She silently begged the door to open as she was terrified of who would be on the other side. And then she was face-to-face with a middle-aged woman with her hair pulled back in a messy bun who smiled quizzically. She stammered, “I had some…car trouble…. May I borrow your phone?”*
***‘Til next time…bum bum bummmm…***
This is Shark Week, and I’ve been thinking about fear. The only time I like being out in nature is in the ocean, but people keep telling me about the sharks and sending me articles and videos of people talking about the sharks. We are supposed to be very concerned about sharks chomping our arms off, and I get it. I’m starting to let the shark fear damage my calm.
And then yesterday I went to the dentist and a show on the TV while the hygienist cleaned my teeth tried to make us scared of The Germs. This germ expert had put a hidden camera on a receptionist at an office and recorded her eating chips and wiping her mouth and touching the keyboard and paperwork and we were supposed to be Extremely Scared of the germs and the junk food. All I could feel was anger that this expert was chip-shaming this woman on television and encouraging her to do chair lifts and eat cucumbers and use more Purell.
Fear sharks! Fear germs! Fear chips!
And this month is the anniversary of my car wreck. This whole year I’ve relived the accident every single time I’ve been behind the wheel of the car. We are fragile, crunchable little humans. I’ve feared another car smashing into me again every time I’ve gone through an intersection. I can finally drive without screaming…I thought until yesterday.
But on the way home from the dentist two different cars pulled out without looking and I slammed on brakes and honked the horn and kept breathing. I was fine. No screaming. Look at me with the fine mental health.
Then two squirrels prancing together like frolicking little friends crossed the road in front of my van. They made it safely. They were together and fine. It was a Disney film. But at the last second, one darted back toward my car, and I heard the crunch under my tires and I screamed and screamed and stayed in my car in the garage to get all the scream out before I walked in the house. Getting in the car is scary and living is terrifying.
We are all so fragile.
We all have fears and we have an entire industry telling us what to fear next. When Elliott was a newborn, there was an article in my mom magazine about rabies and bats. One night, Alex woke up thinking he saw a bat and I was terrified the bat had gotten Elliott because the article said we wouldn’t be able to see the bite. These leathery little beasts would night-chomp our tender babies without our knowledge. I freaked out and Alex wasn’t even sure if he saw a bat or just a huge Georgian bug or maybe just the cobwebs in his dreams. I went nuts with rabies fear. This is what the magazine wanted so I’d buy more magazines about All the Horror.
Since the moment I realized there was an embryo snuggled into my fluffy endometrial lining, things changed. D.C. traffic took on a whole new light as I whizzed my car in and out of moving death machines. “BABY ON BOARD,” I’d scream hysterically at other drivers, who thankfully were unaware of my protective enthusiasm.
Over the last many years, and last week, and yesterday, and this morning, I broke up with fear. I have to keep dumping him because I keep deciding to hook up with him one more time. Fear is my bad boyfriend. But I’m breaking up with him today. Again. I am unfriending fear. For the one millionth time, and I will re-unfriend him again tomorrow if I have to.
If you struggle with fear, too, we have to help each other. And so we confront fear and we tell each other to be brave, to go out, to live our lives and do the best we can. We won’t let fear drive us inside ourselves. We won’t let it rob our joy, or our kids’ joy.
And R.I.P. Squeaky the Squirrel, who died valiantly on a wild adventure with his friend.
Hey, and don’t forget to enter to win my Christmas in July giveaway. I’m super excited to send you presents. Not scared at all about that.
*If this is your first time reading about my mystery woman, it’s summer, I’m being weird, and see my last posts for the beginning of this short story.