Posts Tagged ‘fear’


When my cousin Rob was struck by lightning, he woke up under his own dining room table and lay there for a few minutes trying to decide if he was dead. He has never First Snowbeen a big believer in his own soul, so the thought that he might be dead and yet somehow still under the table cogitating caused him some concern.

Eventually he decided that dead would probably hurt less, and he crawled out, discovering in the process that while he was alive, all of his electronics were not. He never even found all of his cell phone. What he said later was, “Grandaddy was right.”

Our grandfather lived much of his life in fear of all things meteorological, plus snakes and moving water. In summer, he would squint at the horizon and say, “It looks like it’s going to come a thunderstorm.” In winter, he did the same squint and said “Feels like snow.” My mother grew up seriously afraid of storms and used to spend them in the (enclosed) staircase of our house, while my sister and I watched from the windows. She counted that as one of her greatest achievements—she didn’t pass on her fear.

And yet there is a genetics that goes deeper than experience, and that is why I am not a fan of snow. Where I grew up, snow was not your white, fluffy friend. Out in the country, people stayed put, or if they had to drive, they did so slowly, with chains, and even then sometimes spent the night in their cars when things went bad on Max Creek Hill or Lowman Hill. Nobody went joyriding in the snow because if you slid off the road somewhere, it might take days to dig you out, and in the meantime, who was going to take care of the cows?
So even now, I have a “Who is going to take care of the cows?” mentality. My Beloved has to get to work no matter what, because hospitals do not close due to weather conditions. Our friend the letter carrier will carry mail, and our friend the state police officer will patrol. I just can’t do the happy dance when it snows.

But there’s this: My Beloved was able to get home on Thursday evening before 81 shut down. By that time, the roads weren’t too bad, thanks to people who, metaphorically, take care of the cows. Our whole street came out to shovel yesterday; it was a party, albeit a little short on canapés and booze. Watching the dog trying to find a place to poop cracks me up. It’s the little things that matter, when the world slows down for snow.

This morning, I finished another quilt top and had bacon for breakfast for the second day in a row. The guys are downstairs watching basketball, and there might be music later. I have yet to be struck by lightning, and Rob does not pick up radio stations with his teeth, so perhaps the world is not as scary as I’m genetically programmed to believe it is.

But it will be okay with me if this is the last snow of the season . . .


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

One of my favorite blogs is Glennon Melton’s Momastery.  Her blog recently hit the big-time, and I hope she’s okay, because I love it and her, and one of the reasons is that she is so relentlessly, unstintingly honest.  And because she is honest, she said last week that “life done right is one long recovery process.”

 As a chronic worrier, catastrophist, and lifelong fearful person, this seems exactly right to me.  Almost every morning I wake up with some kind of dread bubbling inside, and every day is all about rejecting that dread and replacing it with joy; that’s a choice I make, not something that just happens to me while I wait for it.  I am a recovering fear addict.

 It looks like my Beloved and I will be going to Guatemala in March as part of the support team for 24 medical students.   My natural inclination is to find a reason not to go, and I have a selection of several good ones, starting with my family and working down to my hip.  But I’m going, not because I’m brave or anything, but because this is something I’m called to do, and the only way to stop being a fearful person is to do the things that scare me.  Plus, we already have the plane tickets.  None of this fills me with joy.

 What fills me with joy is the little, stupid things.  Friday night, my Beloved and I went on a retreat with the rest of the (huge) Guatemala team at a church camp facility north of Roanoke.  (It’s not like we’re going into the wilderness alone; we could have about 40 people as part of this endeavor.)  The group affectionately called the “old farts” had a cabin to itself, while the students divvied up two other cabins.  The Old Farts included the medical director of the trip and his wife, a non-medical couple who have been to Guatemala before, the guy who lived in Guatemala for 22 years and has three of his eight children still there, and us.  Oh, and a dog.

The dog, Copper, is a medium-large Labrador-mix-looking dog, and he is at that age where he is part dog, part furniture.  Before his mom got back to the cabin, I had him snuggled up in my bunk because I love dogs, and he was comforting.  Besides, the floor was cold, and my bunk was, and I put this mildly, a cross between a hammock and a banana.  No dog was going to make it less comfortable, but he might warm it up.

 Eventually, though, he had to go sleep on his pillow, and I was left alone in my sagging bed that twanged like a banjo in the hands of someone blessed with six thumbs, in a room with six other people who were also in various stages of discomfort.  Then the males (I think) started snoring.  From every corner of the room came a chorus of those little snorts and whistles that are to true snoring what tuning is to an orchestral performance.  Sure enough, the full complement of snorks and groans started soon thereafter, followed by the twanging of other mattresses as various wives sought solace in putting their pillows over their heads.  Obviously, sleeping in something like a “V” shape, I was not able to do this.

Then , when it seemed that the misery had reached its fullness and could not possibly get more miserable, Copper started sleep-barking.  Like the guys, he began with a few muffled woofs and growls, but soon graduated to a full-fledged “Hear me, forces of darkness!” bark, although he was clearly not awake and not barking at anything in this realm.  He quieted down for just a second, and then started sleep-howling. 

 And that’s when I had my moment of joy.  I am lying in a room with five people I barely know, my spouse, a dog, on the bed from Hell, and I am doing this so that I can go do something even worse.  I starting laughing quietly to myself, but since my bunk vibrated with every movement, it was soon adding an ee-ee ee-ee ee-ee rhythm of its own.  I wondered, “Am I nuts?  Are we all nuts?”  Probably.  But if I can spend one sleepless night recovering from fear, then I can do anything, and when I’m so old that I’m sleep-howling myself, I will have memories of more than just fear to howl about.

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