Meet My Friends, Irrational Fears
There’s a reason you won’t see me jumping from a high pier into the deep, dark ocean, like my nine year old daughter did today. It’s because I have Active Irrational Fears, and they are large and always sit very close to me, breathing on my cheeks with dubious breath. They are extra-friendly, never leaving my side, not even to hit the facilities! My fears are relentlessly loyal to me, and they also have camel bladders.
I have fears of the rational kind, too, but they’re less noteworthy because, as I often remind myself, some fears are normal, healthy even. People need a little fear to avoid a diminished lifespan–fear of getting squished in the road keeps us on the sidewalk. Fear of dying alone and thirsty in the forest keeps us from eating mysterious yet delicious-looking berries. Fear of an orange goggle tan keeps (some of) us away from the tanning bed.
The two fears I held hands and skipped with today are the ones I have known the longest. They are my closest pal, Fear of Heights and her interior decorator, Fear of Deep Water. I have tried many, many times to disown them, to set them aside and scotch tape a big letter A to their coveralls. “I want a divorce!” I said to my fears one time. “I no longer want sister wives!” I told them another time. They just giggled and snuggled closer. “I mean it this time!” I said as they shushed me and combed my hair with their fingers and stuffed bonbons in my face. Then I fell asleep and they unpacked.
A few times I’ve thought, if I can’t kick them out of the treehouse, I will meet them head on, in a duel! One time I signed up for scuba certification. But even in the rinky-dink community pool, once I was sucking on the regulator and envisioning myself in a murkier, saltier place, I hyper-ventilated. I may have forgotten to mention that tiny detail–I hyper-ventilate in deep water. Or sometimes just in regular water. Like a small, man-made lake. Did I mention I’m a great swimmer? As in, speedy in all four strokes due to years upon years of swim team? This is what I mean by irrational.
Another time I tried to battle the fears, I signed up to parasail. Over deep water. Attached by a dodgy rope to a rusty chain. Cranked high into the air. From a platform on the back of a boat. In the Philippines. I didn’t say I was smart, I said I was scared. My youngest child was three months old at the time, fresh off ten weeks of colic. So it’s possible I had lost my mind. I then tricked my husband into thinking this was a genius maneuver and he should join me in conquering my fears via tandem parasailing. He’d apparently lost his mind, too.
Parasailing was terrifying. From the minute my feet jerked off the platform until the moment my toe skin was removed upon landing, I was certain I was going to die. What’s worse–my fear infected Always Brave Ed. As our legs swung from the rope diaper high in the air, we blinklessly ogled the black clouds of an incoming storm, shallow breathing, together. “How could we be so stupid?” I asked him as we floated towards our impending doom. “We left no instructions for who should raise our kids! They’ll probably end up in box cars! Or like Flowers in the Attic! EW!”
You know when you fly a kite and it’s brilliantly soaring higher and higher until the yellow plastic handle wants to pull from your hand, fresh out of wound string? And you’re so jazzed, you wish you had looked up how to do advanced kite tricks on youtube? Suddenly, your perfect kite catches a weird piece of wind and for no apparent reason, hurtles itself into the ground at 100 miles per hour? This was how I thought we would die parasailing. Because if rogue wind can bring destruction to a sweet kite at the park, it can certainly smash two petrified humans into (dreaded) deep water fish food.
Spoiler alert–we lived. And so did The Fears.
My irrational fears have two upsides. 1) As I learned again today, they are not genetic! My kids can do scary things like jump off piers! They don’t pray on ski lifts! They even snorkel without brown paper bags! And 2) While I have a few crazy big fears, I don’t have a lot of smaller, common ones. I am not afraid of public speaking or flying commercial. I am not scared to speak another language badly. Heck, I’m not even scared to speak my own language badly! I’m not fearful or ashamed of bad-dancing, crying at commercials and most sporting events, or sucking at card games. Come on over and beat me at card games! But please, don’t gloat. If you’re gonna win, at least be classy.
Someday, I may attempt to lasso my fears again, but, until I come up with another clever scheme for this, they’ll continue with me on my journey, riding shotgun. Or on my lap, with one wet finger in my ear. They really need to learn to be better guests. But hey, we all have ways we can improve.
Do you have irrational fears? If yes, share them in the comments, please. Maybe we can work on our fears together. And/or, are you bold and fearless at times when other people lie quaking? I’d like to hear about that, too. Inspire us! We need brave souls like you.