Posts Tagged ‘Fear


Circling With the Sharks

sharks1From time to time when I take a shower, something triggers a thought of a great white shark and I am paralyzed – truly paralyzed – with fear.  This fear is something I have carried since I was a small child.  It kept me from learning to swim, from hanging out at the lake with my friends, and from spending summers diving into our local river.  It kept me from swimming pools, water slides, and has provided some interesting ocean memories.  At Sea World, my friends thought it would help if I visited the shark aquarium.  I passed out and spent the afternoon at the medic station.  No Shamu for me.

This has followed me into adulthood, on a trip to Mexico, and into my downstairs bathroom that I painted a beautiful blue and therefore, avoid.  I think it’s the bathroom that pushed me over the edge.  It’s gorgeous, copied from a Pottery Barn catalog, and I really love it.  Being unable to use it because of a childish fear seemed a little ridiculous.  Well, according to my husband, it was way ridiculous.  Shark Week came on the Discovery Channel and he thought it would be healthy if I watched it.  Not so healthy when he had to stay in the bathroom to keep me occupied while I showered (totally G rated, it just sounded bad).

So I considered my blue bathroom.  And Shark Week.  And I wondered how in the world I could be this frightened at this point in my life. 

I caught myself.

I became suspicious that this fear had disappeared a long time ago; I was just holding onto it like an old letter jacket.  A piece of what I was then.  This was a piece of my identity that really didn’t matter any more, except to me.  Fearing great fish defined me, but only in my own imagination. 

So, we visited an aquarium.  I tested my theory and was dismayed to find that it must have been correct because walking through a school of swimming sharks was surprisingly easy.  Beautiful, in fact, and somewhat surreal.  Of course, this was after my screams drew a crowd when I caught a foot on the conveyor belt and thought I was being hauled off as dinner – baby steps.

What else do we wear around like old letter jackets?  Things that don’t matter at all to life today, but define our perception.  In my first post I taked about all those feelings I carried for George and Lou.  I’m pretty sure they were swimming with the sharks in my shower, defining me in most unflattering terms.  Letting go of my fears and my loves had a lot less to do with the sharks than it had to do with letting go of a me that has been gone for a very long time.  Youth’s promise is so majestic.  It is built on the reckless hope that rests so precariously on romance.  All the recklessness is tempered by apprehension.  That promise is powerful.  That promise honed by recklessness and apprehension is intoxicating.  As such, it is so hard to let go but if we hang on, the sharks are circling and eventually they just may close in.


Greatness Divided

Fear is divisive.  I was asked today why the American spirit that brought us together after September 11th didn’t last.  The person who asked said that we Americans are more divided than ever and I agreed, saying that so much is at stake now.  After time to reflect, though, I disagree.  There was the Revolution.  If not for the looming threat of the monarchy, the country could easily have turned in on herself.  Nearly a century later our ancestors found themselves fighting against each other in the Civil War.  Another century passed and again America was fighting to remain the UNITED States.  Tempers flared in the Sixties and there was no military to fight that stateside battle.  It was citizen against citizen, youth against adult, individual against establishment, anger against polite complacency.  Now, Americans are realizing that once again we are in a fight for our nation.  Since September 11th, there has been a sub-conscious knowledge that our way of life is being threatened.  

On the one year anniversary of 9/11, I considered that “Post-9/11” had been added to our vocabulary and with that new word came a new world view.  The last six years have proven that to be truer than I expected.  Since 9/11, we understand that there is an evil threat in the world.  Radicals are hunting us for Allah’s trophy room.  Suddenly a surreal world of violence that had been isolated to places like Beiruit and Gaza looms in the shadows of our celebrations.  We are aware of it at concerts, sporting events, and holiday celebrations.  

It’s not just physical threats that we fear, though.  Since 9/11, our economy has been at the will of our cautious mood.  Consumer confidence has been on a decline that is unprecedented, effected largely by such perceived threats physical and otherwise.  The Fed’s efforts to keep the economy from heading south when it was most vulnerable was a knee-jerk reaction that overshot exponentially.  The economy already showed signs of Bubblicious growth, but then that was exacerbated by aggressive rate cuts.  The result was a dollar so devalued that banks were practically giving money away to people who still couldn’t afford it.  Now we have to pick up the pieces.

Then, of course, oil.  The root of our problem lies in the Middle East; there is no way around it.  The area has never been stable, but we have made a choice to remain dependent on it.  It is unconscionable that we have no leverage in the region because our government has prohibited efforts to find a replacement for foreign oil.  Now when there is true turmoil (that will eventually lead to favorable change), we are paying $4.00/gallon rather than providing American jobs pursuing our own energy interests and cutting the legs out from under OPEC.  We have to count on the Saudi’s to do it.  Still not choosing dependable allies.

Right now we Americans are divided because we have real fears of imminent threats to our way of life.  Our nation is in grave danger.  As the nation goes, the way of life we are accustomed to is forever changed and  more is on the way. The great thing about Americans is that this shakes us to our cores.  We all want to protect our families.  We all want our children to grow up enjoying all this great nation has to offer – without compromise.  Something so precious is not to be taken lightly, so we divide.  We choose sides.  We argue our positions.  Before I was asked why the nation divided again within a year of September 11th, I had said that those breathless moments while we waited for thousands to be rescued from ashy rubble, those moments when we held each other in regard for the tragedy we endured, when we truly were the UNITED States, were our finest moments.  However, history proves that these decades we spend divided, when we postulate and argue and effect change, are our greatest moments.  Anyone can stand united in empathy, but it takes an American to stand alone for the greater good.

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