They say fear is just in your head. If that’s the case, I must have a giant of a head.
Fear, my evil twin, has always had a way of getting into my head and kidnapping my imagination.
As a kid, my fear could turn the sound of snoring into a raging bull and a thunderstorm into the apocalypse.
The black lines painted on the bottom of swimming pools could morph into the backs of whales lurking deep below my doggy-paddling feet.
I could watch a vast army of termites eating the walls of our house until one by one each wall would fall down on top of me, followed by the roof.
When I went ice skating, I was too terrified to move for fear I would fall through the ice into the waiting arms of a giant octopus.
And while I no longer imagine witches under my bed waiting to snatch at my ankles, the fear has never gone away. It’s only grown up.
And now, especially, I find this grown-up fear all around me. Some days I manage to ignore it. (Ignorance is bliss after all.)
But other days, the fear kidnaps me again and locks me up in a dark room.
On these days, the fear is so heavy it lies in thick drapes of uncertainty, choking out the light of clarity, conviction, and courage.
So I find myself creeping into a corner of this dark place, and in the blind stillness, I feel the fear breathing down my neck.
It asks me who I think I am.
I say I’m just a small person daring to cast giant shadows on the walls around me.
But when I look up, I have no shadow. I see only the shadows of dragons cast from my own demons of doubt and insecurity.
“I am just one person. Just one average person,” I whisper in the dark.
And the fear whispers back, “Yes, you are. Why don’t you stay here, in the dark? In here where you are safe?”
I nod, my head heavy, my thoughts like bricks stacked inside my brain.
I hug my limbs into my body, withdrawing like a crab, and huddle there with my forehead on my knees. Perhaps if I stay still long enough, the darkness will absorb me. Maybe I’ll melt into the blackness, and the dragon shadows will swallow me, and I’ll simply cease to exist.
No pressure, no responsibility, no dreams to drag me through these dungeons toward my destiny.
The dark grows thin and quiet. It becomes so still all I hear is the ringing in my ears. And then, through my blood, a whisper seeps into my head.
“Coward!” it hisses. “How afraid you are of life!”
A tear is now sitting on my cheek. Should I let another follow it or wipe it clean away?
As if my life is ending, it flashes through my mind.
As a baby, I almost died, yet I was a fighter and I lived. As a kid, I cracked my chin open and had to get stitches without any anesthetic (#thirdworldliving). As a teen, I wanted to be valedictorian, so I became valedictorian.
And as a big person, I quit a good job to chase a dream. I made a leap and took a great fall. Yet here I am, dusting off my knees again.
“See?” the courage in my blood grows louder. “You are not the quitting type. You’re not a wimp, not scared of life.”
I raise my head, just a bit, from off my knees. It’s still dark, and I still feel the damp breath of fear on my skin.
But I’ve grown sore and sweaty cramped inside my shell.
I lift my head a little more and wipe away that tear. And then I see, between the drapes of doubt, a dusty sliver of light seeping into the room.
I sit up and watch my own shape start to form beneath the dragon shadows on the walls.
“Stand up,” the voice within my blood is beating.
Do I listen? Do I stay or do I grow?
I think you know.