Hanging on by a Thread

Ug…everywhere I turn I’m confronted with carnage. Fear is on the rise in our world, in our homes, and therefore in our hearts. It makes me consider my own fears. Where did they come from? Are they rational or irrational? And how do I deal with them? The one thing I know about fear is it’s relatively easy to create. I didn’t read this in a book. It is based on personal experience. When I was six or seven I attended a slumber party at the home of a schoolmate. She lived a few blocks away, a large Catholic family with nine children, the family also had two German Shepherds, and I have to admit my previous experience with dogs was not stellar. It was around 8:00 pm when a pillow fight broke out and the dogs could not resist wrestling for our pillows. The girls were screaming, jumping, laughing when one of the dogs jumped up, and bit off my ear (it was hanging by a thread). There was a lot of blood. Thank God the father was a pediatrician. My parents showed up, we drove straight to his office, with me still in my blood soaked baby doll pajamas, and he sewed it back on. No charge. Needless to say I’ve had a fear of large dogs ever since. In my late thirties we adopted Samantha Rose, an Akita and Lab mix, who grew to be one hundred and twenty pounds. That is when my fear of large dogs finally ended. Fear is difficult to overcome, but I fell in love with our oversized mutt, and love always trumps terror. Fear is a learned response to our everyday experience. It’s essential to our survival, but I’ve come to believe it is possible to expunge our fears, with a conversional experience that gives them new meaning.
I also have an unusual fear of the dark. It is truly pathetic. My grandmother claimed it was my parents fault because they let me watch the evening news. But I tend to blame the ghosts. When I was three or four, I can remember waking up screaming, because I was sure someone was in my room. My dad would come in, check under the bed, in the closet, and then leave the door slightly open so I could hear them in the family room. They ended up buying me a nightlight so I would never wake up in the dark. This ability to see people in the middle of the night has stayed with me. In our first year of marriage Larry and I took a road trip to the Grand Canyon. We landed at the El Tovar Lodge located on the southern rim of the canyon. We arrived in the middle of a snow storm and the lodge was practically empty. We scored a presidential suite overlooking the canyon for a reduced rate. In the middle of the night I woke to the sound of a key unlocking the door. 

I watched as an old man walked right into our room wearing a night shirt. I sat straight up in bed and yelled, “Get out of our room.” I assumed someone got lost and wandered into our room from the hall. Larry shot out of bed like a seasoned fireman, slammed the door between our bedroom and living area, and turned on all the lights. Like it was yesterday, I remember every detail. He was all of twenty-three years old, holding a fight stance, hair standing on end, ready to engage my imaginary demons. I screamed, “Did you see that?” He yells, “See what?” “The guy walking through our room?” “What guy?” “I don’t know where he went?” “There’s no one here!” “It was probably a ghost.” “You could be insane?” “Possibly.” We checked the entire suite, under the bed, and in the closet. There was no one to be found but it wigged us both out. With the storm in full swing, we double latched all the doors, climbed back in bed, put on an old Jimmy Stewart movie, and spooned like frightened children. Then without warning the electricity when out and we both screamed. It was like we were staring in our own horror movie. I still fear the dark, but only when I’m alone, and I sleep with a flashlight just in case.
My fear of dogs was rational, my fear of the dark irrational, both deeply embedded in my subconscious. Fear is contagious (Larry didn’t even see the ghost and he screamed like a girl). I think we have to edit the information we allow into our minds (maybe I should stop watching the evening news). What I read, watch, and think I see all influence my fears. I feel like some crazy dog has bitten off the ears of our world, we are hanging on by a thread, and it’s a bloody mess. Without ears our ability to communicate is severely hindered. I have to believe love can overcome our irrational fear of others because it is the only thing that gives me hope. Maybe it’s time to break bread with those neighbors we intentionally avoid, reexamine the commandment to love God, and neighbor as one. 
Questions to ask when frightened:
1 – Where did this fear come from?
2 – Is it rational or irrational?
3 – Does it inform my decision making?
4 – Do these fears align with my reality?
5 – Do my fears cause harm to others?
6 – Am I teaching others to fear?
6 – What can I do to alleviate or disarm my fear?

The conversation starts in the comments…what are you afraid of?

Don’t be shy read another: How Do We Respond to the Gospel of Love or What do I Fear?

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